The word “accountability” has negative connotations for most people. Both as Americans and as Baptists we pride ourselves on being free people. Yet, if we truly want to realize our potential as people, and as Christians, it is essential that we have some accountability in our lives.
In contrast, Americans generally feel very positive about the word “coach.” Coaching began in the arena of athletics where it was clearly recognized that, if a team or individual wanted to be their best, they needed a coach to help them get there. I’ve watched in fascination as coaching has broadened to personal fitness, and then kept growing in popularity in other arenas. Now “Life Coaches” are quite popular as people realize their need of someone outside themselves to help them reach their goals. We need accountability to become our best selves.
The accountability that helps us grow can come in many forms. It can be from a small group we meet with regularly, or an individual we meet with one-on-one. Modern terms for these relationships vary. Some of the most popular are "small group," "accountability group," "peer coach," and "spiritual director." Getting together for these sorts of interactions is part of the church being the church.
I believe two keys necessary for these relationships to be effective in bringing about spiritual growth are regular meetings and honest interaction. We must have someone in our lives with whom we can be honest, and who can be honest with us. For that relationship to be most effective we need to meet on a regular basis whether it is once a week or once a month.
I have been fortunate through the years to have been a part of several small groups and one-on-one relationships which have helped me tremendously in my own spiritual growth and growth as a person. For the past 7 years, for example, I have been in a “peer coaching” relationship with another individual. We meet regularly to share our individual goals and report on our progress (or sometimes our challenges and lack of progress!). This relationship has consistently prodded me toward new goals, and challenged me to “think outside the box.” I am a stronger Christian and better leader because of this relationship.
Proverbs 27:17 states “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Without accountability we are left vulnerable to our own blind spots, and the whims of our own motivation. Worse yet, we are subject to the limits of our own vision for ourselves. If you are not currently meeting with a small group or individual with whom you can be honest about your spiritual challenges and goals, I encourage you to prayerfully seek one out. In the long run you will be glad that you did!
Minister of Christian Formation
First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, TN