A little over three months ago I posted a reflection entitled "Were an American Band" on our need for accountability. As it happened, this past Sunday's discipleship training I lead at the Downtown Rescue Mission focused on Accountability. Last night's reflection at ODC's Community Dinner's also was on our need for Christian accountability. So I felt God wanted me to remind all of you again of your need for Christian accountability.
We all need to be in close Christian accountability with one of two the same-gender persons that meet together once a week. At ODC, we call these accountability groups "Bands." Bands was the name given to accountability groups by John Wesley. John's requirement of every early Methodists to be in an accountability helped fuel won of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of our country and the world. This is a longer post as our requirement of God to be in close Christian accountability is one that most people are reluctant to obey. Committing to a Band weekly requires stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching out to one or two people and inviting them into accountability with you. However, It is one of the most important commitments you can make that will build up and strengthen your Christian walk.
As mentioned, Bands and spiritual accountability are at the core of discipleship and Methodism. The early Methodists were susceptible to friendship. They liked it. They sought after it. They knew they could not live this kind of holy life on their own. They could not hunger and thirst for God by themselves. They could not maintain the Spirituality of the means of grace by themselves. They wanted and accepted friendship because they needed it. This goes against our western and Americanized Christianity and our pride in our independence and homes with fenced in backyards and back decks.
But Spiritual accountability is a risky endeavor. Even Jesus experienced that when his friends betrayed him. Will you get betrayed by friends as well? I guarantee it. By members of a small group? probably. But we can’t throw away the baby with the bath water. Personal accountability was what Jesus demonstrated as plan A for forming disciples in his church. And their is no Plan B. And unfortunaltey, Plan A is way down on the the list resources are spent on in most churches, tucked under a discipleship ministry.
We are called to put our complete sufficiency in God, by trusting others. It is a paradox. Indeed we put our lives in the hands of God by putting our lives in the hands of others. Through whom does God speak to us? Through whom do we discern the moving and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Through whom do we overcome the fears that hold us back and overcome the deceitfulness in our own heart that clouds our vision from seeing what we are meant to be doing? Through friends. This is why they got into bands and classes. Why they developed spiritual friendships. Because they longed for the fullness of life. They longed for the Zeal for God and neighbor and the salvation of the whole world.
Dallas Willard in his book the “Divine Conspiracy” states. "I know exactly what is wrong with our making of disciples and ourselves becoming disciples. The problem is not that we do not know what we need to do, we know what to do. The problem is that we do not do what we know we are to do. The problem is not that we do not know what we are called to be, but we do not seek what we are called to be." I have probably not told you anything really new here or anything you did not already know. You know it already! You need to do what you know! How do you overcome the perineal problem of being a hearer of the word but not a doer of the word? The person in James’s Gospel, the Christian that looks in the mirror and says to himself, "What a fine Christian you are!" "What a marvelous child of God you are!” And then turns his back and walks out the door and lives just like everyone else. I know of one way, accountability.
We need deep spiritual friendships. Joining with a few others in deep spiritual friendship who will help you take what you know you are called to be and motivate you to pursue what you are called to be for all it is worth. That is why I believe so strongly we first need to all be in a Band and prayerfully support each other. To share testimonies of how God is working, and encourage each other to embrace that need to look outside as well as inside and encourage us to ask, "Who do I need to share the Gospel with?" My ODC family and those reading this reflection. I pray that you will pray, seek and invite one or two people into forming and beginning a Band with you this week.
Here is the ODC document on Bands. It contains the explanation, format, and how you start and continue with a Band that we use. Please feel free to copy, paste and use this document as needed in your church or ministry.
. A BAND is made up of two or three people, all of the same gender, who meet weekly for 60-90 minutes for personal accountability for their spiritual growth and development. It is recommended the group not grow past three but rather multiply into two groups of two once the fourth participant has proven faithful to the process.
· A BAND is a simple way to release the most essential elements of a vital spiritual walk to people who need Jesus to change their lives from the inside out. This tool empowers the ordinary Christian to accomplish the extraordinary work of reproducing spiritual disciples who can in turn reproduce others.
There is no curriculum, workbook or training involved. There is no leader needed in the group. A BAND is the simplest form of spiritual community and provides ongoing accountability to learn, obey, and pass on spiritual truth. It incorporates the values of living a balanced spiritual life which results in the developmentand reproduction of disciples.
There are only two suggested qualifications for starting or joining a BAND group:
1. A desperate need for Jesus Christ (Luke 5:29-32).
2. Faithfulness in the process itself (2 Timothy 2:2).
THOUGHTS ON ACCOUNTABILITY
BAND groups involve the sharing of an extremely personal nature. It is imperative that you come to a clear agreement on the confidentiality of whatever is shared in the group. Discuss the limits of confidentiality, (e.g., how things will be handled if information is revealed which involves the safety of someone or illegal activities).
Consider using 2 Timothy 3:16 as an outline for application to your life:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Tim. 3:16-17 (NIV)
· TEACHING- what we should know
· REBUKING- what we should avoid or stop doing
· CORRECTING- what we should do differently
· TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS- what we should begin or continue doing
Remember that accountability to Scripture involves not only applying it to one’s own life, but also blessing others by passing on to them what you are learning. Always consider if there is someone outside the BAND you should be sharing spiritual truth with and make this part of the accountability process.
