The Pastor’s Toolbox: Accountability

Accountability: We All Need One or More Honest Friends

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)I

“Nothing is more stimulating than friends who speak the truth in love.” (Os Guiness)

“It is the best and truest friend who honestly tells us the truth about ourselves even when he knows we shall not like it. False friends are the ones who hide such truth from us and do so in order to remain in our favour.” (R.C.H. Lenski)

It is a luxury to have people with whom we can let our hair down and just be ourselves. Pastors especially need that sort of relationship because as public figures we are always on display and open to close scrutiny. But as humans we also sin, have weaknesses, suffer from fears, have hang-ups, and live with emotions, both good and bad.

Obviously, pastors’ wives must be their number one resource to fill the need for friendship. Our relationship with our wives must be open and honest. She can be our faithful critic and comforter. She can help us analyze, plan, correct, implement, and react properly. Apart from Christ and our salvation, she is God’s greatest gift to us.

But it is also helpful and necessary to have others close (male) friends who will be painfully honest with us without the emotional involvement of our wives. These men can call us to account, tell us when we are thinking incorrectly or reacting emotionally, ask the hard questions, not let us slide by ore dodge and issue, and stand by us when they think we are right. These me can also honestly assess our leadership, our messages, and our shepherding. We need their help in all of those areas.

Who should they be? Preferably one or two should come from our own congregations and perhaps one or two from another ministry or geographical setting. By selecting men from those two areas, we gain the advantage of having friendly critics within the sphere of our ministry and also those who have not personal involvement in our ministry and thus can provide a bit more objectivity.

It does no good to have such accountability partners is we do not take the time to be with them and do not open up before them. They are not little gods and cannot read our minds, and they do not always know how to read between the lines.

There will definitely be things that these men should keep in strict confidence, but in other areas they must be free to talk with our wives or elders or associates. Without trying to be specific in this area with examples, there may be those times when our accountability partners cannot be bound to total confidentiality since they may judge that the situation calls for us to make a public apology or undergo some form of public correction.

True friends are wonderful gifts from God. Proverbs 18:24 says they will stick “closer than a brother.” And their wounds are definitely better for us than the kisses of our enemies (Prov. 27:6).

Do you have an accountability partner to walk alongside of you in the ministry? How has this been beneficial for you?

Source:  “Practical Wisdom For Pastors” by Curtis C. Thomas.

Gary Chaffins, is co-pastor at The Grace Community Church at Bigelow in Portsmouth, Ohio. He has a beautiful wife, two rotten kids, a big-white dog, and carries a large NASB.

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