Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
From: Money Sex and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
Commitments are cheap. Keeping commitments is expensive. How often have you made a commitment, only to forget it within a few weeks? What about that decision you made to have a Time Alone with God every day? What about your promise to witness every week? Or, how about your promise to lose 15 pounds? Do you still remember that time you made a commitment to spend more time with your kids? To date your mate? To quit wasting so much time watching TV? To make restitution for something in your past? To become a man or woman of prayer?
See what I mean? Commitments come easy...a raised hand, a short walk down the aisle, or a written promise on a card -- you've made scores, perhaps hundreds in your life.
But how many have you kept? All? Most? Many? Some? Unfortunately, most Christians are lucky to have kept half their commitments. This is especially true of youth and young adults. They are quick to make commitments, but slow to keep them. This sets up a dreadful cycle of commitment, then failure, then repentance, then a repeat commitment. Have you experienced this painful cycle? Have you made a promise to God, trusting Him to change you? But within weeks, or even days, you have fallen flat on your face. Then you repent promising the Lord you'd obey all over again.
I believe younger people tend toward this cycle more than older people. Why? Because older folk either get consistent victory or they give up. You see, if you don't get victory in this constant cycle of commitment and failure, eventually you'll simply quit making commitments. You will learn that every time you promise God something, you only fail Him. Your mind and spirit can't handle constant failure. Thus you'll simply quit trying...and you'll quit making commitments to God.
I've seen entire churches who had quit making commitments. They are absolutely impervious to the Holy Spirit's conviction. Powerful specific convicting preaching doesn't rouse them a bit from their spiritual naps. They snooze on, completely oblivious to God's spiritual alarm clock. They have programmed themselves to ignore conviction. Hearing no conviction, they won't need to make a commitment, which they have learned they cannot keep. Why is it that youth and young adults populate the altars of churches and camps? Is it because they have more sin in their lives than older people? Perhaps, but I doubt it. It is because they keep trying. Younger people keep making commitments, hoping they can keep them. Many older folk have given up.
So the question is, "How can we learn to keep our commitments to God and others?" When it comes to being reliable in our word, many of us do poorly with our families too. How about that job you've been promising your wife you'd do around the house? What about that promise you made to your husband to lose weight? Do you remember that trip to the amusement park you promised your kids last summer? What ever happened to your commitment to get out of debt? How about your goal of starting a systematic savings plan? The truth is you can't be trusted. You often are simply not a "man of your word." Your word is untrustworthy -- to God or your loved ones.
About a dozen years ago I discovered a group of busy Christian executives who were weary of breaking promises to God and their families. They wanted to change. So they decided to get together once a month and check up on each other -- to make sure they did what they said they'd do. They would list the things they intended to do during the upcoming month in their meetings. Each fellow took notes on the others' commitments. Then when they met together a month later each executive was asked how he'd done on his list. They decided to handle each man with toughness -- if he hadn't kept his promises he would be rebuked as untrustworthy. And he would be put on a corrective plan by the others. These men started with simple things -- like fixing a broken cabinet door in the kitchen or cleaning up the garage. It took several years of meeting together before they felt they had adequately become "men of their word." Man or woman, -- it is easier to make a commitment than to keep it.
These men discovered a little known secret of commitment keeping -- accountability. It is a most powerful secret to rescue you from the cycle of promises-broken, promises- renewed. It is the best secret to becoming a man or woman who says something and means it. It is the finest solution to a life of constant defeat and failure. It is the right step for you to take toward making commitments then keeping them. You don't have to live with recurring procrastination. You no longer have to be satisfied with broken promises to God and others. You can start on the road of becoming a man or woman of your word -- when you make a commitment, you keep it.
I believe accountability was the great secret of the early Methodist movement. John Wesley specified strict accountability in his "class meetings." Every week each member was subjected to four questions on his personal sin, temptations, victories, and struggles of the past week. The idea has come in and out of popularity down through church history. I think it's interesting that every time it falls into obscurity, holiness of life falters.
