Accountability Groups – an update (1)

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Just over a year ago I posted an article on this blog about Accountability Group Questions.

The main purpose of the original post was to summarise some of the lists of accountability questions that have been used over the past few hundred years within a small group discipleship setting, because, at the time, I was investigating lists of questions that could be used to foster accountability within my own discipleship group.

The questions that I decided to use were the Church Multiplication Associates ten questions listed on the Life Transformation Group (LTG) ‘red’ card, which 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?

The LTG approach focusses on what is catagorised by Neil Cole as the ‘DNA‘ of the gospel – Divine Truth (D), the repeated reading of 20 to 30 chapters of the Bible on a week-to-week basis in order to hear God speak through scripture, Nurturing Relationships (N), accountability with one or two others in a small group setting and Apostolic Mission (A), prayer for others with the deliberate expectation of sharing the good news of Jesus with them through ‘incarnational’ witness.

I will openly admit that adopting this approach has revolutionised my Christian walk, brought me closer to my Lord on a daily basis, and made me much more conscious of my selfishness and sinful motives and actions.  It is actually quite amazing that it does this – and this is not only my experience but also the experience of a number of other people I know who have subsequently started or joined LTGs as a result of our first group a year ago.

One thing, however, that I want to highlight is how, between us, we have ‘developed’ the questions to fit our own use and purpose.  We haven’t changed them, as such.  This was a deliberate decision, mainly because we knew that we would be tempted to change or remove the more challenging ones.  However, we have developed or more specifially, embellished how we ask the questions in order to make them more wide ranging and all-encompassing.

Most of the people who have joined or started our LTGs, so far, are more mature Christians, or at least have been Christians for a number of years.  As such, the feedback is that although the questions are all relevant, most of them seem to have a negative (or at least neutral) rather than a positive slant ie checking to make sure you haven’t done something bad rather than encouraging you to do something good.  This is fine, and certainly from my own experience the questions have become a constant reminder for me to stop and think before I act, making me much more aware of what I do and how I treat others.  But, as I and others with me have realised, they end up acting as a buffer to stop destructive and sinful behaviour rather than a springboard to enourage constructive and compassionate action.

Therefore, for each of the questions we have added a counter-question to spir us on to perform ‘good deeds’ through active forgiveness, mercy and grace, generosity, and deliberate compassion and encouragement etc.

For instance:

1.  Have you shown a spontaneous and/ or unwarranted kindness to someone this week?

2.  Have you valued female contributions in your life, and deliberately shown love, physical affection and care towards your wife this week?

3.  Have you been generous in your financial dealing this week, and given to others as you have seen need?

4.  Have you spent time with people you love, listened to them and valued their company this week?

5.  Have you gone out of your way to encourage someone this week?

6.  Have you celebrated overcoming addictive behaviour this week?

7.  Have you show grace and mercy to another this week?

8.  Have you blessed someone that you find difficult this week?

9.  What did you learn about Jesus this week?

10.  Is there anything we should pray about this week?

These counter-questions are not to replace the accountability questions but to add to them and encourage us to live out a life of incarnational love as well as mission – and although it’s early days, they do seem to add to the overall positive nature of hte LTG format.

What do you think?  Would you consider using similar counter-questions in your accountability groups?

 

Accountability Group Questions

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.