How good are you with numbers? How high can you count? My little daughter has mastered up to ten and occasionally gets eleven, so hopefully you can beat that. Maybe you can make a hundred, a thousand, even beyond that – wow you obviously have a high level of ac-count-ability.
Oh wait, sorry I’ve just realised this isn’t a maths blog, it’s meant to be a blog about openness and honesty with each other – or accountability as it’s often called in churches, which apparently isn’t how good you are at doing you’re end of year finances or adding up. That’s a shame as I used to be a maths teacher...
You know, as a maths teacher, I encountered this thing in the classroom where students didn’t want to show you their work or give an answer for fear they were wrong, they would rather keep quiet than risk opening themselves to shame. I spent a lot of time trying to persuade students that maths wasn’t all about the right answer, it was about discovering processes and methods, reflecting together on how far you had got so you could see how to move forwards toward a solution. And that was always best done with openness and honesty about what your thinking was. As a teacher it was my responsibility to create a classroom culture as free as possible from shame, but it was the student’s responsibility to take a risk and explain their thinking.
Don’t worry – it looks like I’m writing that maths blog again but this is all to do with how we support each other to grow in our discipleship. I’m not suggesting we blurt out our deepest and darkest secrets in front of church or our small group every week, but if there is no-one you are willing to be fully open with about your weaknesses then you are missing out on reflecting together how far you have got so you can see together how to move forwards towards a solution. We need to make sure our churches our breaking the culture of shame over weakness and sin, for Jesus came to set us free from that, but that happens when we are willing to take a risk and be authentically us for a moment.
James tells us to
‘confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed’ (James 5:16)
And I think this provides a great model for how we can move forward in this area
ONE: FIND OTHERS – who are the ‘each other’ that you think you can trust, and who can trust you? Remember trust takes time to develop, so if you’re not ready to reveal your deepest secret the first time you meet, don’t worry, build a relationship. Be bold in asking those around you; friends, mature Christians you look up to, church leaders if they are willing to meet with you, to share and pray together. Don’t wait for someone to ask you – you make the first move!
TWO: HONEST CONFESSION – when we share our ‘sin,’ ‘weaknesses,’ ‘brokenness’ – however you like to describe it – we break the power of shame. Shame always wants things hidden, openness defeats that. And as we give each other space to share without judging, we contribute to this shame-free culture. And let our honesty extend to our successes too; share the things you have done well, the temptations you have resisted so you can celebrate together.
THREE: PRAY FOR EACH OTHER – prayer accepts each other as we are, but also believes Jesus has a better future for us. Some patterns of sin and brokenness are hard to break and we need God’s help. Hold each other before God in prayer – not just when you’re together but in the times apart as well.
FOUR: SO THAT HEALING MIGHT COME – our desire should be for the other’s best. The transformation that Jesus wants to bring in their lives. Accountability is about dreaming together of the people you are made to be, celebrating strengths and successes as much as holding each other in times of failure.