So what is accountability and how could you add it to your own practices of personal disciplines? I've experienced five different kinds of accountability so far. There are probably several other types of accountability. But, these five have had a major impact on my commitment to live a life of holiness:
Mentor accountability was my first experience of someone "checking up" on me -- monitoring my spiritual growth and holding me accountable for commitments. As a college freshman I met Moses Yang, an older Indonesian student who walked the holy life and loved God's Word. He took me under his wing and discipled me. We met every day for three to five hours to study God's Word. He was the first person to ever be tough on me spiritually. For most of my life, if I made a commitment I could satisfy just about everyone. Moses wasn't satisfied with commitment. He, like God, expected obedience. He would "check up on me" every day. He would ask penetrating questions about my devotions, my thoughts, my attitudes, even my dating relationships. I grew like springtime hay. Sure, I got teased for my dedication and loyalty to Moses. Other students called me a "Moses' disciple" or "little Moses," but this first experience of tough accountability changed the direction of my life forever.
Mentor accountability is not usually two-way -- the mentor is the "checker-upper." You place yourself under the spiritual authority of a person you trust. You spiritually submit completely to their directions regarding your spiritual growth. You agree to obediently follow their instructions. It's sort of a dangerous thing -- what if they're wrong? But no accountability at all is even more dangerous. Since that year as a freshman, I have been on the other end of mentor accountability -- acting as the mentor. It was frightening -- to have someone under my spiritual authority -- someone who committed themselves to obedience to whatever I directed. I had thoughts like, "Who am I to have this authority?" I wondered, "Shouldn't they be following Jesus -- not me?" I'm not completely comfortable saying with Saint Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ." But I've done it anyway, a few times.
Becoming a parent helped. I realized that I was a spiritual mentor to my two sons. These two boys are under my spiritual authority. They will do pretty much what I say. (Well, I admit this is diminishing.) Once I realized my role in mentor accountability with my sons, it became easier to accept this role with others.
Nevertheless, I do not seek mentor accountability. It is an awesome responsibility. But, periodically a desperate pastor comes to me whose life is completely tangled up. He asks for my help and guidance through the mess. When he offers himself in spiritual submission for a period of time, I usually agree. I recognize there are other valid ways to help people. But mentor accountability has been a powerful tool to help people break sinful habits, restore breaking marriages, initiate holy disciplines, and sort out tangled lives. Jesus didn't give advice, he gave commands. While I'm not Jesus, His methods of helping people who are messed up appeal to me.
When I was about 26 years old I experienced group accountability for the first time. A missionary friend and I started a cell group. It was designed to have seven men who would meet once a week before breakfast. We would pray, share insights from the Word, then have an accountability time. Just the two of us met for the first few months. Then we both agreed on the third person. The three of us met for awhile until we all felt directed toward the fourth, and so on. It was a good plan and provided some great accountability in a time of my life when I needed monitoring from older men.
I think it was the fifth or sixth man who doomed the group. He was a great fellow, always encouraging everybody. Every time someone confessed shortcomings, failures, or sin he would pour soothing platitudes all over the confession. He would make some sort of a positive statement like, "No problem, all of us struggle like that." Tough accountability disappeared. Eventually the group faltered and died. I learned two lessons from this experience. Group accountability is a powerful method to help me keep commitments, and it is fragile and easily ruined.
Some of the most enjoyable accountability I've had is double-date accountability. My wife and I meet with several other couples on a monthly or quarterly basis for sharing and accountability. These double-dates are mostly fellowship times, and the accountability isn't very tough, but there is a special power in establishing accountability as a couple. This is especially true of commitments in the area of marital harmony, romance, and child rearing. These couples have changed throughout our life, though one couple has "lasted" more than ten years. Sometimes the relationship shifts away from accountability gradually. We've noticed that the closer your association is with the other couple the harder it is to be tough on them.
Our best double-date accountability is with a couple we see only a few times a year -- and both of us drive several hundred miles for an evening of spiritual accountability. Double-date accountability has its limits. But it is a great tool, especially in areas of family life accountability. It's also a good start toward this next kind of accountability.
Talk about permanence! Spousal accountability is the longest lasting of all. If you are married, your spouse will be with you from now on. If you can get the knack of spousal accountability, you will have gained a dependable, ever present "accountant" for life. After all, who knows you best, desires your success the most, and loves you most deeply? Your lifetime yokemate. But there is a knack to it. It doesn't come easily. A spouse can seem to be nagging when they check up on you. And the submission you might easily grant to another accountant may come hard for you to give to your mate. And, of course, you can't expect your spouse to hold you accountable for how you treat her or him. Again, there are some things a spouse can hold you accountable for best, and others where your mate is a poor accountability partner. Nevertheless, I have had systematic mutual accountability with my wife Sharon for more than seven years now. It has brought us far closer together on a spiritual level than any other one Christian discipline.
