Should Christians be accountable to one another? Yes. Do accountability groups work? Not really, no. I was talking with a friend the other night and he was frustrated that what was supposed to be a men’s Bible study group that had just started was actually cover for an accountability group. As a result he and the other guy felt a little ambushed. Which is understandable no one had really met before, aside from seeing each other across the sanctuary, and now questions were being asked of them after hearing the fairly standard, men struggle with lust spiel. My friend when asked about his “struggles” felt very much like Bryan Loritts when a random young pastor walked up, at a conference, and asked, “Bryan what is your deepest sin issue?” Bryan responded with, “You don’t know me well enough to know that information.” And I think that is reasonable. the best accountability I have had was from friends who earned the right to deeply involved in my life. And they are the guys who call me out on more than the low hanging fruit of lust. If I am a jerk to my wife, I hear from them. If I lie they catch me and call it out. They know me.
Now there are some accountability groups that are well established, but that also means that the relationships are established. In other words, the trust has been earned. I think the kind of Alcoholics Anonymous format is a relic of it’s time. Every Young Man’s Battle and other books like it meant well, but like I Kissed Dating Goodbye it had it’s flaws. And it’s time to admit that. Throwing someone into a group and assuming that them confessing after the sin is done is not effective accountability. It is just a cycle. True accountability happens when the temptation is strong and active. It’s the nights of late phone calls and prayer. Not a rock pile of group condemnation and hopes to do better next time. Men need groups, but forming with an ulterior motive is not a firm foundation.
Men need other men. But men are also not institution friendly. The best accountability comes from being in each others lives without a schedule and expectation of failure. Like a lot of other things from the recent past that had a few success stories so the Church latched on to them and made them sacred cows, this one should probably be put out to pasture. A new approach is needed, the golden bullet was not found, it’s time to admit this isn’t working.