Seven Marks of Enduring Accountability Relationships

March 23, 2016

Brad Hambrick

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Brad Hambrick

Accountability is not just for life-dominating struggles. It is part of God’s definition of “healthy.” People who do not have relationships in which they are honest about their struggles and in which they receive accountability are people who are becoming “unhealthy.”

The seven points below describe the characteristics of relationships that facilitate accountability in healthy relationships and give reasons why small groups are a natural place to forge these kinds of relationships.

  1. Voluntary – Accountability is not something you have (a noun); it is something you do (an active tense verb). You must disclose in order to benefit from the relationship. If you rely on the other person to “ask the magic question” or “just know” what is wrong, you are sabotaging the opportunity for accountability.
  2. Trusted – The other people are individuals you trust, admire their character, and believe have good judgment. Part of the reason many of us react negatively to the idea of accountability is that we have not gotten to know people well enough to build the trust that facilitates this kind of relationship. Small group provides the time and space necessary for trust to grow.
  3. Mutual – Relationships that are one-sided tend to be short-lived. In the small group you will hear the weaknesses and struggles of others as you share your own. You will help carry their burdens as they will help carry your burdens (Gal. 6:1-2).
  4. Scheduled – Accountability that is not scheduled tends to fade, even when we have the best of intentions. This is why small groups that meet on a weekly basis are an ideal place for accountability to occur. Everyone knows when to meet and has a shared expectation for how the accountability conversations will begin.
  5. Relational – Spiritual growth is a lifestyle, not an event. This means that we invite accountability to be a part of our regular conversations; it is not just something that we do at a weekly meeting. It should mean that there are times when we are doing accountability and don’t realize it. For example:
    • Caring for people and wanting to know how they’re doing with things they asked you to pray for is a form of accountability.
    • Hanging out together, casually hearing about life challenges, and offering advice or encouragement is a form of accountability.
    • Having lunch together and remembering to ask about an area of struggle is a form of accountability.
  6. Comprehensive – Accountability that exclusively fixates on one subject tends to become repetitive and fades quickly. It also tends to reduce “success” to trusting God in a single area of life.
  7. Encouraging – Too often the word “accountability” carries the connotation of “sin hunt.” When that is the case, accountability is only perceived to be “working” when it is negative (i.e., it catches the particular sin in question). However, accountability that lasts should celebrate growth in character as fervently as it works on slips in character.

The key questions to ask yourself now are:

  • Who are the people in my life with whom I do or could have this kind of relationship?
  • Which of the characteristics described above are strongest in our relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics would need to be intentionally fortified?
  • Am I willing to take the next step to begin or improve my accountability relationships?

Join the Conversation

What value have you received from accountability in your life? Do you regularly introduce accountability into your counseling? If so, how?

Brad Hambrick

About Brad Hambrick

Brad is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. He also serves as an adjunct professor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Brad has been married to his wife, Sallie, since 1999.

One thought on “Seven Marks of Enduring Accountability Relationships

  1. Unhealthy” is used too loosely here. More granularity is needed based solely on what the bible says instead of another list of legalistic do’s and don’ts to follow (i.e. “seven point system”). Sanctification or growth in holiness is certainly synergistic between the Holy Spirit and man; and it is encouraged by other Christians according to scripture. However, promotion of accountability via small groups through anecdotal fallacies
    is not God’s primary means of sanctification to replace our responsibility and the work of the Holy Spirit pricking our conscience. The bible certainly encourages accountability based on accurate theology and the gospel but not on our own self-effort.

    “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5). .” Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Prov. 9:8-9). We can see sins very clearly in others, but not in ourselves. But thanks be to God for his mercy to us in Jesus Christ that changes our hearts to give mercy instead of wrath to others. God uses the righteous man for our good (Ro. 8:28-29), if we humbly welcome the help, and for His glory (I Cor. 10:31).

    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16). We are certainly commanded in scripture to encourage, pray for, exhort, serve, admonish, teach, build up, care for, and love one another (1 Cor. 12:25; Rom. 15:14; Gal. 5:13; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:24–25; James 5:16;1 Peter 4:10; 1 John 4:7).

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he
    listens to you, you have gained your brother (Matt. 18:15-20). Encourage each other to repent. Holding one
    another accountable for sin is loving God and neighbor as Jesus loves. Failing to admonish one another demonstrates pride and selfishness instead of the humility and love of Jesus Christ all by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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