The last few decades have seen the rise of many gifted church leaders who have successfully grown large churches. Their successes have resulted in huge amounts of trust placed on them. They operate as senior leaders in local churches with sole authority in many instances. Unfortunately, some of them have fallen into sin. This has given rise to greater attention to the issue of accountability. In this post, we bring you Part 1 of 3 on this subject written by James Loke.
Biblical accountability is universal. Every Christian, after his life on earth, will account to the Lord Jesus regarding his stewardship of the gifts, talents and all that was entrusted to him in his lifetime.
Accountability comes with the role of Christian leadership. Those who take up Christian leadership embrace a responsibility to serve the Lord together with those they are serving with. The leader, implicitly or explicitly, can expect his life and actions to become fair game for public scrutiny. It is also expected of him to explain his decisions and actions if called upon to do so. In other words, a Christian leader has to be accountable by embracing responsibility, being transparent and answerable.
In this context, accountability is more than responsibility. For example, a care group leader can be responsible and finish all the tasks assigned to him but he may not be too concerned about how the work is done nor how it is viewed by others. One can be responsible yet not accountable. Accountability is an individually held sense of duty to account to others for one’s assignments.
The Need for Accountability
Fallen man is self-centred
The sinful nature causes humans, including Christians, to possibly make selfish decisions. It is not natural for fallen man to decide for the collective good; he has to change his paradigm for decision-making to make good decisions as a leader. Accountability encourages the leader to make decisions that would benefit the overall community since he has to be responsible for them, and accountability ensures trust which fosters unity and confidence.
Fallen man needs checks and balances
Fallen man can be tempted to wander from righteous principles, resulting in an abuse of authority. Lord Acton once said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Leaders are likely to have their own biases and deficiencies. In addition to the Holy Spirit who guides spiritual leaders, checks and balances could take the form of organizational accountability structures, or godly mentors and peers.
God made men to work in teams
It is in God’s order that He invests different yet complementary gifts in leaders in the church so that they work best as a team. The Ephesians 4 ministry gifts are five-fold in nature, the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispenses nine spiritual gifts to different believers in 1 Corinthians 12, and various other gifts to different ones in Romans 12.
God’s idea is for plurality in leadership so that they can sharpen one another. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Even godly leaders do need some help. In a local church, a gifted teacher may emphasize too much on studying the Bible at the expense of winning lost souls. But when that teacher is partnered with an evangelist, the burden of winning lost souls is transmitted to the congregation as well.
….. to be continued in the next post.
We thank Ian Foley, Prakich Treetasayudh and Wilson Lim who provided valuable comments to an earlier draft of this article.