Spiritual Disciplines: Accountability In Church Community
Rugged American independence has marked faith in the 21st Century. We avoid authority, rely solely on our personal relationship with God, and walk through life with an “all I need is Jesus” mentality. And while Jesus is all we need for the remission of our sins, the Scriptures make it quite clear that we need His Body, the Church, to live our lives in a way that is worthy of the calling we have received.
We need the Church. It’s hard the admit because our individual churches are broken institutions full of broken people. But Jesus knew that and still called us to unite as His Body. He called us to continue to remind and encourage one another of the importance of meeting together.
If we are going to speak into each other’s lives, we must keep meeting together.
My burdens are too hard to carry on my own. When I am in community with my church, when the believers around me know what I am facing, they can encourage me to continue fighting the good fight.
When I underwent dramatic medical issues while my husband was deployed and my family was thousands of miles away, the Body of Christ came around me and equipped me to fight the battle at hand. They reminded me to keep trusting in God and then they did the heavy work of bringing meals, picking me up when I was unable to drive, and going to doctor’s appointments with me. But they knew to do that, they knew what burdens needed to be carried, because we were in community with each other.
And while I needed help with the simple task of preparing a nutritious dinner then, I know that in my life, the greatest burden I carry is that of fighting my sinful nature.
This is a burden I do not have to carry alone. The Holy Spirit will aid me in this battle but one of the greatest weapons I have in this spiritual war is the aid of my brothers and sisters in Christ. This battle is long and will be many challenges but it is not a battle I have to fight alone.
Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. – James 5:16, ESV
James tells us that there is healing in the confession of sins to one another. Confessing our sins is not something personal, solely between us and God. It is something we need to share with the Body of Christ around us.
If my brothers and sisters in Christ do not know what sins I am prone to, how can they help encourage me in the pursuit holiness?
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. – Hebrews 10:23-27, ESV
Our ability hold fast to our confession, to resist temptation, is directly connected with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need them.
We need to be vulnerable and honest with them. Then we need to let them speak into the darkness of our hearts the Light of Christ.
And we need to be the brave ones who come alongside those busted and bruised by the sin in their own heart, withholding judgment on their souls and offering the love of Christ.
We need to remind them that the Blood of Christ is more than sufficient to cover their sin and that the Holy Spirit with strengthen them and equip them to resist temptation. Using our words to speak life into their lives and to encourage them in their faith is a critical role we have been called to.
But we also need to do the hard work of holding others accountable and inviting them to keep us accountable to the tenants of the faith. And I don’t just mean we need to ask if they’ve read their Bible (although that is important), we need to dig into the icky places and ask what they’re doing to guard their hearts against the temptations of sin. Then, we need to help them in love.
In our age of individuality, it’s hard to invite that level of vulnerability and community into our lives. Living open to those around us, instead of closed off and superficial, is counter-cultural but it is what God has instructed us to do for the full formation of our spiritual lives.