I believe that one-on-one accountability is the best all around method. Admittedly, it is the hardest to arrange and probably the most difficult to maintain. I think it is also the most effective. In one-on-one accountability two people meet regularly and check up on each other's spiritual growth. The meetings can be weekly, monthly, or at the least quarterly. It is a "class meeting" with only two attending.
I've had one-on-one accountability several times in my life, and each time was an apex of both spiritual growth and professional achievement. Just last month I entered again into a new accountability contract with a man I hold in very high esteem. It's a mutual covenant, so accountability will be both ways. This covenant may not last for life, but it will make a difference for the time being. Sometimes such a relationship comes and goes. After several years of accountability, the sharp edge of toughness disappears. You become better friends and worse accountants. You gain a best friend, and eventually lose an accountant. I don't worry when this happens. I simply allow the friendship to develop, and look elsewhere for accountability.
I see value in all five kinds of accountability. But I honestly believe nothing will replace this hard-nosed, one-on-one accountability. If you only do one kind of accountability, I believe one-on-one is your best shot.
If you don't have a regular one-on-one accountability in your life right now I'll bet it's due to one of these three reasons: 1) You don't know who to ask to be your partner; 2) You don't know what to do when you meet; or 3) You are guilty of procrastination -- you just haven't got around to starting.
If you have determined you will have accountability (instead of saying "If I find someone I'll do this"), you'll be a long shot ahead of the game. Decide now you want to do this. Then go find the person. Once you've decided to do it, make a list of all potential accountants. List every name you can think of. Don't evaluate them, just list them. I had 14 names on such a list once. Remember, don't judge their willingness or capabilities now, just get ten or more names on your list. Once you've got your ten names set the list aside. Let it "marinate" for a few weeks. As you go about your regular routine think over the names and see which ones the Lord seems to lead toward. Two or three will start to surface as the best possibilities. Prayerfully consider these names until one emerges as the first choice.
Now, make an appointment to talk with your primary choice, perhaps for lunch. Take a sheet of "Accountability Questions," so you can explain what you are wanting to do. Be detailed in your description of what you are asking. An example of what you might say is:
"I've felt the need for someone to meet with on a regular basis to check up on my spiritual progress...you know, how I am overcoming sin and growing as a Christian. I've been thinking about several people but you kept coming to my mind. I'm not asking you to give me an answer today. I just want you to think about it. If you'd agree to be my "accountability partner" here's what we would do.
"We'd meet regularly...either monthly or quarterly, depending on what works best. Perhaps we'd meet for breakfast or lunch, or something like that. You would hold me accountable for some commitments I've made and for some goals I've set. For instance, this sheet here has some of the kinds of questions I would want you to ask me every time -- things like how much time I waste looking at TV or how well I've been doing at my daily Time Alone With God. That sort of thing. Not all these questions -- just a few each time...and then you'd keep asking some, even after I was victorious in an area, just to make sure I don't slip back.
"Plus, see this section here at the bottom on the back? I'd be writing down some goals each time we meet which I'd want you to hold me accountable for accomplishing. It's so much easier for me to set goals than to take the nitty gritty steps to achieve them. I need someone to be tough on me to make sure I take action toward my goals. Some of these goals would be simple things like getting my garage organized or losing weight. And some of them might be professional goals like taking a class or reading a certain number of books. This wouldn't be a time for you to encourage me or to sympathize with my failures. Frankly, I need someone to be pretty tough on me. I tend to be lazy, and sometimes I ignore my spiritual commitments and goals.
"This is what I'm asking you to think about, holding me accountable for my spiritual life and goals. I'm asking you to be my "accountant." If you're interested, I could do the same for you -- we would be mutually accountable. But that would be up to you.
"Well, that's it. Think about it, don't decide now. I'm asking for something pretty big. Kick it around in your mind a bit, and see if you really want to do this. If you do, call me by the end of next week. If you don't call me that'll be fine, I'll find someone else. But, if you want to join together in this relationship, just give me a call."