Be specific when developing an application plan. Think through when, how, and with whom you will put what you are learning into practice. Make sure to follow up with checking on progress in succeeding weeks.
FORMAT OF A BAND: C.H.A.T. with each other.
1. CHECK YOUR PROGRESS
We are motivated by sharing struggles in mutual accountability. Start the time together by going over the Accountability Questions with one another (45-60 minutes).
2. HEAR THE WORD
We grow spiritually as we read Scripture in context and in community. Continue the time by discussing what the Lord has impressed on you from your weekly Scripture reading. Your group should read 20-30 chapters per week (e.g. read the book of 1 Samuel or read the book of Ephesians 5 times.) Many people find it helpful to read aloud. If you prefer to listen to Scripture, you can download the “World English Bible” which is a public domain audio version, for free at http://www.audiotreasure.com/webindex.htm.
If someone doesn’t finish the reading in a given week then the entire group takes the same assignment for the following week.
:3. ACT ON IT
We serve as we apply the truths of Scripture to living in love towards others day by day. Live out what the Lord impressed on you in the reading to apply it to your life and pass the truths on to others (5-10 minutes).
We pray for those who need the Lord and reach out to them as we have opportunity. Close in a time of prayer. Pray for one another. Part of this time should be praying for the lost friends, family, and acquaintances for whom the group has been praying throughout the week (5-10 minutes).
We acknowledge God in prayer and through our obedience. In your time of prayer, do not forget to praise and thank the Lord for who He is and what He is doing in and through you as a group and as individuals. Remember to, your obedience (Act on it) to the Lord is worship! (5 minutes)
Here is the list of ACCOUNTABILITY QUESTIONS to ask one another when you gather in your weekly band meeting.
These questions are to be asked of one another in a weekly meeting of accountability (Proverbs 27:17). They are to stimulate conversations of character and confession of sin to God and one another in a safe environment which values honesty, vulnerability, confidentiality, and grace.
1. How have your insights from last week’s reading shaped the way you think and live?
2. Who did you pass your insights from last week on to and how was it received?
3. How have you seen God at work?
4. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
5. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate sexual thoughts?
6. Have you acknowledged God’s ownership in your use of money?
7. Have you coveted anything?
8. Have you hurt someone’s reputation or feelings by your words?
9. Have you been dishonest in word or action or exaggerated?
10. Have you given in to an addictive (or lazy or undisciplined) behavior?
11. Have you been a slave to clothing, friends, work, or possessions?
12. Have you failed to forgive someone?
13. What worries or anxieties are you facing? Have you complained or grumbled? Have you maintained a thankful heart?
14. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships?
15. What temptations in thought, word, or action have you faced and how did you respond?
16. How have you taken opportunities to serve or bless others, especially believers?
17. Have you seen specific answers to prayer?
18. Did you complete the reading for the week?
Each person in the BAND group is to list two or three individuals who need the Lord’s salvation. Write down the names of all those identified in the group on each card so that all of you pray for each of the lost souls weekly. Keep this card in your Bible as a bookmark for your daily reading so that each time you open your Bible you are reminded to pray for these people. You can use one or two of the these verses daily in your prayers and insert the names of those you are praying for into them.
1. Lord, I pray that You draw _____ to Yourself (John 6:44).
2. I pray that _____hear and believe the Word ofGod for what it really is (1 Thes 2:13).
3. I pray that ______seek to know You (Acts 17:27).
4. I ask you, Lord, to prevent Satan from blinding _______to the truth (2 Cor 4:4; 2 Tim 2:25-26)
5. Holy Spirit, I ask You to convict _______ of his/her sin and need for Christ’s redemption (John 16:7-14).
6. I ask that You send someone who will share the gospel with _________ (Matt. 9:37-38).
7. I also ask that You give me or ______the opportunity, the courage and the right words to share with _________ (Col. 4:3-6).
8. Lord, I pray that ________ turn from his/her sin and follow Christ (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Thess 1:9-10).
9. Lord, I pray that _________ would put all of his/her trust in Christ (John 1:12; 5:24).
10. Lord, I pray that ________ confess Christ as Lord, take root and grow in faith and bear fruit for Your glory (Rom. 10:9-10; Col. 2:6-7; Luke 8:15).
11. Lord, I pray that You draw _____ to Yourself (John 6:44).
12. I pray that _____ hear and believe the Word ofGod for what it really is (1 Thes. 2:13).
13. I pray that ______ seek to know You (Acts17:27).
14. I ask you, Lord, to prevent Satan from blinding _______ to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim 2:25-26)
15. Holy Spirit, I ask You to convict _______ of his/her sin and need for Christ’s redemption (John 16:7-14).
16. I ask that You send someone who will share the gospel with _________ (Matt. 9:37-38).
17. I also ask that You give me or ______ the opportunity, the courage and the right words to
share with _________ (Col. 4:3-6).
18. Lord, I pray that ________ turn from his/her sin and follow Christ (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Thes. 1:9-10).
19. Lord, I pray that _________ would put all of his/her trust in Christ (John 1:12; 5:24).
20. Lord, I pray that ________ confess Christ as Lord, take root and grow in faith and bear fruit for Your glory (Rom. 10:9-10; Col. 2:6-7; Luke 8:15).