So my pastor and I are in great agreement that the essence of Church (or he would mean “church,” for local church) involvement is accountability. But, the elusive accountability that I’m looking for is quite different from the one described in the last post.
My longing is for a place where I am encouraged to be more real rather than less so. Where I can speak honestly about myself and what I see in others, without a look of horror on anyone’s face.
I remember a long time ago when I first started to come out of the Evangelical closet (okay, this is figuratively here as I’m talking about the “I’m not godly” closet not the gay one), that a ministry boss wrote me this poignant letter. “Mike, you need to watch what you say. You’re coming across as being an immature Christian. Donors will not want to give to someone if they aren’t godly.”
That’s what I’m talking about.
Accountability is a church that is very, very safe. Where we can be vulnerable, knowing that no one is going to exploit that vulnerability to pump their own spiritual ego up saying to you (in response to something you say very honestly), “You’re messed up dude. You need to come to X, Y, or Z, program, like I do so you will shape up and be more like me.” This doesn’t have to take place in the middle of the sanctuary, but somewhere.
The second line of Biblical accountability is the shepherding the flock. I raised sheep once. My role was to make sure they were fed, watered and out of danger. I also took care of any illness they had. Okay, occasionally I would get mad at them for climbing our fence and eating my wife’s flowers and I would smack them on the top of their heads. But I wasn’t constantly watching them to make sure they thought acted just like me.
So this kind of shepherding reminds me of the old parish priest . . . you know the good ones. I’m sure that the vast majority of parish priests throughout history were wonderful. They knew everything that was going on within their parish. If someone was sick, they would be the first ones there. If some one was drunk or the victim of some family member’s drunkenness, they were there. They were there in times of loss and in times of great triumphs.
I’ve heard that our pastor does a wonderful within this context, or at least within the context of a severe loss like a death in the family.
I wish we all (not just pastors) could shepherd one another through even the less difficult things. For example a teenager loosing his girlfriend through a tough break up or someone having struggles with their job or with their depression.
This is my pipe-dream of accountability. I’ve seen a few glimpses of it and it was glorious . . . but just a few glimpses. If the church was like this, rather than the youth leaving in droves . . . they would have to take a number to be the next one allowed in . . . like some famous, over-crowed NYC night club.