Once you've explained what you want back off. Don't pressure. Avoid saying something like, "I've been praying about this for several weeks and God has told me that you are the man." A partner recruited by this kind of pressure won't last. Simply explain what you are looking for and then turn your conversation to other things. Have a nice time of fellowship over the rest of your lunch.
If your first choice doesn't call in a week or two, go on down your list to other names. I bet you'll find an accountant before you've worked through five or six people, certainly before ten or fifteen.
So, now you know who to ask. And you even have some ideas on how to ask them.
Accountability meetings are simple. You don't need an order of worship or an agenda. You do the same things every time. Begin with your partner asking specific questions on your spiritual life. After these specific questions, move toward general accountability -- questions you want asked every time. Finally close with checking up on specific goals you've established. Then, as you gain experience together, add your own ideas. This three-point outline is not inspired, but it's a good place to begin. Later you can expand and revise your own outline as you go along. The outline:
Several questions your accountant asks which you have listed the last time you met. If you use a checklist, he will simply ask the questions you've checked off or written in the last time you met. These are specific areas you want checked up on. They are measurable questions like, "How many days have you had Time Alone with God since we last met?" Next you give your honest report. (Obviously dishonesty is a time bomb in any accountability relationship.) If your report is one of faithfulness and progress your partner serves up affirmation, praise, commendation, or grants you a verbal tribute, salute or applause. However if you report failure, shortfalling, and sin he lovingly serves up a reprimand, warning, scolding, reproof, rebuke or a good old fashioned chewing out. Not that these sessions are mostly negative -- it's just that obedience is not a trivial matter.
Following the specific questions move to a set of general questions you'll ask every time. John Wesley's Four Questions for class meetings are good models:
A. What known sins have you committed since we last met? If there is such, what shall we do about it?
B. What temptations have you faced?
C. How were you delivered from these temptations?
D. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you are uncertain whether it was sin or not?
Wind up by reporting on your goals. You list these the meeting before. Sometimes these are major goals which can't be accomplished in a week or month and your accountant is checking on your progress. At other times they are smaller goals which you intend to accomplish before you meet again. Here the partner may help you with a plan, or a redefinition of your goals. But still the relationship must be one of toughness.
Then you switch roles...now it's your turn! You go over the same outline with your partner if it's mutual accountability. That's all there is to it. Mark down next meeting's date and close with prayer.
It's not that hard, is it? Here is a clear pattern to copy. Get started and later you'll develop your own systems to meet particular needs. This outline is good enough to begin with.
Maybe you already knew who to ask, and you knew what to do in an accountability meeting. Then why haven't you started? I suspect procrastination is the most common excuse. Your intentions are good -- you plan to do it some day. Some day. You just haven't gotten around to it.
Your procrastination clearly indicates your desperate need for accountability. Procrastination is probably why you don't keep your other commitments and promises. I doubt that you've ever really intended to walk away from your promises. You just never got around to keeping them. You procrastinated. What is the remedy for procrastination? Accountability. But if you are a procrastinator, you are probably procrastinating on taking the cure. So you fully intend to have accountability, but because you don't take the next steps to begin, you are stuck in a quagmire of failure and broken promises.
Procrastinators especially need accountability. Accountability is the antidote for this disorder of your will. It may be your only hope of survival. Accountability could save you from the road "paved with good intentions." Accountability can get you beyond goal setting to really accomplishing your goals. Accountability can take you beyond commitment to genuine spiritual life change. Accountability can guide you beyond good intentions to actually doing what you intended to do. Accountability can make you into "a man of your word."
Action breaks the bindings of procrastination. So, start now. Do something. As soon as you lay down this article. Go ahead, break the shackles of procrastination by taking action. The reason you have become such a procrastinator is your habit of reading or listening to great ideas you'd like to do, but never taking action on them. It's time to change all that. Today.
You can discover this great secret of keeping your commitments. Then you'll be able to teach others this secret. Don't let this be one more great idea you decide to do some day. Strike while the iron is hot. Take action while you are still hungering for this Christian discipline.
Is there any good reason why you shouldn't start making your list of prospective accountability partners right now?
1987 Keith Drury. May be copied to share with a friend.
Select the questions you want to be asked in your next meeting by your "accountant." Beyond these, he or she may ask any others which may be productive for your spiritual growth.
