Creating a Culture of Accountability and Correction in Your Groups

I am currently reading through a book entitled Transformational Groups by Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger.  The book is based on research done on various church's groups ministries.  It analyzed different aspects of what makes groups effective or ineffective.  One piece of data really shocked me.  They said that among people who are involved in groups in their church the least desired outcome was accountability and correction.  The most desired outcomes of being in a group, according to the study, were encouragement and acceptance.  In other words, most people desire to feel a sense of belonging to a group, but they don't want members of the group getting so involved in their lives that it leads to biblical correction.  They want to be encouraged in their faith, but they do not want to be held accountable or made to feel uncomfortable about sin.

The gospel isn't just offensive to the world.  It is also a tool of correction in the life of a believer.  The gospel exposes our indwelling sin, and gives us the power, through God's Spirit, to over come it.  It is important within our groups of Sunday school classes that we allow room for accountability and graceful and loving correction.  Here are three things that group  leaders can do to help in creating a culture of accountability and correction in your groups.

1. Don't Soften Jesus' Harsh Words

John Piper wrote a book entitled What Jesus Demands from the World. In it, he deals with some of the demands that Jesus makes on both the world and those who would follow Him.  Jesus after all does have all authority in heaven and on earth.  He alone has the right to demand holiness of us.  Jesus said things such as "unless someone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God" and "repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand".  He said of those who would follow Him that they must "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me".  He said of judgment to "not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell".  He went beyond the letter of the law and hit at the heart of it by saying it wasn't just adultery that was sin but looking at a woman (or man) with lust in your heart was also.  It wasn't just murder but anger that condemns a person.

These are weighty words, and when we get an opportunity to teach them to our people, we shouldn't soften them.  It is costly to follow Jesus.  Access to the Kingdom is a narrow gate, and the way is harsh, but Jesus is worth it.  So take seriously what he says about following Him, don't sugar coat it, and teach it with full authority as the word of God and gently and lovingly call people to heed Jesus' teachings.

2. Don't Trivialize Sin

It is easy to make light of our imperfections.  We often say things like "well, nobody is perfect"  or "hey, it's not like I killed somebody".  It's also easy to talk about some sins as almost respectable compared to what we deem the worst sins like murder or adultery.  We make fun of eating way too much, or of saying things we shouldn't, or by framing gossip as "prayer requests".  We too often compare what we do the worst offenses and say "well at least I'm not that bad".  But sin, all sin, is a big issue to God, and the cross is proof of that. So one of the best ways to cultivate a culture of accountability and correction in our classes is by not trivializing sin but by calling it what it is, an affront to and against a holy God.

3. Teach and Practice Repentance

Eventhough you may teach even the hardest sayings of Jesus, and even though you may not trivialize sin, you still serve and teach human beings who fall short sometimes.  This is why accountability and gentle correction should be a part of your groups' ministry to each other.  We all fall and we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to lovingly help pick us back up.  So we should not only teach repentance as a daily discipline but we should also model it.  No leader is perfect, and it is important that we own up to our mistakes.  And if you offend one of your class mates, go to them and ask their forgiveness.  Repentance after all isn't just what you do one time when you are first saved, but it is a daily practice.

Your group must be a place where people are encouraged to live holy lives, and a place where they are gently corrected when they fall.  It must be a place where they can find accountability and correction.  We must lift each other up and spur each other on towards holiness.  Creating a culture of accountability and correction is difficult, but it is a loving and biblical thing to do and can go a long way in helping you build biblical community in your groups.  It is also the model Jesus gave for us in his dealing with His disciples.  I pray God help you as you lead your group in modeling Christ and pursuing holiness together.


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