Mountain Standard Regional Newsletter February 2024


By Tim Kerber

For me, this past year has been one of stepping back and evaluating much of what—prior to 2023—was just my “everyday normal life.” As I am no longer the pastor of my local church, one of the challenges of this year was determining who is in my core friendship group. When I was in my role as a church leader, everyone in the church was my friend. But I came to realize, as Carey Neuhoff points out in an article he wrote, that many of my friendships were positional and not relational. And to be fair, no one can maintain 180 or so relationships on an ongoing basis. And so, I began to look at my circle, and determine who was there because of the relationship. Which friendships would carry on unhindered despite my no longer having an official role? Which friends would walk alongside me, support me, and continue to pursue a relationship?

I am grateful that as I have done this whittling, I have discovered that I am surrounded by a wonderful group of people with whom I can share life and friendship. In this process, I have found myself reflecting on the importance of accountability. True friendship is not just about sharing interests, but about walking together in different seasons, with the capacity to speak into one another’s lives. There is the sharing of wisdom and experience, and the push and pull of living life together. And as followers of Jesus, this comes with an added significance, as we are brothers and sisters in Christ; part of the same spiritual family! This means that we are in this together, recognizing that our actions and decisions never affect just us. And so, we come back to accountability. For our purpose here, I will define accountability as: relationships that know one another fully and point each other to Christ by mutually loving one another as sufferers, sinners, and saints. This definition is borrowed from the Biblical Counselling Coalition.

Relationships that know one another fully and point each other to Christ by mutually loving one another as sufferers, sinners, and saints.

Often in my Christian life, I have been challenged to address my need for accountability. Is there someone who can ask me the hard questions, someone to whom I can confess my struggles and sins? Through much of my life, accountability has been presented to me as a kind of spiritual discipline. But like my role as a pastor, I would say that most often this was encouraged as a relationship of position. And the problem with this is that with position comes authority and power. The challenge is that when authority and power are involved, we are more reluctant to share all the struggles we face. We can go through the motions, answer the questions, but do we end up with a cup that is clean on the outside, yet inside remains dirty? (Matthew 23:25)

Now, I share this because I am concerned about the challenge of accountability in the world in which we live today. Our world tells us, all the time, that our business is no one’s business. And

in a world where truth is often understood as relative, or personal, it can be very easy to hide or justify sin.

In the role of pastor, which is often solo, or on a small staff team, what does accountability look like? As a Regional Minister, I often work on my own, arrange my own schedule—what does it mean for me to have accountability? Is there a role for positional accountability? Should this be what I do when I connect with pastors? And if so, what does this look like? I certainly do not want pastors dreading a phone call or visit because they fear an interrogation. Yet should this not be part of what we do together in a healthy association?

What does relational accountability look like? Who are my core people? Is this the role of my spouse, and to what extent?

I know…lots of questions, seemingly few answers. So, let me put a few stakes in the ground.

I want to begin by saying that I believe wholeheartedly that all of us need accountability in our lives. In John 8, we are told that Satan is a deceiver and the father of lies. This means that he attempts to lead us off course in an inviting and clever fashion. One degree of separation from the truth is where most trouble starts. Most sin is incubated in our minds long before it gives birth to an action that can devastate someone’s reputation, family, or career.

So, what can we do? I do believe that there is a place for institutional accountability. Many years ago, I remember reading Chuck Colson’s book, The Body, in which he shared 7 questions that he regularly asked the staff in his church. Here are those questions:

1. Have you been with a man/woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?

2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?

3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?

4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?

5. Have you given priority time to your family?

6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?

7. Have you just lied to me?

While no list is perfect, there is something helpful and good about knowing that as part of a staff team, or church leadership team, there is regular reflection on our integrity. Without integrity, how does anyone lead? Maybe this is something you could use with a church board. Maybe it is not about going around the circle person by person, but about asking everyone to reflect on these questions, and then offering a place to discuss something if there is awareness of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

What I appreciate is that this takes seriously our calling as leaders of Christ’s church. As 1 Peter 1:16 invites us: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

But alongside simply instituting something regularly in your church context, I want to encourage the importance of building real and honest relationships that grow into places where we are comfortable to share our feelings, thoughts, doubts, and sin. Who are the people in your life who you know will speak the truth because they care about you? Who are the friends who will love you anyways? Who are the people whose wisdom you want to glean? Who loves you, and you love back? Who are your core people? Perhaps my own discernment process, figuring out who is in my core, would be helpful to you. Can you name up to six people whose friendship goes beyond your work at church, or sports, or beyond an affinity for (fill in the blank), or for your kids’ activities?

One of my observations is that in the busyness of our lives, we are sometimes lazy about pursuing these kinds of friendships. We have all said to someone, “We should get together” but then never made any real effort to follow through. We all “know” lots of people, but do we “know” anyone? And who “knows” us? Let me suggest that most people want more significant relationships than they actually have. What about scheduling a coffee once a month with one of these friends? For pastors, local ministerial groups can be one of the places where these kinds of relationships are fostered or begun.

My hope is that you are picking this up; I believe there is a need for both positional and relationship accountability. Discernment needs to come at the level of determining how this is done. Church leaders and staff need to know this is for edification, and not interrogation. Leaders need to lead by example.

So perhaps, for those of us in leadership roles who can institute positional accountability, our task is not only to have regular times in which we ask or reflect on specific questions, but also a times to ask others about their relationships. Do you have significant friendship(s) that give you a place to talk about how you are really doing? When was the last time you got together with one of these people?

John Wesley kept a list of questions that he used with a small group. I find his questions are helpful to me as I reflect on my own life, and that he asks some rather astute questions. Perhaps there is something here for you:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?

2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?

4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?

5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?

6. Did the Bible live in me today?

7. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?

8. Am I enjoying prayer?

9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?

10. Do I pray about the money I spend?

11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?

12. Do I disobey God in anything?

13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?

14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?

15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?

16. How do I spend my spare time?

17. Am I proud?

18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?

19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward, or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?

20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?

21. Is Christ real to me?

As we seek to be God’s people in this broken and needy world, may we walk with honesty and integrity, realizing that we need God’s help, which He often provides in the gift of one another to help us stay the course.

MSR Military Chaplains

Pastor Thomas Henry at One Accord in Edmonton

This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: