The Worst Accountability Group Ever

I like these reminders about small groups by  Luke Gilkerson at Covenant Eyes blog. Ours is more an encouragement group than accountability. We do have some, but it is much more in line with what he promotes below.

I just finished reading a very interesting blog post by Billy Graham’s grandson, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian. His thoughts on accountability are worth noting:

Are you tired of being told that if you’re really serious about God, you must be in an “accountability group?” You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where you and a small group of “friends” arrange for a time each week to get together and pick each other apart–uncovering layer after layer after layer of sin? The ones where all parties involved believe that the guiltier we feel the more holy we are? The ones where you confess your sin to your friends but it’s never enough? No matter what you unveil, they’re always looking for you to uncover something deeper, darker, and more embarrassing than what you’ve fessed up to. It’s usually done with such persistent invasion that you get the feeling they’re desperately looking for something in you that will make them feel better about themselves.

Well, I hate those groups!

The symptoms of these kinds of groups are numerous. These groups tend to…

  • Breed self-righteousness
  • Cause unnecessary guilt
  • Tempt us to be less than honest
  • Produce a “do more, try harder” moralism

The key question to ask yourself about your accountability group is this: does the atmosphere of our group give the impression that we believe Christianity is all about personal improvement? Tullian says we should sniff out this “narcissistic presupposition” and destroy it.

Tullian’s primary problem with these kind of groups is they tend to focus on our sin, not our Savior. He writes that when we focus mostly on our need to get better we actually get worse. “We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my guilt over God’s grace makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.”

What should our accountability groups look like?

The accountability I need, therefore, is the kind that corrects my natural tendency to focus on me—my obedience (or lack thereof), my performance (good or bad), my holiness—instead of on Christ and his obedience, performance, and holiness for me. We all possess a natural proclivity to turn God’s good news announcement that we’ve been set free into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. We need to be held accountable for that!

Tullian points his readers to the book of Colossians for a great example of this. The Colossian Christians were being tempted to believe counterfeit ideas of salvation, to buy into a “gospel” of self-improvement and a rule-keeping mentality. “Paul repeatedly reminds them of the treasure they already have in Christ,” Tullian writes. “His point: don’t buy false versions of what you already have.”

When accountability partners see their primary task as reminding one another of the gospel and the all-sufficiency of Christ, it is then we truly stir up one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I say “Amen!” to that.

One Response

  1. Tullian Tchividjian’s article is excellent and a must-read. “Christian accountability” must be exposed for the human extra-biblical teaching that it is. Followers of Jesus Christ are accountable only to Jesus alone, and not to other human beings. If we continue to focus on our sins and wrongdoings, then we are rejecting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. I write more on how “Christian accountability” contradicts the Bible in my post “Bible-based objections to ‘Christian accountability’”:

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