Why You Need Spiritual Accountability (Even if You've Been Hurt by Leaders) - Kris Vallotton

August 30, 2019

If you want to change the world, it’s imperative that you learn to submit your life and remain accountable to wise people! Over the years I have seen that one of the greatest stumbling blocks to achieving your God-given destiny is the desire to run the course alone, stifled by your own blindspots and confused as to why you cannot move forward.

I understand more clearly now than ever that with great authority comes much responsibility. The more influence you have in the world, the more wisdom you’ll need to navigate life redemptively so that the purposes of God are fulfilled in your time.

Favor amplifies the influence on our lives but favor alone doesn’t help us to make good decisions. We have to seek God for His perspectives and connect with wise people for their insights and counsel. It’s in authentic, life-on-life accountability to wise counselors that there is victory!

Covering and Accountability are Not the Same!

We must realize that there is a difference between covering and accountability! If you’re a part of a church or Christian movement, you may have a spiritual covering, however, true accountability is only present in our lives when we have a personal relationship with people who can and do speak into our hearts, our circumstances and our relationships. I love the way that Hebrews 13:17 puts this: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

Everyone needs these deep covenant connections—not primarily because they keep us from failing, but because they inspire us to reach for the high call of God that rests on each of our lives.

Historically, accountability has majored in helping people restrain their bad behavior. But as new creatures in Christ, we all need to be accountable to people who regularly remind us that we were born to make history. Accountability is awesome if it is account-for-your-ability and not account-for-your-disability. It can’t simply consist of people who tell me when I am doing something wrong. As my friend, Paul Manwaring, says: “I don’t need someone to make sure I don’t smoke, I need somebody to make sure I am on fire!”

The more responsibility, influence and authority we have in our lives the deeper the foundation of accountability needs to be. But our accountability partners must have permission to speak into those places in our lives where we are unconsciously ignorant so that they can be our eyes to our blind spots. They most importantly remind us of the areas of strength we don’t see or have confidence in and hold us accountable to walk in our high call.

We can see this kind of positive accountability in 1 Timothy 4. Paul speaks to Timothy as a father and exhorts him to not neglect the spiritual gifts that have been deposited in him, but rather to do something with the gifts that will bring great benefit to the lives around him. We all need fathers and mothers who, like Paul, will remind us of what we carry and encourage us to put it into practice (see 1 Timothy 4:11-16).

Your Spiritual Accountability Doesn’t Have to be a Famous Person

Perhaps you understand the importance of being submitted to leaders who can hold you accountable to your destiny but have trouble finding someone to fulfill this role. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people express the deep desire to be mentored by spiritual fathers like Bill Johnson. This may be a tough pill to swallow, but I want you to understand that it is very unlikely that leaders who carry the apostolic mantles providing the covering for entire movements will be able to provide relational accountability for most of the people under their covering. The very nature of their corporate responsibility prevents them from having the necessary time it takes to cultivate deep relationships with that many people.

However, that kind of time and relationship are paramount in order for real discipleship and/or accountability to take place. When it comes to leaders who operate in apostolic roles or who cover entire movements, however, the truth of Proverbs 18:24 applies: “A man of too many friends comes to ruin.”

Therefore, you must find accountability among the people you are doing life with. You don’t need someone famous, you just need a wise person who has time for you and is willing to speak honestly into your life! It should be a person you highly respect; who believes in you, and has more experience than you. Being accountable to your peers can be helpful but it seldom has the impact that a more experienced person can have on your heart, your growth and your destiny.

Triggered by Authority?

Perhaps as you read this, the idea that someone has authority over you in God feels painful at best and impossible at worst. I know those feelings well, having grown up with two stepfathers who abused their authority in my life. But the benefits of having true spiritual leadership in our lives far outweigh the internal struggle it takes to get there. And for many believers, it is a struggle.

Some people who seem to have the greatest resistance to the concept of spiritual authority would not dare tell even their unsaved employer, “You can’t tell me what to do. The Lord is my Shepherd; I don’t submit to earthly authority.” Instead, they arrive at work at whatever time their boss tells them. They wear whatever uniform the corporate code demands. They carry out the tasks that are required of them five or six days a week. But on Sunday, they come to church and refuse to work in the nursery or perform some simple job that leadership asks them to do. I have had believers tell me that some church leader hurt them, so they will never submit to spiritual authority again.

Their life message is clear: “You can’t tell me what to do.” Can you imagine what your income would be like if you extended that way of thinking into the marketplace? It troubles me when Christians will do for money what they will not do for love.

Red Flags in Leaders

Of course, there are always “spiritual leaders” in the Body of Christ who think it is their responsibility to control people instead of empowering them to fulfill their God-given mandate. Such leaders use fear and manipulation to get their flock to do what is needed. These kinds of people should not be leaders, and others should not trust them or submit to them.

True spiritual fathers and mothers always include the fulfillment of their people’s dreams as part of their primary mission from God. Whenever shepherds lead in a way that does not significantly benefit their people, they are misusing their authority. Let me be clear: This is not the kind of leader I am suggesting that you trust.

There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Leader!

Not everyone’s opinion should have weight in your life because that will lead to an exhausting pattern of people-pleasing. But there should be a select few who you allow to see deeply into your heart, who you trust, have a connection with, and who you know want the best for you.

Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect leader, except for Jesus! We cannot require perfection from any leader, but we can expect those who lead us to demonstrate maturity, to love us and to live humbly. Leaders are not perfect people with a perfect track record. Of course, neither are the people they are leading.

How do you submit to spiritual authority? Have you gone through the journey of finding a spiritual mentor or spiritual parents? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments below! If you’d like some extra reading on this subject, check out 1 Corinthians 4:14-21, or my book, Heavy Rain.

Topics: All TopicsIdentityLeadership


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