Friday, December 11, 2009

Who are you accountable to?

Good morning my friends. As we say good bye to Paul's letter to the Colossians I would like us to consider something that I am failing at. I would rather be upfront with you about the fact that I need to present something that I do not yet have in place. It is the matter of accountability and the importance of it. I do not have it in place because I am no longer part of a large denomination where accountability was a legislated thing. I am a pastor of a non-denominational church in a mission field where good accountability partners are hard to find. I was four years in Belgium and now pastor in Quebec, where I have been serving for over ten years. That makes it 14 years that I have been removed from the rest of the Church happenings and it is hard because we all need accountability.

Allow me to point this out from the perspective of a member of a church. Not only do you represent Jesus Christ but you also represent the Church proper and then your own faith community. You represent your pastor and the members of that congregation. Your words, your actions and your attitudes all reflect on Jesus, the Body and your church. This is one of the reasons you need to be accountable to the elders or someone of maturity in your congregation. Knowing you are accountable will help you grow, mature, and be more careful of your behaviour. This is what we see going on as Paul wraps up his letter with his typical greetings. As I read it this morning this is what stood out for me:

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:12-13)

Obviously there were no cell phones or email at this time. There were no instant social networking groups and there were not even any landlines. Communication was difficult for poor Epaphras to report home, so Paul did it for him through this letter. Notice that Paul let this church know that the worker who was with him from their church was representing them well. He let them know that Epaphras still considered that he was part of them, he was still following Jesus, that his prayers were occupied with them and that he was representing them well in his hard work. Any church that sent out missionaries or lent out a group on a short term missions trip would be proud to receive such a report.

This was important to Paul because he too was accountable. If I were to ask you to whom he was accountable you would probably tell me Jerusalem but it was not Jerusalem. Paul was not sent out by the elders of Jerusalem, he and Barnabas were sent out from Antioch and it was to Antioch that Paul returned after his mission journeys. You will find it all in the historical account of Acts. The only trip he did not return to Antioch was his last, when he was arrested and eventually ended up in Rome. Paul's church was the gentile church of Antioch where the ministry to the gentiles had begun it earnest. It was also to Antioch that the Church council was moved to after the fall of Jerusalem before eventually moving to the center of the world at that time: Rome.

Most of us like our independence, our freedom, our lack of accountability. We get enough grief from work. Haven't we had enough with accountability from growing up in school, to getting a job, to paying out taxes and following our country's laws? Well, the short answer is, no. The most important accountability we need is spiritual accountability. None of us should be attempting this journey alone. We all need someone who we can be brutally honest with, someone who will ask us the hard questions, someone who cares enough about us to be brutally honest with us. Without that we will never rise up to our potential because we are a "lowest common denominator" type of people. We try to get away with paying the least amount of taxes, doing the least amount of work, giving the least amount of information to people. Accountability helps us stay true to offering our best.

Of course we will all have a day of accountability with God but on that day it will be too late. It is like our faith. It is better for our faith to be tested here so we can see if it is real or not because we do not want to stand for God and discover that our faith was not real and have no time left to do anything about it. It is better to be accountable here, now, so we can do something about what we are lacking. If we wait for that day of accountability to see what we are lacking we will not be able to do anything about it. Be honest now and it will pay off for you in the end. So yes, I am still looking for a good accountability partner because it is important. You should too.

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