Justin Perdue: Welcome to the members’ podcast. Jon and I want to send a sincere and hearty thank you to all of you who have partnered so generously with us in this ministry. Our membership is growing and we don’t take that for granted. We’re excited and encouraged by that. We ask that you would continue to pray along with us that more and more people would partner with us monetarily so that we can see this ministry grow, and so that we can see this message of Jesus and the rest that is ours in him spread as far and as wide as possible.
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So with all that by way of a thank you, information, and introduction, we’re now going to get to the good stuff where I think what we’re going to talk about accountability and this caring for one another, the direction it often goes, and the tone and tenor that it has that is not that great.
Jon Moffitt: So accountability. I love it when someone comes and asks me to help keep them accountable. What they mean can vary. I always ask them what they mean by that. Or I’ll have people who are interested in coming to the church and they ask me what our accountability looks like in the church. They literally mean, “Do you have a checklist for me and my family to check off?” Some people mean, “I want a checklist so that I can feel like I’m accomplishing something as a Christian.”
I was watching an interview recently with Joe Rogan. He was interviewing Matthew McConaughey. I watched about five minutes of it.
McConaughey doesn’t have what I would say is a normal job. He’s an actor so he doesn’t go do nine-to-five. He was saying how he loves to make himself checklists so he feels like he can get things accomplished in the day. What struck me was we like to feel like we’re accomplishing something with our life. Like we’re doing something.
Justin Perdue: Some of that’s good.
Jon Moffitt: Of course. I am not picking at people for liking to feel as if they’re accomplishing something. A lot of people have checklists. I’ve tried it—it’s not my thing. The danger in that is people assume they’re a good Christian because they’ve checked these things off. My kickback to that is not necessarily doing things privately equates good Christianity.
Accountability also looks like I’m asking you every time I’m seeing you, “How’s it going with whatever struggle that you’re having?” Accountability becomes that constant check mark. Justin, you and I both have done this with people and we know they’re lying—and that’s the danger of accountability. It creates really good liars.
Justin Perdue: The reason that it does that in many church contexts is because in churches where the tone is exacting and threatening, and like you said earlier, in one sense it’s not okay to struggle and we always need to be improving—if we’re really Christians, we got to prove it by how we live—whenever you have that going on in the church, people are very hesitant to talk about what in the world is really going on in their hearts and minds. They’ll happily confess “sin”. They’ll say they’re struggling with pride or lust. But then it gets all kinds of uncomfortable when you start to press in on that and ask how. “Well, I’m struggling in my thought life.” How? People are squirming because when we start to try and confess specific sins, we get very nervous because in our minds, that’s not okay: for me to have specific sins that I’m really battling is not okay.
In part, what we’re trying to speak to today is that those specific sins are wrong, and you need to be battling them, but confess them, talk about them, and let’s walk together in a way that’s actually helpful to one another so that we can continue to exhort and encourage one another in Christ.
An observation I’ve made before, like you were talking about when people come to your church and they say they want to talk to you about accountability and what it looks like: there are two things that people ask me about semi-regularly where my antennas go up and then I try to answer it in a way that they’re probably not expecting. One is when people ask me what discipleship and accountability look like in our church. Discipleship and accountability, which a lot of times those things are inevitably tethered together in the minds of many people. Then I’ll talk to them and pivot the conversation to ordinary means, understanding of grace, and how our discipleship begins on Sunday morning. The main thing that we encourage people to do is to keep showing up, then we encourage one another to be in each other’s lives, and that we want to walk with honesty, love, and compassion while pointing one another to Christ and helping one another as we make our way through this pilgrimage in life toward the new heavens and the new earth.
People always say it sounds good, but they have never heard anybody say that before. Typically people are expecting to be given programs, groups, or Bible studies that’s happening. It’s all about accountability, meeting with people, and needing to talk about sex, drugs, and alcohol, and making sure that nobody’s enslaved to those things. Like you said, Jon, a lot of times what it turns into is some sort of like AA meeting where there’s nothing inherently Christian about it. It’s just a bunch of unhelpfulness that’s being thrown around. We want to battle sin in our churches. We’re fighting our sin and we understand that the way that that’s best facilitated is through compassion, honesty, and always pointing one another to Christ. Because people feeling free to actually talk about what in the world’s going on in their lives is square one. If you can’t talk about what’s happening in your heart and mind, how in the world are you ever going to address it with your brothers and sisters? How are you really going to be able to move forward in this life if you can’t even say what’s happening?
Jon Moffitt: I assume people struggle with sin because I understand human nature and the gospel. I did this to someone recently where they were coming to our church. I went ahead and poked at his life a little bit. He goes, “How do you know that?” I said, “What do you mean?” He asks how I know he’s struggling with a particular thing and I said it’s because most people do.
Justin Perdue: If I’m feeling really punchy, I would say, “It’s because I’ve read the Bible. And I know myself.” And The Bible plus my experience plus pastoral experience of knowing that people struggle with this equals me asking you this question, or me pressing it on this thing. Feel free to ask me the same thing in return, please.
