Friends don’t let friends off the hook
by Steve Sonderman
Like every Wednesday for the past 20 years, I’ll get up early this week to meet with two long-time friends, Rob and Mike. For the next hour and a half we will talk, laugh, cry, open the Word, pray, encourage one another, ask the tough questions, and bear one another’s burdens. Our motto has been “Become friends and change the world.”
We have made a commitment to be available to one another 24/7, to walk through the valley of the shadow of death together and to spur one another on to good deeds. Oh yes, and one more thing…to be accountable to one another for our thoughts, motives, speech, and behaviour. Although accountability is a nasty word for many people, I have found it instrumental in my growth as a father, husband, friend, and Christ-follower.
At the first Promise Keepers conference I attended in 1993, I heard Howard Hendricks say, “A man not in an accountable relationship is a moral accident waiting to happen.” Those words have rung in my ears all these years and have been a guide to all we have done in our ministry to men at Elmbrook Church in Wisconsin.
While there are many ways to define accountability, the one we use is “giving others the freedom to help you order your private and public lives.” Over the years I have learned that for accountability to work correctly there are certain key components that must be present.
Accountability with one or more men will only work when a mutual relationship has been developed. I know Rob and Mike love me and want the best for me, and as a result I allow them into my life.
For accountability to work, you have to trust the other people to keep what you share confidential. For 15 years I helped lead the chapel services for the Milwaukee Brewers. There was a sign above the door that said, “What you see here and hear here stays here.” Imagine that sign above the door to your meeting room. Trust takes time and you cannot rush the process.
Most men are afraid to share what is really going on in their lives because they think they are the only ones struggling. As a result, men hide the truth and try to portray themselves as someone they’re not. Take the risk and share the skeletons in your closet. As you do, other men will normally follow.
Accountability cannot be forced. I need to give my friends permission to ask me the hard questions in the areas I want to and need to grow. For example, I have a tendency to be passive in my relationships with my two sons, and so I have asked Mike and Rob to ask me what I have done during the last week to build those relationships. Each week, I set aside my Thursday lunch time to drive downtown and take one of my sons to lunch and Mike and Rob have permission to ask me each week if I have done that.
With asking the tough questions each week comes the necessity of encouragement. When one of us takes a step of faith the others cheer him on. When one of us says no to sin, we cheer him on.
Keep the end in mind. The goal of accountability is not behaviour modification, nor is to check it off a list, but rather as Paul says, “to walk in a manner worthy of Christ.” So whether it is asking tough questions, providing wise counsel, encouraging each other when down, or just being available, I have found it to be integral to my walk with Jesus. I hope you will as well.
FINDING AN ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP OR PERSON
Begin by praying for God to lead you to the right man or group of men.
Look in your relational sphere.
As you talk with friends, men at church, or in a small group, ask who you have a natural affinity with, who you are drawn to and who seems to be headed in the same direction as you. Normally it will be someone you know where a relationship has already begun.
Invite the person or group to coffee or lunch.
Spend some time getting to know the person or group better and ask if they are interested in going deeper with the Lord and one another.
Ask to become accountability partners.
If you are confident this is the right person or group, ask if they would be willing to start meeting on a regular basis for the purpose of accountability and prayer. Once you start meeting, keep in mind it will take time for trust and honesty to be developed.
Steve Sonderman is Pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin and founder of No Regrets Men’s Ministries. He consults widely with churches worldwide, sharing his passion for ministry to men in every local church. He makes his home in Borrokfield with his wife, Colleen.
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