I. 75 Specific Accountability Questions.
___1. Have you had daily Time Alone With God since we last met?
___2. How many Days Alone With God have you taken?
___3. Have your thoughts been pure and free from lust?
___4. Have you dated your spouse every week?
___5. Have you taken a day off each week?
___6. Have you had a daily debriefing time with your spouse?
___7. Is there anyone against whom you are holding a grudge?
___8. Is there any emotional attachment with someone of the opposite sex which could develop dangerously?
___9. With whom could such an attachment develop in the future?
___10. Have you given unselfishly to your mate's needs?
___11. Are there any unresolved conflicts with your mate?
___13. How often have you had family altar since we last met?
___14. How often have you shared your faith? When? What happened?
___15. How much time have you spent with your children? Doing what?
___16. Have you spread falsehoods about another -- slander?
___17. Have you hurtful truth about another --gossip?
___18. Do you have any unmade restitutions?
___19. Are you discipling you child? Mate? How? When?
___20. Is your practice of journaling up to date?
___21. How much have you fasted since we last met?
___22. Have you had nightly prayers with your spouse?
___23. Report on your memorizing & meditating on scripture.
___24. How are you improving in your relationship with your mate?
___25. Is there a brother you should try to restore from sin?
___26. When did you last give a thoughtful gift to your mate?
___27. In what ways have you been tempted to be proud?
___28. How have you given to the needy since we last met?
___39. How much time have you wasted watching TV?
___30. What about questionable movies, magazines, or videos?
___31. Are you completely out of installment debt?
___32. How are you avoiding materialism?
___33. Have you exaggerated or lied since we last met?
___34. Have you been able to ignore carnal, complaining, petty people?
___35. What spiritual growth books have you read since we met?
___36. Of what are you afraid? How will you defy this fear?
___37. How have you played "Team Ball" with others since we last met?
___38. Have you had a critical spirit since we last met?
___39. In what special ways have you shown love to your mate?
___40. Have you been fully submissive to authority?
___41. Who is it that you are tempted to envy, or be jealous of?
___42. Is there any believer with whom you are out of harmony?
___43. Who are you discipling and mentoring? How?
___44. Was there a time when your love for God was hotter?
___45. How have you attempted to make peace between others?
___46. Have you taken anything not belonging to you, large or small?
___47. What sexual sin have you been most tempted to commit?
___48. Have you a practice which may be a stumbling block to others?
___49. Have you avoided outbursts of anger or rage?
___50. About what have you been inclined to boast?
___51. Have you been tempted to give up? How? Why?
___52. How have you clarified your life's mission since we last met?
___53. Have you avoided fighting, quarreling, dissension, and factions?
___54. How have you shown enduring patience since we last met?
___55. Have you avoided obscenity, foolish talk, and course jokes?
___56. In what ways have you been tempted to greed?
___57. Have you selfish ambition? How pure is your desire to achieve?
___58. Is there hate, malice, or ill will in your heart for anyone?
___59. Is there any sin, inward or outward, which has dominion over you so that you are habitually falling in this area?
___60. How have you expressed thanksgiving to God and others?
___61. How have you shown submission and respect to your husband?
___62. How have you shown love and tenderness to your wife?
___63. Have you frivolously wasted words since we last met?
___64. Have you participated in fruitless arguments?
___65. Do you have you a teachable spirit?
___66. Have you shown favoritism toward the rich or powerful? How?
___67. In what way have you launched out in faith since we last met?
___68. Have you abused your power over others? How?
___69. Have you deceitfully manipulated people for your own benefit?
___70. Have you been guilty of worry, anxiety, or distrust of God?
___71. In what ways have you shown brotherly kindness?
___72. Is there any sin of another which you have come to
tolerate? ___73. How have you sought opportunities to serve, listen, and help?
___74. How have you cared for the needy since we last met?
___75. To whom did you show Christ's love since we last met? How?
II. John Wesley's "Four Questions" for weekly class
meetings. ___A. What known sins have you committed since we last met?
If there is such, what shall we do about it?
___B. What temptations have you faced?
___C. How were you delivered from these temptations?
___D. What have you thought, said or done, of which you are uncertain whether it was sin or not?
III. GOALS -- To be held accountable for.
From: Money, Sex, and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
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