There’s a fairy tale of Irish folklore on how leprechauns would hide their treasure in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The problem was that the closer you got to the end of the rainbow, the farther it went from you. In other words, you’re chasing something illusive.
The Christian version of the disappearing pot of gold is “accountability.”
Many of us want accountability, and rightfully so—we go to mid-week gatherings, we sign up for redemptive groups, we meet other Christians for coffee, we ask pastors for wisdom, we set up counseling appointments, and these are often with great effect—but not everyone who does this is as vulnerable, humble, and teachable as they need to be. So instead of “accountability” what we end up with is victimization. Instead of surrounding ourselves with people who can check our blind spots, we surround ourselves with people to blame. Accountability is illusive, not because there aren’t people willing to bear our burdens, but because we sometimes expect those people to do for us what we are too prideful to do ourselves: repent of our sin.
When this happens,”accountability” is nothing more than a cheap buzzword that we think will save us if we say it repeatedly. “Accountability,” “Keep me accountable,” “Who are you accountable to, bro?” “She’s been keeping me accountable.”
Accountable how, exactly?
Think about this. If you struggle with lust, you can probably entertain those lusts, even act them out, in secret for many years—perhaps for the rest of your life—without anyone finding out. What good is having a hundred accountability partners if you are better at hiding your sin than they are at keeping you accountable? I think we give other Christians too much credit in this regard: we think that others will check us on all the sin issues of our heart, and yet we are masterful at hiding such things! The only way our friends can really know how we struggle, and thereby work to restore us, is when we are brutally honest with the right people. But some in the church feel as if “accountability” will do all the work for them, kind of like a butler who launders their clothing while they are asleep. Yet they wake up to find their dirty clothes strewn across the living room floor because they don’t really have a butler, and they don’t know how to operate the washing machine by themselves. The problem with Christian accountability is not accountability, per se, it is the Christian who is not really willing to humble themselves, submit to others, and face the fact that they are worse than they think. We all are.
Instead of throwing around magic buzzwords, the Bible calls us to open our lives to fellow Christian’s who we trust and can speak into our lives. And it’s not enough to ask people to “keep us accountable”—we must also listen and heed the righteous judgment of others, while being honest with our shortcomings, sinful habits, and idolatry. This is true accountability. It’s a two-way street where all our crap is on the table, and brothers/sisters can gently show the blind spots in our lives. It is also a God-ordained means of sanctification, whereby God uses the community around you to conform you into His likeness.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16 (HCSB)
Accountability involves honesty, humility, teachability. Without these, we’re just chasing rainbows.
As a college pastor, I am continually trying to understand the people I have been called to shepherd (myself included). This is the book I’ve been waiting for: a fresh study on my generation, from a humble perspective of those trying to reach them with the gospel. This book was authored by Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer, a Boomer and a Millennial, respectively. Their age differences offer wisdom, insight, and differing viewpoints needed for one generation to understand the other.
The Millennials is a collection of stats, interviews, and research on those born roughly between 1980 and 1990. The Rainers look intently at the most important issues that have formed the identity of the world’s largest generation, and the demographic of which the entire world wants a piece. Some of the issues involve significance, transparency, reconciliation, the workplace, and spirituality. But no other issue is more important to a Millennial than relationships. The Rainers explore this throughout their book, shedding light on ways that we can reach out to, understand, and be positively influenced by what will become one of the most powerful generations the world has ever seen.
I gave this book the highest rating possible. I’m not sure how other people decide their 5-star rating system, but mine is particular, and since I gave this book 5 stars, you should also know why I did. A five-star rating means it fulfilled all the below requirements for me when I read a book.
- Did it have something important to say? (Or do I feel like I read this book before?)
- Was it well written? (Not?)
- Was it cohesive? (Or did I get lost?)
- Was it consistent? (Or was there wasted space?)
- Is it relevant to MY niche? (Or just simply a good book?)
If you want to connect with this generation, you absolutely must read this book. It is only available in Kindle edition, but it is currently FREE. Order now before they mark up the price.
- “The Millennials” by Thom and Jess Rainer (pastorcoleman.wordpress.com)