On Saturday, I spoke at a We are Men event on the subject of ‘Accountability’. The danger of speaking on a topic like this is that it can sound like a ‘telling off’, but I wanted to make sure that the men who attended felt encouraged and understood what the real meaning of accountability is. Accountability is based in relationship and ensures that as leaders and believers, we do what we say we will do.
We live in an age where the media frequently reports leadership scandals, from extra marital affairs to embezzlement and abuse. As Christians surrounded by temptations and lies from the enemy, we need accountability in our lives. We need people and processes around us to help us have integrity.
How can we be accountable? Is there a way forward for people who get it wrong?
We are servants
Sometimes in churches (or in any organisation), there can be a culture at the top where the person in charge acts as though they are ‘lord and master’. As leaders, we must always remember that we are primarily servants. We are there to serve the vision of the organisation we work for. Our leadership style needs to be based on the life of Jesus as it is written in God’s Word, not on a version we have created for ourselves.
We need relationships
To be truly accountable, it is good to have people in our lives who can be direct and honest with us at any time. Although I have lived in the UK for many years, I am not a native English speaker, and sometimes friends will correct a word I have used in the wrong way. I would always prefer that people gave me the right word than laugh at my use of the wrong one. It is the same with accountability: we need people who will gently and lovingly speak correction when it is needed. If this correction comes from a person who is trusted and who has our best interests at heart, they will never use this to hurt us; they will say these things in order to help and restore us.
Processes are important
In every leadership position, it is important to have processes in place to prevent abuse of systems. For example, at UCB, we have procedures in place to help keep us financially accountable. If we have to buy expensive items (such as new equipment), the forms will need more than just one signature. It doesn’t mean that we don’t trust our team, but it means that important financial decisions are not in the hands of just one person. That helps to keep us accountable to each other and to the people who support the ministry.
We can all fail
As the saying goes, no one plans to fail, but some can fail to plan. To me, this means that we must plan ahead and be aware of our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We must never assume that we are above temptation or incapable of failing. By putting true accountability, processes, and relationships in our lives, we are reducing our capacity for failing. We spend a great deal of time mopping up messes when it would be much better to spend time preventing spills in the first place.
However, what if you (or someone you know) has failed? Is there a way to be restored?
In the Bible, we have many examples of leaders who have failed, but the two examples of David and Saul stand out to me because of their different responses. When Saul was confronted by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 13 about his disobedience before God, Saul’s response was to blame others and make excuses. He was not able to take responsibility for his actions.
In 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan confronted David over his affair with Bathsheba, David immediately said ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’
If you have messed up, then it is important to find someone you trust who can help to restore you and help to make you accountable. This process may mean that you have to confess to others. There may be legal repercussions. You may even need to resign from your position. But in the process of vulnerability and humility, God’s power is still at work.
I have seen friends and key leaders who have fallen and are later restored in a wonderful way with their marriages and lives intact. Your response in the early days is important. Will you deny or seek to blame others? Or will you be vulnerable and use it as a time to get right with God?
Proverbs 24:16 says: ‘for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.’
This is true for anyone who stumbles, whether they are a leader or not. God is so good; He is a God of restitution, of healing and restoration. God’s heart is for everyone to be restored and in a right relationship with Him.
Even if you have messed up, because of God’s goodness, there is still hope.