My wife and I are working our way through the television series The Office, and we watched an episode the other day that was funny but also very much relevant to the Christian life. The episode focuses in on the weird character Dwight and his attempt to hold the office accountable to their actions. The show does a great job hilighting how accountability doesn’t work! If you are a Christian, I’ve got good news for you…Christian accountability doesn’t work.
Here are a few lines from the show:
Dwight: The accountability booster. It registers every time a mistake has been made in the office. From a late delivery to an accounting error. Five strikes in a day equals a home run. One home run and you’re out.
Andy: Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean the thing about this office is, we make a lot of mistakes.
Dwight: But the device will change that. Without a safety net, people will improve.
Andy: Alright everybody, looks like we need to be getting to work. Be extra careful. Double check everything or the accountability booster will getcha.
If you’ve seen this particular episode then you will remember that the office staff is on pins and needles. They are at each others throats, and everyone is walking on egg shells throughout the episode. The fear of mistake has taken over the office and now work and production has been halted because of accountability.
Christian accountability relationships are varied I’m sure, but after watching this I realized that my experience with Christian accountability is sort of like this accountability booster that the characters on The Office had. The device (as Dwight called it) or accountability was supposed to change me, but sadly it did not. In one my favorite books, Grace in Practice, Paul F.M. Zahl writes about accountability and says:
“…start using words with me like “accountability,” or, if you are a Christian, “discipleship.” You start to “speak the truth in love” in my life. You tell me that you intend the criticism you dole out to be for my own good. You tell me there is really love beneath the lecture. But all I can hear is the lecture….tell me one thousand times that your law is in the service of love. I will even tell you I believe you. But I don’t. There is no law in existence that can be heard as grace by sufferers and sinners. The cliche is true: we need unconditional love.”
Christian Accountability Doesn’t Work!
Here are 5 reasons why Christian accountability doesn’t work with some of my pithy comments.
1. Authoritarian – Jesus is the ultimate authority not your accountability partner.
2. Fear – you’re afraid just like Adam was. Except this time your accountability partner is the one you are afraid of.
3. No Grace – Grace is the ultimate life changer not accountability.
4. No Gospel – “It is finished.” ‘Power of God unto salvation”…not accountability.
5. Works – How about we talk about what He has done…not what I’ve done?
Here is the big reason why Christian accountability doesn’t work: people by nature are going to do what they want to do, and no relationship can stop that. I’ve known ultra spiritual leaders in multiple accountability relationships that have had moral failure. What happened? I’ve seen ministries with boards and financial committees do shady things with money, and no one knew. I thought they were accountable?
The greatest change I’ve seen happen in my life is when I’ve been pointed to the Gospel. The Gospel is powerful and the only thing that can change. A watchdog will not change me.
I’m forgiven…I don’t need accountability if my sin is a non-issue to God.