The Importance of Mutual Accountability


Part IX

The Importance of Mutual Accountability

Kevin Simington

Picking up from where I left off last week …

In many ways, the modern clergy / laity distinction has perpetuated a divide which undermines the truth that we are all simply brothers and sisters in God’s family. We are all now priests in the Kingdom of God (1 Pet 2:5-9), with equal access to God’s Spirit (Acts 2:17-18).  We all have equal access to God’s truth and wisdom.  For this reason, the Bible exhorts us:

“Let the Word of Christ dwell among you richly, as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Col 3:16).

This biblical concept of mutual accountability is a vital concept that the church must embrace. The clergy do not have a monopoly on wisdom and maturity! Spiritual maturity and wisdom has nothing to do with whether one’s salary is paid by the church or by a secular company! Over the years I have encountered many wise, mature Christians who work in the secular workforce, and some professional clergy who are distinctly lacking in wisdom and maturity.

The priest / laity distinction was an Old Testament concept that was rendered obsolete on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit indwelt every Christian. Sadly, the concept of the Old Testament priestly office has crept back into the modern church. While it is right and proper for some people to be set apart for full time service, we must be constantly vigilant against any hint of spiritual elitism. The fact that some of God’s servants are paid a salary by the church does not automatically make them wiser or more mature than a brother or sister who earns a salary elsewhere.  Indeed, many young pastors have a lot to learn from older, more mature brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mutual accountability acknowledges the fact that God’s wisdom does not reside in just a few individuals within a church; it dwells among us communally:

Let the Word of Christ dwell among you richly, as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Col 3:16).

As brothers and sisters, with equal access to the Spirit of God, we are equally responsible to hold each other to account, for the sake of our own well-being and that of the whole church. It is, therefore, vital that pastors form a relationship with people within their own congregation where, speaking the truth in love, they can receive honest, godly feedback and be asked penetrating, personal questions. At the very least, this sort of accountability should be part of the pastor’s relationship with his elders. If a pastor has elders with whom he doesn’t feel comfortable relating to at this level, it may be an indication that the elders in question are not suitable for eldership.

Beyond this kind of structured accountability, the pastor also needs to regard himself as being accountable to the whole congregation. While most people in the church may not know him well enough to comment and challenge him regarding his morality or personal spirituality, every church member should feel comfortable to speak to the pastor if they have concerns about his teaching. And the pastor, himself, must be open to this kind of scrutiny, laying aside his pride and listening to the concerns of his brothers and sisters with a humble heart.

In a previous post I mentioned an incident concerning a dear friend of mine who is a mature Christian with an excellent knowledge of the Bible. At one stage, he became very concerned about a theme of teaching by his pastor, which he believed was contradictory to the New Testament. He prepared a paper outlining how this teaching and practice contradicted the New Testament, and he met with the pastor and one of the elders to share his concerns.  Not only were his concerns not listened to, and his paper largely unread, but he has now been labelled as a trouble maker. He was accused of not supporting the minister as God’s anointed leader. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. I heard of a similar encounter recently, where the questioner was bludgeoned into silence (if not submission) with Psalm 105:15, “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed – a verse which has nothing to do with holding pastors to account for the doctrine that they preach!

Every Christian needs accountability, and pastors are not exempt. Even the great Apostle Peter was rebuked and corrected by Paul when his teaching had diverged from God’s truth: “But when Peter came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he was in error” (Galatians 2:11).

If we love God’s church and want to protect it from tragedy and loss of reputation, if we love one another and want to protect one another from sin and error, if we truly care about our church leaders and want to protect and enhance their ministries, then accountability is vital. Church leaders who do not embrace this kind of accountability leave themselves open to temptation, error and pride. They also miss out on the blessing that such relationships can bring in terms of refining and sharpening them as individuals and making them more effective as God’s servants.


[1] Listed on Ed Stetzer’s website,

[2] IBID