For better or worse, one of the identifying characteristics of Americans is our rogue independent spirit. We pride ourselves on migrating across the sea, establishing our own country, pioneering west and conquering the elements with no one to thank but our humble little old selves (thank you very much). A little arrogant to say the least, and we continue to wave that banner of self-reliance to the world, refusing to be conquered by any, and accountable to no one; my heart grieves to suggest this takes place in the Christian realm as well.
Yet, Ephesians 5:21 says, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” We don’t like the word subjection, much less what it stands for. After all, we are Americans and in that spirit, we will not be controlled, stifled, or subjected. But that attitude of insolence seems pervasive in the body of Christ as well. 1 Peter 2:13-14 tells us to, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” I would say if we don’t like the would “subject” that we loathe the word “submit” as it implies being moderated, subdued, or minimally, weak. Still, Peter informs us that when we submit to human institutions it is for the sake of Christ – to honor Him!
On a church level, Hebrews 13:17 communicates, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” The writer of Hebrews is communicating that God has placed people in the life of the church to watch over our spiritual welfare. Yet where do we see this kind of accountability actually taking place? What I often see is renegade sheep shepherding themselves, even pastors claiming they have no overseer but God himself; “Hey, I have my Bible and my conscience and the Holy Spirit, that should serve me just fine, besides, another person may not say what I want to hear.”
I would suggest that one of the greatest deficiencies in the church is an unwillingness to submit to each other even though it is a God-given command. Electing to “keep our options open” we choose rather to avoid being that cozy with church leadership, and even avoiding accountability among other believers in the body as well. If we read the rest of the Scripture we see that accountability is a very common theme. We are to be accountable to the authority that God has given: to parents, husbands, employers, governments, and also overseers in a church.
Part of the problem is the concept of authority; authority and accountability are two sides of the same coin – they really do go together, and yet together they have become “four-letter words.” You may well guess where I am going with this – the health of the individual, and the health of the church has been compromised as a result of this refusal to place ourselves under proper authority, and be accountable. The reason that accountability works is that another person brings objectivity, another set of eyes. Proverbs tells us there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, so minimally fellow believers can offer us the benefit of their experience and practical application (11:14, 15:22). Yet, we arrogantly opt for our own “pure” objectivity.
So, if you think you are doing yourself a favor by going to a church where you can be anonymous, or unaccountable for your life outside of the church, think again. “I’ll remain fast and loose, so I can just slip out the back unnoticed when it’s convenient for me to do so” is one of those attitudes of which the writer of Hebrews is speaking, and the consequences which are unprofitable if you do.
I hope you hear the heart of this article, and more importantly, I hope you hear the exhortation of Scripture. This condition is epidemic in the church and rogue independence leads the way.
So, who is your person of accountability? Do you even have one? Why not?
And let’s not forget that our ultimate authority is to God and His Word.