Shards in God's Mosaic

Last Friday for church I drew a large picture on a 6'wide by 4'tall board. It was a Celtic cross filled and surrounded with outlines of mosaic pieces for people to color in during our gathering. It was based on our spiritual talk from Judges that Lee summed up in his sermon outline thusly (thusly??):

"SYMPTOM #3 - we limit ministry to a few elite and trained professionals. God will use whomever He chooses. It was true then and now. We have to look in the mirror, "If I am a follower of Christ, I am His minister. I have gifts, I have a calling, and God can use me. We will see in the lives of 5 of the judges how unlikely they were to be used by God. CURE: we must invite all of God's people to minister according to their gifts and calling. The church will never become all that God wants it to be until every follower of Jesus is ministering according to their spiritual gifts. Some people are still sitting on the sidelines, refusing to serve. Their excuses could have been used by the judges themselves! God will use whom God will choose."

The words in the graphic above painted themselves in my head while I was contemplating what drawing to do to help represent how we are all called by God to be ministers.


Accountability Again

From someone else's blog. This was sent to me by a member of my small group. Unfortunately I can't find the original link.

The other day Lucy offered a superb reflection on accountability vs. redemptive relationships as part of Christian community building, spring boarding off a quote from Doug Pagitt, who says in part: Accountability is built on the notion that a person will do her own work as she seeks to live a Christian life while others do what they can to keep her on track. This may seem like the best our local [church] community can offer us, but we are striving for more. We feel called to vulnerability. Lucy follows up on this, saying: Accountability is such a shallow way of relating to each other. Making sure each other are doing what they are supposed to be doing isn't what I see Christian relationships as being about at all. I don't think that accountability is so heavily emphasized in the Bible. Redemptive relationships are ones where we each actually become the agents of transformation, love, care and restoration in each other's lives.

When I was in seminary, the small group/accountability movement was getting in to full swing. A fellow student asked me one day to hold him accountable for his goals. I thought about this and replied that he could simply remind me of them and how he felt he was doing in their achievement, without comment or judgment on my part, but that friendship seemed a better option. Apparently that wasn't what he was looking for since a friendship never developed between us.

Several very spiritually detrimental things are hidden in church accountability groups. First and foremost, "accountability" is often a synonym for "blame". This type of accountability turns we who are to be servants into masters. We scrutinize and inevitably criticize how others in the church are serving us, be it the pastor, Sunday school teachers, choir, choir director, worship team, you name it.

Second, accountability is far removed from interactive relationships. Jesus didn't hold his disciples accountable to him. Rather, in a church as the Body of Christ we hold ourselves accountable to each other, relationally, not legally or even per se morally; more on the lines of, "How is it with your soul?" And "Are you growing in Christ? Is he growing in you?" Or the old Methodist question: "Are you going on toward perfection (in God's love)?"

The business world uses "accountability" as a means of wielding control over employees. When churches ape this, they move contrary to the servant spirit of Jesus Christ, enslaving rather than freeing. Yes, we are told to "confess our sins to one another" but in the spirit and context of forgiveness and redemption, not approbation and censure. No one's sin is greater or more heinous than another; those are human qualifications; sin is sin in the eyes of God. We are each sinners confessing our sin to other sinners, others who fall short of the glory of God and are in need of Christ's redemptive grace. Without this kind of humility with each other, confession rings hollow, or is absent altogether. The practice of accountability, as it is both understood and enacted in today's culture, does not foster humility but a quiet arrogance, especially when and where accountability is demanded.

Finally, followers of Jesus Christ are to be bearers of his agape, his self-giving. This, as Pagitt notes, requires vulnerability, not a pretty or easy thing in most churches. Accountability produces a lopsided, one-way, quasi-vulnerability. It must be understood that making oneself vulnerable does not mean opening oneself to abusive attacks. Not at all, and such attacks must be confronted immediately. Rather, vulnerability is opening ourselves to our own wounds and the wounds of others, not to wear them as badges of honor or excuses to hurt each other; but to be healed through Christ's redemption spoken through us.


Gagging on Accountability

I was the voice of dissention in my small group Wednesday night when we reviewed a new covenant handed out to all the groups. This was the paragraph that caused discord within me:

"ACCOUNTABILITY: We agree to let the members of the group hold us accountable to the commitments which each of us make in whatever loving ways we decide."

The word accountability alone sticks in my craw. No doubt in prayerful musing later on that this is probably a trigger from my own past. There was a lot of unlovingness in my relationship with my mother, and so I'm viewing this through a distorted lens.
Still...how did this become such an acceptable term within the world of Christ followers? I've researched and found an article that explains scripturally how this accountability thing all fits in. I've listened to my small group members explain that this means a close relationship with someone who is not there to berate you, but to check in with you and see how you're doing. I understand their viewpoint.

Still...if I am embracing this life in Christ, if I am trying to stay as much as possible in God's presence and let Spirit transform me, shouldn't there be a better word, a better phrase for walking alongside me as a fellow follower of Jesus of Nazareth than "accountability"?

In the world out there, it's often a harsh word. "Someone's going to be held accountable for this!"

From webster.com:

Entry Word: accountable
Function: adjective
Text: being the one who must meet an obligation or suffer the consequences for failing to do so (the owner was held accountable for his dog's biting of the child) -- see RESPONSIBLE

I understand all the reasoning and the loving explanations for this word. But I don't have to like it.


The long and winding road

I dreamt last night of a curved, country road in Autumn. In my sleep the phrase "empty road" kept echoing in my mind, and for some reason I thought it was important that I remember that this wasn't a path of peaceful solitude, but one bereft of that...

It dawns on me as I write this, that the image I saw was an avatar of a young woman from the Ooze who has been struggling with depression. Perhaps I was being reminded to give more love and friendship to one whose road is empty.