By Pastor Emmanuel Akatukunda
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. Titus 1:5
In today’s message, we will look at the last message in our series, Back to the Basics. One of the essential characteristics of the Church of Christ is the accountability of believers in the context of a local church. As we saw a few weeks ago, the early church was an accountable church. The local churches that gathered in different houses were also accountable to the apostolic leadership of Paul, Titus, Timothy and others. In Titus 1:5 we see Paul sending Titus to undertake the responsibility of appointing elders in every town in Crete. This implies that an elder could have been responsible for several house churches.
The times that we live in make it harder for some people to be accountable to church leadership or even fellow believers. Accountability is particularly challenging during these times because believers are not physically gathering in church buildings on a weekly basis. Also, there are believers who do not feel it is important to be committed to a particular local church. They would rather hop from one fellowship to another. It is very easy for some people to be on their own with no sense of Christian responsibility. It, therefore, takes a certain level of discipline to keep oneself accountable. It is not something that comes automatically. It is something we have to intentionally work out.
Why is accountability important?
- A Healthy Community Requires Accountable Individuals
Accountability means that we take responsibility for our actions. We also allow other people to hold us responsible for how we live. Last week we saw that the reason we have to remain connected with other believers is because we were created to live in community. And for us to create a healthy community, we all must be accountable to one another. Just as children grow in the context of a nuclear family, God’s design is that Christians are nurtured in the context of a local church. You were not called to be a believer-at-large. Families provide the context of a child to grow and be nurtured to become a responsible citizen. They provide the food a child needs to grow, give counsel and provide a sense of belonging—a sense of identity. Every family has a culture that is important in shaping their identity and values. In the same way, your local church helps you have a sense of identity as a believer. It also provides you a context to grow and serve. The Bible tells us that “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Authority Can Only Be Appropriately Used If One Is Accountable
In Matthew 8 there is a story of a Roman Centurion, a commander of a group of Roman soldiers. His words to Jesus help us to understand the concept of authority and accountability. This is how the story goes:
Matthew 8:5-10: When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
The Centurion understood the power of the authority of Jesus Christ because he had learnt to be under authority. He was accountable. Authority can only be appropriately used if one is also under authority. In many ways, our level of accountability to human authority can also affect our faith in Jesus Christ. If you are insubordinate and rebellious towards the people God has brought into your life, I doubt how you can grow in your walk with Jesus.
- How We Conduct Our Lives Now Has Eternal Consequences.
The choices we make have consequences—and some of these consequences are eternal. God expects us to be accountable in this life. Also, we will ultimately give an account on how we lived when we get to heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says that “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” How we conduct our lives today has eternal consequences.
How Do I Develop the Character of Accountability?
- Be an Active Member of Your Local Church.
Get involved in your church’s programs. Support your church’s ministry initiatives. As I already mentioned, your local church gives you a context to grow and serve. There are many ways to participate in your local church. Find an area where you can serve regularly. Be a regular and generous giver. It doesn’t matter how much you have or give; it is all about the state of your heart. 2 Corinthians 8:12 tells us that “…if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”
- Submit to The Leadership of Your Local Church.
Follow the vision of the pastor. Pray for the leadership. The leaders communicate the vision and mission of the local church. They provide strategic direction of the ministry. The leadership of the local church also gives spiritual and doctrinal oversight. Over and over again the Bible exhorts the leaders to give attention to the proper handling of God’s Word.
I always tell people that if you are a member of a local church whose leadership you feel you cannot submit to, prayerfully find another fellowship to be part of. God requires you to submit to the leadership of your local church. Hebrews 13:17tells us to “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
Accountability also means submitting to the discipline of the church if need arises. I know that this might sound old fashioned and even ridiculous to some people but we cannot talk of proper accountability if there is no willingness to submit to church discipline. After all, discipline simply means doing what I am supposed to do whether I like it or not. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.””
- Walk in the Light.
Let your private and public life be a testimony to those around you. Find a few mature Christian friends to whom you can be open. Let them be your accountability partners. Confess your sins to one another. Determine to be a person of integrity. Admit your failures, ask for forgiveness and forsake whatever does not honor Christ. Secret sins can hurt us deeply. They affect our fellowship with the Lord and our relationship with other people. The Bible tells us that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Again, being accountable does not come to us naturally. It is something we have to learn to do. It is a discipline that we have cultivate. But it is something that honors God. Accountability, in the context of a local church, helps us to grow in our faith in Jesus Christ.