Jon Moffitt: There’s a freedom when you know that there’s something wrong, and the person sitting across from you knows that something’s wrong, and the both of you are there to deal with it together. There’s a lot of freedom there. I always assume anyone in my church has a sin struggle because that’s natural and normal. What I don’t want to do is I don’t want them to give into it. This is when we get into a Galatians 6:1 moment.
Accountability, in my understanding of Scripture, is more of wanting everyone to admit… We have had more sin confessed in our church recently because people feel free knowing they’re not the only ones.
Justin Perdue: Two quick comments—and this is both relating to our pastors and our eldership. We were having a conversation recently and one of the guys said, “We have some really hard things going on in the lives of people here at the church.” We were all lamenting that and praying for those things. I made the comment to the guys and they completely agreed that one of the reasons why there are so many hard things that we are aware of in our church, that people are aware of in our church, is because for the first time in the Christian lives of many of these people, they actually feel free and safe to talk about it. They’re sharing their struggles, they’re opening and baring their hearts, and they’re confessing their sin. At times it’s dark, it’s ugly, it’s real, it’s sad, and it’s grievous—but it’s being brought into the light so that we can love each other and deal with it.
Two, as pastors, one of the things that we do in our elders’ meetings is we pastor each other and we talk to one another about how we’re doing, and then we pray for each other. To keep this accountability thread running, my accountability group, so to speak is, is the pastors of CBC. In a very deep and intimate way, these men know my life. I talk with them openly about my struggles and the things that are going on, and they do the same with me. Even though we all feel safe to do that, that does not mean for one second that there’s complacency in the room or apathy in the room about sin. There’s not. You can tell on the face and in the countenance of every man who’s talking about his struggles, who is talking about how hard this has been, or this has really been bad, you can see the grief and how much the guy cares. He wants to honor God, and he hates this, but he keeps finding myself doing it. Then he asks for prayers.
I think that’s how it goes, Jon, in terms of our experience. I want that for all the saints who are under my care. I know you do too. We want that in as much as we can affect it. We want that for people who are listening to us on this platform, and trying to find a context where this can be your reality.
Jon Moffitt: Two things that are very strange for a lot of Christians: the New Testament is very clear that your primary source of growth actually comes through the church, through the administration of your elders, teaching and preaching, encouraging you, and fellowship.
Justin Perdue: And I would say we are conduits of God’s grace and we are the instruments the Holy Spirit uses in that way. Amen.
Jon Moffitt: Right. That’s where your growth comes from. It’s also where your protection comes from. Ephesians 4 talks about being tossed about by every wind of doctrine, Galatians 6:1-2 talks about those who are trapped in sin. How is it they get out of sin? Read the Bible, pray, and you’ll get out of sin. Discipline yourself, do a checklist and you’ll get out of sin is not what Galatians 6 says.
Justin Perdue: It’s your brothers and sisters, and the mature among you. Those who are spiritual should restore those people.
Jon Moffitt: Often when you’re trapped in sin, trapped means like an animal stuck in a trap. Like your leg is broken and you’re not getting out of that snare. Someone has to come.
What I love about this type of accountability is that it is gentle, patient, and loving, and we just don’t do this. Church discipline should be gentle, patient, and loving where we go in because we too understand. Paul says lest you too fall into sin. Those who understand their own frailty are loving, caring, and freeing those who are in over their heads. I will tell you that the Christian life is never designed to be lived alone. This is why they struggle with sin. Some people have the same sin that they’ve been ensnared into forever, and they feel alone and cold, there’s no rest, there’s no happiness, there’s no joy in the midst of chaos. It’s because they don’t use what’s been availed to them: the ordinary way in which God says this is how He cares for you. He cares for you within His family. It’s not you and I; it’s all of us. It’s God and His children. It’s not God and I.
Justin Perdue: Sometimes when we say things like you’re saying right now, in the ears and minds of some, this might sound like or come across as a slap in the face to the Holy Spirit. It’s like you’re saying that the Spirit of God can’t change me—me and the Holy Spirit, or me and the Holy Spirit and my Bible—that I can’t just be changed by those still small voices within. God will work however He chooses, but He’s been very clear in His word how He normally works. So, no, it’s not a slap in the face of the Holy Spirit to tell all of us that we need pastors, teachers, shepherds, and the church because this is how God works. It actually would be a slap in the face of the Holy Spirit, who inspired Scripture, to deny that that’s true; it’s a slap to say I can just go at it alone, and that the Holy Spirit and I will handle this. You are the one that is actually swimming against the current by saying that when the Holy Spirit is working in and through you, doing it through the means that He has revealed in the word—namely pastors in the church, your brothers and sisters, and the fellowship of the saints. That is how it’s going to happen. We’re not trying to short sell the power of the Holy Spirit, but we’re just trying to be clear biblically about how the Spirit normally works—and it is in the context of the church.
Jon Moffitt: Amen. That’s all I got, brother.
Justin Perdue: Thank you again to our members for your generous and kind support of Theocast. We pray that you keep supporting this ministry and encourage friends, family, loved ones, other members of your church to give Theocast a listen and consider supporting us as well. We hope this has been encouraging, helpful, and clarifying for you.
As always, we love to hear from you, our members. Give us any feedback that you have. We read, we hear you, and we’re grateful for you. We look forward to speaking with you in this special members’ area again next week.