When I first became a Christian, in my college years, the Associate Pastor of the church I was attending took a particular interest in me. He would drive about a half hour once a week to meet with me and ask me how things were going; usually taking me out to eat (which college students love). While there was the usual casual conversation about the weather or sports, the primary thrust of the meeting was for him to ask me how my walk with the Lord was going. To keep up with me and see if I was growing, staying faithful, struggling, or sinning. This type of 1 on 1 meeting is a great example of what real discipleship looks like, but I would classify it more specifically as Accountability. He was keeping me accountable in my walk with the Lord. He was asking specific questions about my behavior and my lifestyle, and that is holding someone accountable. This is the characteristic of a healthy church for this month: Individual Accountability. There are a few reasons why we need to be held accountable.
First, our tendency to fall into sin is very real. We know the tug of the world, we know the temptations of the enemy, we know the lust of the flesh is powerful and strong. We all admit that we are sinners, so what do we do when we sin? Are we confident enough in ourselves to just repent and fix the problem in our own power? What if that sin is secret and hidden and it is not easy to repent of? Pretty soon that hidden sin becomes a habit, then becomes a lifestyle. How will we be called back to obedience and righteousness if we never confess it or admit it? If there is no one in our life to ask us about our walk or call us back to obedience, then we could remain in sin and become the sheep that goes astray. That is not a good place to be with the Lord. But to have a brother or sister who we trust ask us about our walk and about our life is a sure guard against remaining for a long time in a state of sin.
Second, our flame can become dim and needs to be engulfed again. Our walk with the Lord becomes bland and cold. You know the times I am talking about. It’s not gross, unrepentant sin with no hope. It’s not outright rebellion against God. It’s just a staleness and coldness in our walk with Christ. It’s going through the motions. How do we get shaken out of this complacency? How do we get stirred again so as to prevent us from falling into sin? By keeping accountability with another believer. To be able to talk through these times and have him/her praying for you and continually encouraging you to being on fire again. A good talk about our spiritual state with another brother/sister can be like adding gasoline to a smoldering wick.
Third, as the Scripture says, iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17). A positive walk with Christ will encourage someone else’s walk with Christ. Maybe your walk with the Lord is doing great. Maybe you are really on fire for God. Then, you go talk with someone else and they are the same way! How encouraging is that? How exciting is that? Doesn’t that motivate you to continue on? To not slip up? One of the best encouragements we can have in our walk is to hear about someone else pleasing God with their life and living rightly, and that can spur us on to even greater maturity.
When we meet as men at the Pillars Bible study, we have a time of accountability. When we meet as elders, we have a time of accountability. We genuinely ask one another how our walk with Christ is going and hold each other accountable to a life that pleases the Lord. That is a great help for me and I would assume for the men involved as well. But, I would encourage everyone to find a person, or a small group, where you feel comfortable sharing about your struggles and your trials in your walk with Christ. It could be me, another leader, or simply another believer. A trusted Christian friend can be a great help and a great encouragement in your walk. Churches that do this really show their love for one another and their care and concern about the spiritual side, which is the most important part of our lives. Be open, be willing to share your life with another believer to hold you accountable. But also, be ready to be the one that someone can come to.
-Pastor Mark Scialabba