No matter who or where we are, or what our ministry, spiritual accountability should be paramount. It’s our guide, our help, and our protection. Spurning God’s ‘safety net’ leaves us unprotected and vulnerable.
Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:3)
Spiritual accountability can be a sensitive subject, but it’s one closely tied to God’s ordained authority. There are many people out there who operate in ministry without either spiritual authority or accountability. Yet, as today’s verse indicates, this is a critical part of ministry. I’ve heard numerous people talk of removing themselves from under spiritual leadership because of ministry-based disagreements. It’s not for us to judge and it might well have been that the leadership hindered the work of God. It happens, which I know from my own experience in the distant past. But having no leadership and being accountable ‘only to God’ is an arrogant and dangerous place for any believer. For one thing, the lone antelope is the one the lions go after. Believing we don’t need others for wisdom and accountability is also arrogance and pride. And we all know the results of pride.
Spiritual accountability is a two-way street.
Every believer, whatever their ministry or leadership role, is accountable to God, first and foremost. But spiritual accountability among believers works both ways. First, leadership is accountable to those they lead. As leaders, they play a vital role in establishing and releasing ministries among their flock. This means genuinely seeking the Lord – having fasted and prayed – to confirm the ministry calling. It means training and equipping the believer, as well as continuing in prayer. Releasing the anointing is another biblical role of leadership. While God Himself gives the anointing, leadership establish it through the laying on of hands. This is a recognition of the anointing and a commitment to accountability for it. The reality is that leadership can – and sadly, often does – abuse their authority by not being fully accountable. When this happens, leaving isn’t the answer. Consistent prayer is. God will resolve the issue according to His purposes.
Believers must also accept spiritual accountability to their leadership. I firmly believe that church membership is decided by God. He may not want us at the church across the road because it’s convenient. Part of our accountability to God is to go where He sends us. He always places us where He wants us, which means our leadership are those He has selected for His purposes. Even if our ministry is leading a church, we still need accountability to those believers He raises up for that purpose. Strong, Spirit filled believers to submit to is God’s way of protecting us. It opens the way to avoid pride and reveal where we may be going wrong. Any work we do for God’s kingdom paints a target on our back. Having no accountability structure makes it glow in the dark so it can’t be missed.
Spiritual accountability and discipleship.
Jesus is our perfect example of spiritual accountability. It was an integral part of His discipleship programme. He prayed before selecting His disciples, so those He called were those called by God. Then, He didn’t hesitate to teach, rebuke, or encourage His disciples. He challenged them, empowered them, and sent them out. Before He left, He prayed for them and made sure that His Spirit would be there always. Each had absolute assurance that their calling was sound and of God. Finally, His new church was established on and functioned in spiritual accountability. Even Peter and Paul, who had their disagreements, recognised and submitted to mutual accountability for resolution. We need only read Paul’s letters to see that discipleship is based on this principle. Finally, Jesus did nothing in and of Himself. He was always, in all things, accountable to His Father and spiritual authority.
Human nature is that we like to do things our way. We chaff under authority and resent having to be meek and humble – which make us teachable – or feeling that our ‘calling’ or ‘anointing’ is in question. The simple truth, however, is that if our ministry is God-given, He ensures that it comes to pass. We may encounter resistance, even from leadership who aren’t God-centred and accountable. But God assures us that His Word will never return to Him void. If He has said something to us, He will make sure it happens. It may be that He chooses for us to leave a particular church. This can only be discerned after committed prayer, not on impulse. And if He does, we can be sure that He will place us where there is sound spiritual authority and accountability – for our protection and to safeguard His purposes.
We should rejoice in spiritual accountability.
Spiritual accountability is my God-given ‘safety net’ that enables what I do. I know that when I go out, it’s with the full approval and support of my leadership. This means that they’re there to help, encourage, and pray for me. I also have other strong Christians who pray for me and to whom I can submit what I believe I hear from God. There is constant assurance that I’m not that lone antelope headed for destruction. God Himself has created a way to protect both me and His work – from myself as well as the enemy. To reject accountability is to court the dangers of pride. Rather than a restriction or limitation, it’s joyful liberation. Instead of responding in the flesh, let’s rather rejoice in the knowledge that we are part of a larger body with access to wisdom, faith, and encouragement we will need along the way.
Gracious Father, Your wisdom and care for us is beyond measure. Thank You that You never send us out alone, prey to the lions who prowl around, seeking to destroy us. Thank You for our leadership and committed believers who are willing to come alongside and share in Your work. Grant us grace and humility so that we will be teachable, so that we may go out rejoicing to do Your will to Your praise and glory.