What does an accountable church look like?

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Lyn writes... we’ve been having a little bit of a discussion on my blog recently about accountability within the context of emerging church plants.

Accountability is a good thing; we all need a degree of it within all areas of our lives. However, accountability can also be used in a controlling way, which can result in manipulation, abuse and so forth. Many of us probably know people have left the church bitter and hurt because of this “abuse of authority”, or indeed we have experienced it ourselves. This control and manipulation has therefore left some to “go solo” and seek no counsel for Christian gatherings that they go on to set up.

There are many forms of “alternative church” springing up. Some, like the Anglican Church’s Fresh Expressions within the UK, are plants from a church, and thus have a degree of accountability in place. There are many successful gatherings that are not affiliated to a particular denomination or church. Some plants, house churches etc. want rid of the control and manipulation they have experienced within accountability received from the church. Being completely autonomous isn’t best though. Some set ups are being reactive rather than proactive. Accountability doesn’t mean being attached to hierarchy.

Personally, I see it as seeking guidance from fellow Christians who will honestly tell you what they think, if you are, or are not, off the wall, without a hidden agenda. Accountability and tradition are friends that can go hand in hand to help us learn the best of lessons from the past. Why they don’t guarantee we won’t make mistakes, we let go of their wisdom at our peril.

The shape of the global church is defined by people who have felt led to step out from their accountability structures and ask, “Is it really meant to be like this?” Does this come about because we naturally put up religious structures to support our faith, yet what is supportive to one may seem restrictive to another, even if good intentions motivate both opinions?

How is a comfortable middle ground found? Indeed is there a middle ground? What are your experiences?

Is our human nature such that any time we are guided in a direction we do not like or agree with, we are bound to consider it control rather than wise counsel? What are we to do if we feel sure that God is calling us to do something yet others disagree?