It is becoming too often an occurrence: Evangelical leaders falling into the trap of thinking they no longer need accountability. Today’s church landscape is littered with ministries destroyed and the testimony of the body of Christ damaged before an unbelieving world because leaders rejected accountability or those charged with holding them accountable failed to discharge their responsibility to the church, before God and, in some cases, in the face of the law.
• Two top executives with the Baptist Foundation of Arizona were sentenced to prison Sept. 29 for orchestrating a multi-million dollar fraud scheme. When the non-profit group collapsed seven years ago, 11,000 victims lost a total of $585 million.
• The Baptist General Convention of Texas is working to get to the bottom of a scandal in the Rio Grande Valley where three church-starting pastors allegedly embezzled $1.3 million from the convention over a six-year period.
• Ted Haggard, pastor, New Life Church in Colorado and president of the 30 million-member National Evangelical Association, was fired after it was divulged that he had an affair with a male prostitute.
• Steven Flockhart, pastor of First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla., recently resigned after it was learned he had falsified education credentials when he interviewed with the church search committee prior to his hiring.
Unfortunately, there are other examples and it is an issue that churches and agency trustee boards must address. Too often the leader levels charges of “micro-managing” whenever attempts are made to hold them accountable. While I believe it is a sin to call a person to ministry and then not let them carry it out as they feel led, that still does not eliminate the necessity of accountability. In fact, I cannot find anything in Scripture about micro-managing, but Scripture has a good deal to say about accountability.
The Bible continually emphasizes the fact that the greater the privilege the greater the accountability. Jesus concluded the teaching of a parable in Luke 12:48 with the statement, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” This was used in but one of several parables Jesus told in which responsibility and accountability are the focus.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is another great example. Before a man went on a journey, he entrusted money to his servants. Upon his return each servant had to give an account of what he had done with the money assigned to him. To those who doubled their money, the master proclaimed, “Well done!” However, the one who hid the money in the ground was severely judged for his irresponsibility.
Too often leaders seek to deflect blame for their shortcomings to others. It is a spiritual malady that has plagued humankind from the beginning. Adam pointed to Eve, and ultimately the Lord, for the sin in which he found himself. Likewise, Eve sought to lay blame on the serpent in Genesis 3. Esau complained that Jacob “deceived” him and got the birthright, when in fact he had sold it to his brother (compare Genesis 27:36 with Genesis 25:27-34). Aaron would not accept the responsibility that he had formed the golden calf in Exodus 32:21-24. Even Pilate wanted to wash his hands of Jesus’ death. To think that we might act in the same sinful manner underscores the need for accountability. As a philosopher once said, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsibility.”
The sin-nature of man demands accountability. I need it, you need it, we all need it. As editor, I am accountable to the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board. More closely that accountability goes through the board’s news journal work group and its Communications and Development Committee. I am thankful they hold me accountable because I still have a sin-nature even though I am continuously being cleansed of my sin by the blood that Christ shed for me at the Cross.
Do not be deceived into thinking that accountability is merely a watchdog mechanism. It can be much more – to our advantage. By having fellow believers holding us accountable, they are able to see our true faith and what Christ is trying to accomplish through us. This, in turn, strengthens their faith and causes them to become our biggest supporters.