On the face of it this is a rather straightforward answer, is it not? If you are in ministry, doesn’t the answer come quickly and easily? Not a hard sermon to preach, or column or blog to write and yet, I want to suggest we wait, take time, live, in other words, with the question.
Accountability is necessary, but not easy. David Ford writes about congregational understanding of ministry, membership, and community in “Religious Giving and New Metrics,” in Insight. (http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/files/file/september2014_issue2_posted.pdf)
We do not find in scripture: thou shalt be accountable; though shalt have an accountability matrix for your church, your congregation, and yourself. It is there though and not perhaps in the ways we might wish it to be—through power, position mandate, command and control. And therein is both the beauty and the purposefulness of spiritual formation (or what faith is in practice). Accountability is a practical term, a practice evidenced by action. For institutions, it takes the form of reports, tax information, and strategic planning; for individuals, it takes the form of paying bills, and keeping care of things, and seeking to live your life from a centered purpose and clarity of your gifts and vocational calling. It is the constant momentum of change which gets in the way of the straight forward linear thinking that it all begins at point A and neatly comes together or results in point Z. And while there is a technical side to accountability, without an ongoing openness to seeing, thinking, behaving differently, adapting is the word I am looking for—we get in deep and wide ruts. We get bored, anxious, fearful, and at times depressed.
Here is my answer to the above question: to ourselves first of all. It begins with us (though it is so tempting to say it begins with “them”) as persons. It takes a life time of developing self-awareness because what awareness is about and who we are and who we become over time, changes as the years go by; our sense of self changes when tragedies happen, when we receive education, when the restless energy of despair or boredom serves as a prod luring us to deeper maturity, new challenges, greater creativity. In looking for example, at the work of Raymond Williams, and his study of key words, ( http://keywords.pitt.edu/williams_keywords.html)
I find an intriguing and dynamic challenge. Words are not static—or outside context and culture, said Williams, and I agree. I say that the major issue of religious identity, of faith and even the word truth remains a primary source of frustration.
This is why study is of value; why a return to study and conversation on particular topics is of value. It is a calling in and of itself.
Come join in this call: reflect, practice, read, study, write, discuss, and be renewed.