This is the fourth in a five-part series on where God is calling me next. The first post can be found here.
Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part. – Ephesians 4:15-16 (CEB)
I once saw a video by Francis Chan on being the Church. He told the story of a man who had been involved in a gang but became a believer. He was “jumped out” of the gang and was baptized in the church. But after awhile, he joined the gang again. When asked why, he said it wasn’t because he didn’t believe in Jesus anymore. It was because he thought that the church offered the intimate community he had known in the gang. But it didn’t. Hungry for that community, he returned to where he could find it.
The truth is that true accountability is hard (we much prefer judgment, see Accountability or Judgment). We don’t do it in our “real life” and so we don’t really know how to do it in the Church. Am I being a hypocrite if I point out the log in my brother’s eye even when I’m willing for him to point out the log in mine? The stronghold that continues to bind my sister is really a result of heredity, right? Surely I can’t hold her accountable to something she can’t help?
Accountability is hard to do on our own and it’s even harder to do for someone else. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be disciplined. We are to help our brother or sister when they are straying off the path, rather than hoping their GPS will just do its own recalculation.
The second strand in the DNA of this new worshipping community is prayer and accountability. They go together like the chicken and the egg:
We seek to be a Community engaged in mutual vulnerability and accountability. The world is quick to offer both judgment and a blind eye. We desire to be a Community who needs one another. We recognize that the depth of our relationship with one another is governed by our willingness to share our struggles and shortcomings – and to hold one another accountable to the guiding of the Holy Spirit. This means:
- We commit to pray together as a Community and individually for one another.
- We are willing to take risks as a Community in response to God’s call.
- We meet in homes and public places. We will eat together.
- We worship freely, with a varied and interactive worship model, including the use of testimony, ritual, liturgy and sacramental action.
- We speak the truth with love.
Mutual vulnerability is an integral part of this as well. When I am willing to share my struggles with you, we can enter into an accountable relationship. When we pray for each other – real prayers about our real lives, not just light requests about other people we know – we share our joys and sufferings. We can truly rejoice with the one who rejoices and mourn with the one who mourns.
I think this may be the hardest part of true Christian community. I just don’t want to trust other people with my stuff. A wise person once said to me, “I compare the inside of me with the outside of you.” Isn’t this the truth! Why would I want to share my messy insides with someone who seems to have it all together? But the truth is, we all have messy insides.
The outside of me will never look like the inside of me.
In our humanity, I think we deeply desire to be known. Lord, have mercy, if one of the places I can’t be known is in the Church. I believe that for many people, being known is the first step to really hearing the Gospel. As we begin to take off the armor and masks we use to protect ourselves, we open ourselves up to being known by one another and by Christ.
Another component of prayer and accountability is, well, prayer. This is another muscle we need to strengthen. We are called to gather for prayer when it isn’t just an element in weekly worship service. Our prayer should include the range of human emotions, rather than just pretty prayers or those we memorize but rarely think about.
Related to this is the ability to worship with abandon. When we truly belong to one another – and not just belong to the same group as each other – our worship should belong to the Community. Paul said that when we meet together, each one should have a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. (1 Corinthians 14:26) We are people of time and place, and so our worship should include movement and action.
I don’t think this will be easy. I think it will require a lot of trust and a lot of grace. Fortunately, Jesus will be with us.
What do you think?
Think back over the prayer requests you have offered – how many have been for yourself rather than someone else? What would it be like to have someone holding you accountable by both celebrating strength and starting again after defeat?
1 Corinthians 12; 1 John 3:17-18
1 Corinthians 6:1-11; Matthew 18:15-20; Luke 7:44-47; 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Esther 4:16; Psalm 46:1-3; Isaiah 43:1-2; Matthew 6:33; Mark 9:50: Acts 1:8
Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 4:8-10
1 Corinthians 14:26
Zechariah 8:16; Ephesians 4:15, 29-32