Preventing the Accountability Breakdown

How to Safeguard Your Integrity

Isolation . . . Loneliness . . . Solitude. Though surrounded by scores of people, pastors know these feelings all too well. Our position as shepherds, separated from the flock in many ways, can cause us to become closed off to much of the world.

(Image from Pixabay)

Living a private life in secrecy or inaccessibility leaves room for self-betrayal and, ultimately, to what I call an accountability breakdown.

To prevent that breakdown, we need the vulnerability that connecting with others provides. Recognizing our need for others means that we stay aware of any tendency to compromise. We also understand that we are not immune to a fall. We must be willing to open up and connect.

So how do we maintain genuine accountability as pastors?

First, seek out a few men of integrity with whom you can be vulnerable. I advise you to choose people outside the sphere of your own work. As a pastor, don’t choose other pastors!

Connect with those who can evaluate your life with objective eyes. (And be sure to choose people who are not in awe of you.) These need to be people without anything to gain or lose.

Second, be committed to absolute, gut-level honesty. Refuse to hide or excuse or deny. Self-betrayal is a danger for all people, especially pastors.

For some reason we feel that being an “example” means we never goof up . . . and so we cover up! Be vigilant against any half-truths, because the only ones we fool are ourselves.

Finally, determine to answer questions on a variety of practical topics to facilitate your candor. I’ll be painfully specific:

  • Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
  • Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
  • Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
  • Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer this week?
  • Have you invested sufficient priority time to your family?
  • Have you fulfilled the mandates of your pastoral role?
  • Have you just lied to me?

That last one is the clincher! Unless you are a practiced hypocrite, answering these questions in a small group of individuals will provide you the spiritual and moral moorings you need to accomplish your God-given role as a pastor.

When we deliberately engage ourselves with those who keep us honest, we safeguard our lives, our families, and our flocks from the backwash of the accountability breakdown.

The pain of real accountability is nothing compared to the pain from a lack of integrity. My advice? Begin today.


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2 thoughts on “Preventing the Accountability Breakdown

  1. I remember that morning in the auditorium, surrounded by several hundred who had come to church that day. I shook hands and greeted new faces and felt good in the Lords house.
    Service was started on time and the pastor spoke with precise and gracious words. We all loved his ability to connect with us through God’s holy word. But then at the end of the service he asked to make an announcement before we adjourned.
    His announcement was that he would be leaving as pastor within the next two Sundays. We were stunned! What was the reason we wanted to know? Why leave a church that was doing so well, we asked ourselves? Was he being called to another church? He hadn’t said!
    A Pastor that had his doctorate in theology and had built our church to over six hundred sitting down to hear him each week. This couldn’t be happening!
    I walked up to him a week later and asked him point blank why he was leaving…
    He said that he was being called to leave the church and work alone. Again I was stunned! This went against any logic I was aware of concerning serving the Lord.
    Weeks later as I was helping one of the deacons who was a personal friend of mine serve in the community, I asked him how was it that we could loose such a good man? One that we had all learned to love and admire; just leave.
    He asked me if I knew a woman who was in our church. I said that yes; I had seen her in Sunday School and in the hallways on occasions. He then asked for my confidence and said that the pastor had been counseling her and then gotten into an affair with her.
    My soul was stunned! I sat in disbelief, speechless!
    How could a man who had the great rule book, had a doctorate in theology, been in the ministry for over twenty years, had a wife and two kids and been married for fifteen…do this??? A man who knew the accountability the Lord imposed on him…do what he had done?
    It was as you wrote; self-betrayal. He later said to me that he didn’t believe that it could happen to him, but it had.
    I often say to myself, there but by the grace of God, go I.
    When you think that you have it all down pat and everything is perfect…pay close attention!! Satin is knocking at your door.

  2. Those tough questions will yield a moment where you are red in the face but will save you from a lifetime of being red with disgrace.

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