Asking “What will you do to obey?” can seem an awkward question. The following week, when we ask them to tell us if they actually did what they said they would, well, it can feel down-right invasive. This is especially true for those of us from a Western culture where privacy and individualism are highly valued.
What business is it of mine if they are obeying or not? Shouldn’t that be their worry, not mine?
Could this approach border on legalism? We definitely don’t want to promote a rule-oriented gospel. Yet accountability is a vital essential in growing a DMM. It is strongly tied to one of the main characteristics we find in growing movements- obedience-based discipleship.
The Friendly Accountability Loop
First, let’s note that it is friendly. We must never scold or shame anyone. That will not motivate them to grow. Instead, it could make them afraid to be honest. Be sure to be vulnerable and honest yourself about how you are doing at applying and sharing. When you fail, be open with those you disciple.
Accountability without love, humility, and friendliness will not produce good fruit.
Having said that, the friendly accountability loop is an absolutely vital part of the discipleship process. It is one of the greatest strengths in the T4T meeting approach. (It’s there but less obvious in a classic DBS.) This loop is key in DMM coaching as well.
The loop begins with a few questions in the Look Back section. We ask for a report of progress and actions of obedience.
- Did they do what they said they would do?
- Did they share with the people they indicated they would share with?
- How did they do at applying what was studied the last time?
At the end, in the Look Forward section, we answer new questions.
- “What will we do to obey?
- Or, what will you apply to your life?”
Goals are set and shared with the group. This closes the loop.
Accountability Helps Disciples Grow
The accountability loop has prompted growth in my own life. It pushes us to put our faith into specific actions. We make ourselves accountable to others for our faithfulness to do what we said we wanted to do.
When this becomes organic and natural in our lives, it will also become natural to multiply obedient, faithful disciples.
Our modern-day church tradition rarely has any accountability for putting into practice what Jesus taught. This is a serious problem with regards to discipleship.
Jesus told a parable of a man who built his house on the sand (Matt 7:24-27). The person who puts into practice His teaching is the wise builder. Without obedience, our lives are not grounded in Christ. We will not be able to withstand the storms that come.
There is, however, a danger worth noting in an emphasis on accountability, even if we add the important word friendly to it.
I wrote a blog a few years ago about the importance of living in the New Covenant as we pursue Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). In our practice of friendly accountability and the making of obedient disciples, we must not allow legalism to creep in and gain a foothold. It can easily happen.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”– Gal 3:3
We can be tempted to put pressure on people to perform well as disciples. Exhorting them to boldly share with five people each week can be a real stretch for some. Be gracious. They might feel less valuable than others if they are not able to fulfill their goals. This can move from want-to-living to a legalistic life of shoulds. We don’t want a performance-based Christianity. Our groups must not move from freedom in the Spirit, to come under condemnation and the law. Legalism will kill a movement.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17).
Our disciple-making meetings function best as places where freedom, encouragement, and love abound. They can not be places of condemnation, pressure, performance, and the law.
At the same time, we don’t throw out accountability and obedience as high values. They are vital if we want to see obedience-based discipleship (a key characteristic in movements).
We embrace a discipleship approach that is loving, Spirit-filled, encouraging, relational, and also one that calls people to practice the teachings of Jesus in daily life. Our disciple-making is based on deep relationships where we are willing to be vulnerable, hold one another accountable to obey our Lord, and also encourage one another that with His help and strength, we can do this!
As Paul wrote to the Galatians, we must not be foolish. Having once become free in Christ, we must not put ourselves (or those we are discipling) back under the law! No! Never! Lets look to Jesus as our example of what it means to be obedient, accountable, and absolutely free!
How will you practice friendly accountability this week?
Share on the DMM Frontier Missions group or in the comments below.