I forget exactly how old I was at the time but around my mid 40’s. I was Senior Pastor at Central Baptist in Hamilton. I sat down with my mentor which I did about every 3-4 months. “How is your sex life Alan?” I think he saw my surprise at his opening shot and my feeble attempt to hide my embarrassment. I duly (and gladly) answered his question. I remember giving it a good score. We laughed and I remember talking with him about some pretty important stuff ‘of the heart’.
Jim knew something very important. What was happening in my ‘private world’ was as important if not more important then what was going on in my public or outer world. Jim knew that for pastor-leaders matters of the heart, soul and mind will have an impact on my performance. It’s just a matter of time.
Over the ensuing years this experience has shaped how I see accountability and how I try and fulfil my mentor role especially with younger pastors and leaders.
So here are a few orientating questions.
How can we as pastor-leaders ensure our private (inner) world is in good shape? How can you and I ensure we as pastor-leaders are, ‘what you see is consistent with what you can’t see’? How do we ensure we are safe people? How do we ensure we can be trusted? In short, how do we ensure we are pastor-leaders that are above reproach (or blameless) as 1 Timothy 3 calls us to.
I think we can confidently say that all pastors want their inner worlds to be in top shape. Not only is that a deeply held value it is also a deeply held desire. But stuff does happen. The mucky stuff can often stick. Our hearts can and do get contaminated, polluted and maybe even toxic.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
I am convinced that effective accountability can shine a light on our souls. It needs to! We all know that accountability will only ever be as effective as we want it to be. It really is up to us? It is very easy to bluff………very easy. It’s much harder to engage fully with an accountability process in an honest and genuine manner.
Further, Elders have an important role here as well. In fact I hold the view that if a Governance Board takes it’s accountability role and responsibility on thoroughly and consistently it may avert many a scandal and many a crash.
I am deeply troubled by the notion that some so called ‘Apostolic Leaders’ regard themselves as beyond and above human accountability. I often wonder how things might have played out if the Elders (and/or Boards) of the churches currently in the news would have insisted on fulfilling their responsibility in holding the respective Senior Pastors accountable no matter how hard that might have been. The individuals concerned, their families and churches might have been spared a lot of heart ache.
And finally on a sad but positive note. I have a huge respect for Matt Chandler. When he became pastor of Highland Village First Baptist Church in 2002, the church averaged 160 in attendance. Now known as The Village Church (TVC), the Dallas, Fort Worth-area congregation has planted multiple churches and has grown to over fourteen thousand attendees.
Chandler was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009 but was declared cancer-free a year later following medical treatment. He has written numerous books and leads the Acts 29 Network, a church planting partnership with more than four hundred churches in the US and around the world.
Then came this announcement last Sunday that shocked everyone who knows Matt Chandler and his ministry, me included. I highly recommend this 18 minute segment. It really is an incredible example of doing accountability right.