I have been thinking about accountability groups lately, and mainly about how accountability questions in a small group context can be used as the basis for ongoing discipleship, both for not-yet, new or established Christians.
Using accountability groups to support discipleship is certainly not new. John Wesley used a very similar method to great effect in the eighteenth century as a fundamental part of his church planting strategy during the Methodist revival.
Here is a set of questions that have their origin in the spiritual accountability group that Wesley started when he was a student at Oxford, called the Holy Club. The first list appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley’s second Oxford Diary. Similar questions appeared in his 1733 A Collection of Forms of Prayer for Every Day in the Week. As late as 1781, Wesley published a list of questions like this in the Arminian Magazine:
1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
6. Did the Bible live in me today?
7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
8. Am I enjoying prayer?
9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
16. How do I spend my spare time?
17. Am I proud?
18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
21. Is Christ real to me?
I think this list is brilliant – and real food for thought.
Here is another set of questions also developed by Wesley for use in Methodist class meetings and band meetings, which were small groups focused on accountability. Before joining these smaller groups, each member stated their willingness for the following questions to be asked of them at any time. These are hard hitting questions which are designed to be direct and straight to the point – no messing around here!
1. Have you the forgiveness of your sins?
2. Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?
3. Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God?
4. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?
5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?
6. Do you desire to be told of your faults?
7. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home?
8. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you from time to time whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?
9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?
10. Do you desire that in doing this we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
11. Is it your desire and design to be on this and all other occasions entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart, without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?
Taken from The Works Of John Wesley, Volume 9 (The Methodist Societies History, Nature, and Design), Edited by Rupert E. Davies, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989, pp.77-78.
The following questions were also developed by Wesley, and were asked of every member at every meeting.
1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
5. Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
Taken from John Wesley’s Class Meetings: a Model for Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson, Evangel Publishing House, 1997, pp. 118-9.
In a similar vein, the following questions are taken from Salvation Army Orders and Regulations for Soldiers, 1950:
1. Am I habitually guilty of any known sin? Do I practice or allow myself in any thought, word or deed which I know to be wrong?
2. Am I the master of my bodily appetites so as to have no condemnation? Do I allow myself in any indulgence that hurts my holiness, growth, obedience, or usefulness?
3. Are my thoughts and feelings such that I wouldn’t be ashamed to hear them published before God?
4. Does the influence of the world cause me to act, or feel or say things that do not show the love of God?
5. Am I doing all in my power for the salvation of sinners?
6. Am I fulfilling the vows and promises I have made before God in the past?
7. Does what I do as a Christian match what I say about being a Christian?
8. Am I conscious of any pride in my life?
9. Do I conform to the fashions and customs of this world or do I show that I despise them?
10. Am I in danger of being carried away with worldly desires to be rich or admired?
Here is another interesting list from the Men of Integrity website. These are specifically aimed at men, but can very easily be adapted for any accountability group:
1. Have you spent time with God on a regular basis?
2. Have you compromised your integrity in any way?
3. Has your thought life been pure?
4. Have you committed any sexual sin?
5. How much time did you spend in prayer this week?
6. Did you pray for the others in this group?
7. Did you put yourself in an awkward situation with a woman?
8. What one sin plagued your walk with God this week?
9. Did you accomplish your spiritual goals this week?
10. Are you giving to the Lord’s work financially?
11. How have you demonstrated a servant’s heart?
12. Do you treat your peers and coworkers as people loved by God?
13. What significant thing did you do for your wife and/or family?
14. What was your biggest disappointment? How did you decide to handle it?
15. What was your biggest joy? Did you thank God?
16. What do you see as your number one need for next week?
17. Are you satisfied with the time you spent with the Lord this week?
18. Did you take time to show compassion for others in need?
19. Did you control your tongue?
20. What did you do this week to enhance your relationship with your spouse and/or child(ren)?
21. Did you pray and read God’s Word this week? What did you derive from this time?
22. I what ways have you stepped out in faith since we last met?
23. I what ways has God blessed you this week? And what disappointments consumed your thoughts this week?
24. Did you look at a woman in the wrong way?
25. How have you been tempted this week? How did you respond?
26. How has your relationship with Christ been changing?
27. Did you worship in church this week?
28. Have you shared your faith this week? How?
29. What are you wrestling with in your thought life?
30. What have you done for someone else this week?
31. Are the “visible” you and the “real” you consistent?
32. Have you been truthful about everything we have discussed?”
The questions I use are from Church Multiplication Associates, ten questions that are listed on a Life Transformation Group card which I keep my Bible. The questions are as follows:
1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
4. Have you been honouring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
6. Have you given in to an addictive behaviour this week? Explain.
7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
10. Have you been completely honest with me?
I use this list for convenience, and also because the same card has Strategic Prayer Focus statements on the reverse of the card, so making it multipurpose. However, I like the Wesley’s Holy Club questions quoted earlier, and feel that they fit with contemporary culture.
Neil Cole also specifically mentions a shorter list of questions that he uses regularly:
1. What is the condition of your soul?
2. What sin do you need to confess?
3. What have you held back from God that you need to surrender?
4. Is there anything that has dampened your zeal for Christ?
5. Who have you talked with about Christ this week?
A good number of the lists given above can be found in Neil Cole’s book Cultivating a Life for God, Church Smart Resources 1999 pp 125-131.
Which ever list you use, and I would recommend that you use one of them even if you are not part of an accountability small group. The lists developed by CMA/ Neil Cole are a good place to start since they are clear and easy to use. Remember, accountability questions are not asked to make you feel guilty or to judge or condemn you. They are asked in order to encourage deliberately discipleship, actively encouraging you to dig deeper into the faith, to hear the Word of God and to act upon it.