We Need Mutual Accountability in Three Crucial Areas
Christians need to cultivate mutual accountability in the areas of learning, doing, and sharing. International disciple maker Curtis Sergeant describes what this can look like.
Accountability is often viewed as something unpleasant, especially in an employment context where it may involve discipline for subpar performance.
But in a Christian context, holding one another accountable is one of the most loving things we can do for one another. We do it out of a genuine desire that others may know the Lord more deeply and experience the joy and fulfillment of living the abundant life He intends for us. We want them to hear God more clearly and to experience the joy of fulfilling the destiny for which God designed them. We want them to benefit from the spiritual economy by faithfully obeying what they hear from the Lord and passing on to others what they are learning from Him.
The best thing I can do for others is to help them establish the life pattern of learning, doing, and sharing what God says. We do this through mutual accountability.
“The best thing I can do for others is to help them establish the life pattern of learning, doing, and sharing what God says.”
How can we live in such a way that this becomes our natural and routine course of action? I would propose that we look at our lives like a stool with three legs: knowing, doing (obedience), and sharing with others. Just as a three-legged stool with very uneven legs is useless, so unbalanced discipleship is useless. Our knowledge needs to be balanced with doing and sharing. Otherwise, our discipleship is incomplete and truncated, even useless from God’s perspective.
The church often places great emphasis on Bible knowledge and equates it with maturity. That is unfortunate. Knowledge without obedience is worthless. In fact, it is worse than worthless, because it incurs additional judgment. As Jesus says, the servant “who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few” (Luke 12:47–48). Knowing without doing earns additional punishment. As James says, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
The only appropriate measure of maturity is in terms of one’s conformity to the image of Christ (Eph. 4:13). It is God’s will that we be so conformed (Romans 8:29). We err if we compare ourselves to anything other than God’s will for us or if we pursue His will in any way other than by His Spirit.
“The only appropriate measure of maturity is in terms of one’s conformity to the image of Christ.”
Maturity takes time. Time does not, however, guarantee maturity. Many are still spiritual infants even though they have been Christians for many years. Instead of maturity, we should focus on faithfulness. That is something even a brand-new Christian can exhibit. A new follower of Christ can be fully faithful to what he or she knows at that point. If we are faithful to God every day, over time God will make us mature.
This is a corollary to the spiritual economy. God is a wise investor. He invests in those who are faithful. This is a key lesson from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30.
The most practical way to assess faithfulness is to examine the ratio of the three legs of the stool I described above—knowing, doing, and sharing. Consider the following hypothetical: Imagine three people with equal spiritual knowledge. They all know the same amount, but their lives are not equally pleasing to the Lord.
“The most practical way to assess faithfulness is to examine the ratio of the three legs of the stool I described above—knowing, doing, and sharing.”
The first person is faithful: what she knows, she does and shares with others. The second is a hypocrite: he knows what he should do, and he preaches it to others, but he does not put it into practice in his own life. The third is selfish: he is learning and putting knowledge into practice in his own life, but not sharing with others.
Just as a three-legged stool is useless if the legs are not of similar length, a disciple who does not balance these three aspects is not being faithful to God’s call. In the physical realm, if we breathed in but never breathed out, we would die within ten minutes. But we do the same thing in the spiritual realm when we constantly take in new knowledge without applying it to our own lives or sharing it with others who can benefit from it.
The 3/3 Model
Together with accountability, there are several practical approaches that you can insert into your daily routine to promote balance and consistency in your spiritual breathing. One of them is what I call the three-thirds (or 3/3). The three thirds are as follows:
1.) Look back
2.) Look up
3.) Look forward
These correspond to the three legs of the stool. The “look up” portion represents the knowledge leg of the stool. The “look back” and “look forward” portions are focused on evaluating and planning the “do” and “share with others” legs. In other words, you look back to evaluate your prior activities in doing and sharing, and you look forward to determine how the Lord is asking you to engage in doing and sharing and to plan how to carry out His direction.
“We use this structure in our house church. I also use it in my daily Bible study, in follow-up after training events, and in leadership and mentoring meetings.”
We use this structure in our house church. I also use it in my daily Bible study, in follow-up after training events, and in leadership and mentoring meetings. I spend one-third of the available time looking back to evaluate what has happened since the last meeting, especially our commitments to do or share from the previous session. The second third is focused on looking up to God in search of new insights and impressions from Scripture or from the Holy Spirit. Finally, we look forward and make specific plans to put into practice what we have learned and share it with others. The “look forward” component ensures that we never stop at gaining knowledge, but always do and share what we have learned.
Because the 3/3 format has become an ingrained habit, every time I open my Bible, pray, or interact with someone, I am thinking about whether there is something the Lord wants to teach me (knowledge) and have me do or share. This helps to prevent me from becoming a receiver rather than a giver. It also keeps me from becoming hypocritical and heaping judgment upon myself by learning things and talking about them to others, but never putting them into practice in my own life.
Excerpted from Curtis Sergeant, The Only One: Living Fully In, By, and For God. For more from Curtis, check out theonlyonebook.com.