Last week, we covered the Need for Biblical Accountability. In this post, we bring you Part 2 of 3 on this subject written by James Loke.
Who Do Leaders Account To?
Leadership accountability involves three spheres:
To Senior Leadership
Leaders have to account to those over them, other more senior leaders or if no one else, God Himself. The concept of accountability in this sphere is straightforward, like that of every believer who accounts to the Lord after this life (1 Th 5:12-13). There is a major difference in operation as the Lord knows everything about our stewardship but the senior leader may not. Accountability would require the leader to tell his senior leader relevant information in his life and ministry that would help the senior leader to oversee him effectively (Heb 13:17). Even a leader may have blind spots and a senior leader, who is more matured and experienced in life and ministry, would help the former do the work of the ministry more fruitfully. An important example of top leadership accountability is seen in the life of Moses who was publicly rebuked and judged by God in Num 20:11-12.
In the New Testament, leadership is always plural. This is demonstrated by elders operating in plurality in the New Testament churches, with other elders in the same local church or with elders in other churches. No leader was exempt from having to account to his peers. At the highest level of apostleship, Peter was still accountable to Paul. Paul had no qualms to rebuke him regarding segregating himself away from the Gentiles in the presence of Jews (Gal 2:11-14). Gal 6:1-2 holds us responsible to be our brother’s keeper.
Church members have willingly placed themselves under the leadership. Leaders owe it to followers to regularly communicate where and how they are leading them. There is clear evidence that the apostles practiced this. In Acts 6, the apostles were accountable to the believers for the running of the church and came up with a novel idea of administration by a new team of deacons when their time conflicted with other priorities of prayer and ministry of the Word. In Acts 11, Peter explained to the believers why he visited Cornelius, a Gentile. Paul and Barnabas gave an account of their missionary journey to the church at Antioch (Acts 14:26-27).
Accountability in this sphere should not be misunderstood that the leaders are subservient to the followers. The accountability of the leaders to the followers arises from a partnership in serving God together. However, the leaders and the followers have distinct roles in this partnership with leaders leading.
How Accountability Works
Many churches have built-in accountability structures. These structures do have some effectiveness but accountability works best when the leader himself has the right internal makeup.
Accountability works best with good relationships. When Adam was having his walks with God in the evenings, he probably discoursed with God all he needed to tell His maker regarding his stewardship of the Garden of Eden. There was no need to invite God, the shareholder, for an Annual General Meeting to report on the fruitfulness in the Garden. When we have close relationships with those around us, we will not fear being judged by them.
Accountability provides both needed discipline and support for the leader. The leader knows that whatever he does will affect others and he may have to give an answer, explicitly or implicitly. He may be evaluated by his superiors, challenged by his peers, or asked for an answer by his juniors. Accountability can be a support system because when accountability is functioning properly superiors can give better advice with better knowledge, peers can chip in to shoulder issues when needed, and juniors know how they can help support the leader for best results.
….. 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.