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Accountability and the Christian Life

Posted: 07/01/15

Dean of the Anglican Institute, Richard Trist, shares a finding from recent research.

Apart from walking up some stairs to my office and strolling to and from lecture rooms the life of a lecturer at a theological college is a sedentary one.

I was pleased therefore when my wife recently gave me a Fitbit Flex – a wristband that measures the number of steps I take every day. What I love about this gadget is that it not only measures my activity but also indicates with a buzz when I have achieved my goal – in this case 8000 steps every day. As a result of this I find that I have a measure of motivation and as a result I am feeling fitter, am achieving some weight loss, and have a greater sense of well-being.

Being accountable to someone, or in this case something, is an aspect of the Christian life that we rarely talk about. Most Christians, and sadly too many of our Christian leaders, lead very solitary lives. No one really knows what’s going on inside, particularly in terms of our spiritual growth and formation. There is no one whom we have invited to intentionally “check in on us” and gently see how we are really going.

Some research I have been doing on the coaching of clergy within the Diocese of Melbourne has alerted me to the way that such accountability has been seen to be of great benefit to those involved in such a program. The clergy appreciated having someone come alongside them who would simply ask how they had gone in their goals over the past month. As one person said “I’ve got to talk to somebody outside who has a heart for growth … so it makes me accountable for what am I doing”.

What is important is not that such a person is a coach, mentor, supervisor, spiritual director, or counsellor, but rather that they are someone external to whom we can relate to, and to whom we have invited to be part of our journey of faith on a regular basis.

Like my Fitbit Flex, such a person can provide a sense of accountability – giving us a greater sense of motivation for our life and ministry, leading to a greater sense of well-being as we serve God more faithfully and fruitfully.

As the writer of Ecclesiastes observed: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Eccles 4:9-10)

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