Author Interview Part Three with Dave Coats
The Importance of Accountability
In the biblical counseling arena we hear and talk a lot about the importance of accountability, especially in the battle for a pure mind. Therefore, I asked Dave Coats, author of the discipleship workbook Building a Pure Life, to describe what accountability looks like in the life of a Christian pursuing holiness and how important it is to his or her success in overcoming “life-dominating sins.”
Paul: “Tell me, Dave, what are your thoughts on accountability for those struggling in areas of purity? This counseling site is dedicated to helping people to grow in their walk with Christ.”
Dave: “That’s a good question Paul. In fact, of the sin issues that counselors face, the counselors especially will have to dig in for the longer haul in the category we could call life-dominating sins. Life-dominating sins call for the church body to focus on that struggling brother or sister on a daily basis. I remember Paul Tripp pointing out in a session on idolatry that when counseling in these purity-struggling scenarios, we all need to bring the whole array of church life to bear on helping that person. In other words, we are doing ‘body life’ or ‘community’ of the church in real time. One person can’t carry the whole load of ‘one another-ing’ these brothers or sisters in their struggle with temptation to sin.”
Paul: “Assuming that we want to gather people together to help someone overcome sin, what is your experience on how accountability works?”
Dave: “I like to put it this way: accountability is a 2-person activity. It falls apart if one or the other person is not committed to it. I think sometimes we see accountability as a kind of ‘fall back’ help. Someone says, ‘Hey, will you keep me accountable?’ Or, ‘Hey can you ask me how I’m doing?’ Our answer tends to be ‘Sure!’ But what they are asking for is for us to carry them along and ‘buck them up’ when they fail. And in a way I Thessalonians 5:14 indicates I will need to do that. The ‘weak’ need to be held up and encouraged. But I don’t think over the long haul this haphazard accountability will help the counselee reach the biblical goal of Christlike character. So here is the critical point: if the weak person truly wants to grow and if you truly want to push that brother or sister towards Christ and together you will move in His direction, then accountability works. Poor accountability is a relationship that says, ‘Just keep trying.’ Another way to say it is poor ‘one another-ing’ is hanging out in the neighborhood spiritually, hoping the brother or sister will do better. Intentional accountability is based on a commitment of both people to grow together. I always grow as I push people towards Christ while helping them in their growth.”
Paul: “How would you rate this ‘one another-ing’ friendship in the realm of spiritual growth?”
Dave: “I see four great resources that God has given us to grow. Let me briefly explain them.”
1. The Word of God. I see this resource to be primary. This may seem simplistic, but I think people look beyond the Bible to other things as more important for themselves personally. Hopefully, when we sense people are looking to secular sources or man-centered wisdom for answers to their continued struggle, we should instead push them back to God. He has given us everything we need. People tend to be weak in their use of the Word in their life or in applying it by faith.
2. The Spirit of God. I see this as a second resource God has given to us for change. How often I have met with people and after a few meetings begin to question their ability to handle the Bible. Thus I wonder if they have the Spirit within to help them to understand and to apply truth, to convict them and to move them towards Christ. Think about this truth. We have The Counselor God within. Everywhere we go He is with us. That is an amazing accountability and a possibility for ‘one another’ work from divine help. And what the Spirit most helps us with is the Word of God. So again, the Word of God is our most important resource.
3. The Grace of God. I see this as a third resource for change. I accept the reality that we are weak. We tend to give in to sin. For those who are dominated and have been dominated by a specific sin for some time, they often are ready to say that change is not possible. So where is the power of God in them? As I point out in my Purity Workbook Building a Pure Life, an understanding of Romans 6 is critical at this point for the counselee. But let’s assume we have the right understanding of God’s power over sin in our lives. Now I need the grace of God to empower me to live it by faith. I call grace ‘God’s unlimited, eternal, supernatural supply of power to do what God calls me to do that I cannot do on my own.’ And God gives me enough every day to grow and to please Him.
4. The People of God. So my fourth resource is where accountability comes in. And what is the role of people to one another? To point us to God’s Word. To help us see the steps in living out the Word. To encourage us to use these other resources.
So, one of these resources for growth is the ‘one another’ relationship where I specifically commit to a certain person in a certain area to help him or her to change to be more like Christ. If we are both on the same page, it will work. Accountability is part of God’s provision for us to “one another” in the body.