Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Accountability vs Control

It seems that in church leadership, somewhere along the way we've mixed control up with accountability.

I was talking about this with someone the other day. I mentioned how, in my work I had a high level of accountability but that I also had the freedom to work out of my strengths to achieve better results and implement new ways of doing things. I was asked how this worked, and I replied that basically, it meant that I had to keep those above me in the chain informed of what I was doing and I had to be prepared to take full responsibility for my actions - in other words, I would be held accountable for my actions.

In my church work things tend to work differently - accountability means something else.

Generally, I come up with ideas, I take them to the church leadership. The leadership thinks about these ideas for several weeks or several months and then, with prompting from me, tells me what they think of them and whether or not I can implement them - in other words, the accountability relates to my possible future actions or my thoughts.

When I pointed out the obvious contrast in these two different situations the person I was speaking with said, "Yes, but things need to be done differently in the church - that is the difference between spiritual accountability and worldly accountability".

This didn't sit right with me at all. As I understand it, accountability has always related to actions, not possible future actions or even consideration of possible future actions. Our entire legal system is based on this, as was the Mosaic Law as will God's future and final judgement. Sin is not something we might do (with perhaps the exception of "murder and lust" which Jesus talks about in Matthew chapter 5) it relates to something we have done.

What I have described in the second example is actually the antithesis of accountability - it's control and it hamstrings progress. It also appears to be an entrenched practice in many church leaderships, ironically, while people outside the leadership are often allowed to run around and do whatever damage they please with absolutely no accountability at all.

Spiritual accountability, when built on a foundation of trust and acceptance of giftings and abilities frees people up to do the work of God while ensuring action can be taken swiftly, if and when it's necessary.

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