I was recently part of an extended online conversation regarding discipleship, accountability, and the role of the church. The conversation began after a friend posted Dan Dick's Blog article, "The Mediocre Commission." . Dan's point was that the Church is more concerned with our image than with our identity. He says that evidence of this is that church leaders are reluctant to hold members accountable to their membership vows for fear they might leave.
Pastor's and church leaders cringed at the idea of holding their churches accountable. Now, I know most of these folk, and they are good shepherds of effective churches, so this really surprised me. Understand also that this was a conversation amongst United Methodist pastors and leaders, which made me scratch my head even more. Accountability was at the heart of the Wesleyan movement. It was accountability and a complex understanding of Grace that set John Wesley's teachings a part. It was that very same accountability and Grace theology that fueled the Methodist movement and brought revival to the church in England and birthed the Methodist Churches in America.
Some of my friends failed to make the connection between discipleship and discipline (spiritual discipline). A couple not only failed to make the connection, they refused. They seemed to argue a preference for a church filled with believers, content in their own salvation and unwilling to share the Gospel through serving others and unwilling to learn and grow through the scriptures.
Could it be that our churches are asleep because our leaders are asleep? Or worse, our leaders are afraid to wake the sleeping church, afraid of the hard work required to shepherd believers into discipleship. Through the Great Commission Christ commands us "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
Christ calls for "disciples" not mere believers. Webster defines a disciple as "One who assists in spreading the doctrines of another." Can't do that by just sitting in a pew a couple of times a month.
Christian accountability is not judgement, it is the complete opposite. Christian accountability springs forth from love. We love each other and want each other to grow in Christ. Churches and their leaders have to get away from the western consumerist doctrine that glorifies the individual and shuns community. The Church, Christ's Church, is (at its core) a community. An individual is not a church. God decided to organize His people in this way, in community.
Please keep in mind that I'm advocating encouraging and shepherding folks toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Holding a person accountable does not mean forcing them to do something they are not ready to do or are not able to do. It means reminding them, in loving and encouraging ways, that this is what Christ calls them to and then providing them the opportunities and environment in which this growth can take place. Why would Methodist leaders reject this? Isn't this what they vowed to do?