On Being Accountable
November 1, 2001 - "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken"*(Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT)
by Charles W. Colson
I urge all Christians not only to attend church services regularly but also to establish small groups of other Christians to whom they are accountable. I've seen this simple practice work wonders in my own life. In fact, I would never have developed real Christian maturity merely by staying home, reading religious books and attending church once a week—no more than an athlete can develop by shooting baskets alone in the driveway. We're all parts of a larger Body, and as parts we can't operate alone. Nor is the Body fully formed when some of its parts are not fully integrated.
After I became a Christian, I was surrounded by some loving Christian brothers. I credit my early spiritual growth to that prayer group. They made it clear from the beginning that they would meet with me regularly, and we agreed that I wouldn't make decisions without them.
Why is this necessary? Even if Christ lives in you, and even if you're a committed disciple, there will be times when temptation will be nearly overpowering. We need to remember that we're self-deluding creatures who are fully capable of rationalizing the worst sins, even as Christians. Remember the story of David and Nathan? David, a man after God's own heart, couldn't see his own considerable sin, so Nathan told him the story of a man's obvious sin. David was enraged and told Nathan the man should be punished. Only then could Nathan say, "You are the man!"
A group can tell us when we're off base. A group has the wonderful ability to get us to focus on God rather than on ourselves. We may resist this, but without a group we will likely never recognize how out of focus we're becoming.
Let me be the first to admit that over the years I've been tempted to sin, and I've done things wrong without even knowing it. Because the human heart is deceitful, the accountability of a small group is indispensable.