A Culture of Accountability and Responsibility
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
Discipleship: Our First Responsibility
The greatest task of leaders is to develop discipleship patterns in their communities. As I have emphasized many times, Yeshua defines discipleship in the clearest and simplest terms. Beginning with presenting the Gospel of the Kingdom, He follows with the full commitment of water immersion and then exhorts His disciples to provide the new believers with a course of instruction that they may "obey everything that I have commanded ..." (Matthew 28:18-20).
The commands of Yeshua begin with the commands of love: to love God with all our hearts, to love our brothers and sisters in the Messiah, to love our neighbors and to love our enemies. These commands can only be fulfilled in dependence upon His abiding life at work in us (John 15:5-12). The commands of love sum up all the commandments of the Bible, but do not eliminate them. The commandments, as expressed in the New Covenant, are the litmus test whereby we can evaluate whether we act in real love or not.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is the invitation to enter into the Kingdom realm now, and to live in and from it. Kingdom life in the present time is an anticipation of the Kingdom that will come in fullness when Yeshua returns. The Kingdom affects every sphere of life: marriage and family, work, art, science, education, politics and more. All the realms of human endeavor are realms where believers are to live and demonstrate the Kingdom. However, the hub of the wheel of the Kingdom is congregational life where all are discipled and prepared for their destiny and roles in every dimension of life. Only this can explain Yeshua's words concerning His congregation against which the gates of Hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18).
Discipleship and a Culture of Accountability and Responsibility
My conclusion after 40 years of congregational ministry, both as a pastor and an overseer of multiple congregations, is that effective discipleship and congregational impact are dependent on creating a culture of accountability and responsibility. This is hard to do in our age, but is an absolute necessity. Such a culture is produced by competent leaders who find a willing core of people to embrace it. The leaders themselves must be an example by teaching and modelling these characteristics.
Preaching that builds this type of culture, emphasizes two primary foci. The first is that each individual becomes all that he can be in commitment to Yeshua. This means seeking to be conformed to His image, to develop faith, hope and love, and to obey all of His commandments. It is seeking to be filled with the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit and to produce the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25). However, the conformity of the individual to Yeshua can only be worked out in the context of congregational community since most of the commands of Yeshua concern how we are to live together with brothers and sisters in the Messiah.
This second preaching focus includes practical training in areas such as marriage and family relations, and is also crucial in seeing growth into the image of Yeshua. Many of Yeshua's communal commands speak of how we are to treat one another in love, serve one another, correct one another in love (Matthew 18:15ff, Galatians: 6:1-2), submit to leaders, and more.
Indeed, we are all our brothers' keepers and are to embrace mutual involvement to encourage one another to grow into the image of Yeshua. When leaders and congregants embrace this vision they produce what I call a culture of accountability and responsibility. These two go together.
Giving an Account of our Lives
The idea of accountability means that we give an account of our lives to one another. John Wesley established the idea of accountability in small groups (the band). For this reason, his movement was named Methodism. The method was that all the members of the group would confess their sins, pray for one another, and account for their lives with regard to holiness and witness. If we follow this pattern, it means that we are mutually vulnerable; we take the risk of openness and then are responsible for one another. For this to work, leaders must also be vulnerable to one another and to their followers. Of course, the depth of openness must be guarded with wisdom. Leaders should not share what members are not mature enough to bear. In addition, such sharing should be in a context of confidentiality unless there are levels of unrepentant sin requiring eldership involvement.
Governing in Mutual Accountability and Responsibility
In a culture of accountability and responsibility, leaders see themselves as serving their congregation and not "lording it" over them. They motivate the people in serving by encouraging their service as unto the Lord, but also help them in taking ownership of their community. The community is not just a gathering of individuals to be entertained by a leadership who owns the ministry. We equip the people for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
The culture of accountability and responsibility is reflected in a style of relational government. The elders are the ordained governing authorities of a congregation. They are led by a head elder, a first among equals, according to our polity. This team of elders is mutually accountable and responsible for one another. Since Yeshua is the leader of the elders, all major decisions require agreement through the leading of the Spirit. As such the lead elder cannot move forward without the concurrence of the elders, and the elders cannot move forward without the assent of the lead elder. If the issue cannot be resolved, they can appeal to the association of congregational leaders under their overseer apostle) to break the tie. At the association-of-congregations level the same culture prevails where the members of the governing council of the association are mutually accountable to one another and to all the congregational leaders in the association. In our government, the apostle is an elder ex-officio of the congregations, but has no veto power over the local elders where the final authority for decisions resides.
Finally, the members are accountable to the leaders, but also the leaders to the congregation. The leaders disclose their directions, finances and budget for the congregation and seek the affirmation of the members for major directional decisions. Such a culture requires a people of basic maturity and high ethical behavior. New members quickly learn from the example of the older members on how to walk out this responsibility with godly humility.
It took many years to develop such a culture in the congregation I led for 22 years in Maryland and to expand it to encompass a network of congregations. However, when such a culture is established, it is a bit of heaven on earth. Trust and love prevail in the community and in the network of communities.
© Copyright Tikkun International Ministries. All rights reserved.