Accountability is one of those words that seems to make it into every aspect of our lives, right? Starting a new workout regime? We like to find someone to text us every day asking if we made it to the gym. Trying a new eating protocol? You can get a health coach to check your food journal every week. One of the greatest tools in addiction recovery is accountability partners. Accountability is promoted everywhere because it works.
Now more than ever, pastors and leaders need accountability. But how do we even start that process? Who do we go to? What does it look like to have someone hold us accountable? Let’s look at one of the most well-known leadership failures in scripture – David & Bathsheba – to discuss the importance of accountability.
The Story of David and Bathsheba
We find the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. David is on his roof when he sees Bathsheba bathing and uses his power to command her to his room. He takes advantage of her and sends her on her way. Once David finds out she is pregnant, he tries to cover up his sin by bringing her husband, Uriah, home from battle to sleep with her. Uriah refuses as he believes he shouldn’t take part in anything his men at battle can’t take part in. I assume David felt a pit in his stomach after hearing this. Not only was David home from battle, but he was also actively sinning against Uriah. When Uriah refuses to come home, David gives the command to move Uriah to the front line of battle and pulls his soldiers away. Yes, this means that he had Uriah murdered. David then takes Bathsheba and marries her.
David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart, uses power and privilege to take advantage of someone. Then, when the consequences of his sin start to show up, he uses power once again to try to cover it up. Ultimately, David murders someone to try and hide it all. After all these awful decisions, someone starts to take notice. David’s friend and prophet, Nathan, steps into the scene.
Nathan Holds David Accountable
2 Samuel 12 lays out the conversation between Nathan and David. Nathan tells David a story about a shepherd whose only sheep was taken away by a rich man who had multiple sheep. David is infuriated at this rich man. Nathan then turns the table on David letting him know he is the rich man who stole the one sheep. This moves David to repentance and ultimately reconnects his relationship with God.
The story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah is heartbreaking. We see God’s chosen king digging himself so deep into sin. It gets so bad that he can’t find his way out. It’s easy for us to stand back from this story and say, “Wow, how could someone do something like that?” Yet stories of politicians making shady deals, pastors having moral failures, or teachers overstepping boundaries with students seem to run rampant on the news.
Why does this seem so common? I don’t believe these failures are immediate. Rather, I think power, privilege, and position tend to slowly build this feeling of “deserved” prestige which can snowball into a mindset of being untouchable. It would be easy to think our only option is to hide away, avoid community, and stay away from people in general. However, if we move forward in David’s story, we can see where he turned from sin and towards repentance. What helped him get there? Someone David trusted, loved, and listened to came to speak to him. It was when Nathan showed up to mentor him.
Mentors in Ministry
Nathan was a mentor divinely placed in David’s life. Nathan had some privileges of his own. He was able to approach the king simply to talk. He could speak openly, honestly, and directly to David. And he was a friend to David.
If we are going to avoid some of the pitfalls that can accompany positions of leadership, I believe we need a good mentor, our own Nathan, to speak into our lives. But how do we find a mentor? Let’s talk through what a good mentor to hold us accountable looks like.
A good mentor cares about you.
When choosing someone to give the right to speak directly into your life it needs to be someone who deeply cares about you. This means that before they evaluate how things will affect your ministry, your staff, or your denomination, they think about how it will affect you. Nathan cared about David and David cared about Nathan. David ended up naming one of his sons Nathan. This was a relationship of mutual care and love.
A good mentor is willing to tell you you’re wrong.
I hate being told I’m wrong – like really hate it. I hate it because that puts me in a position to have to admit my shortcomings. However, having someone in your life who will look you in the eye and say, “I care about you, which is why I’m willing to tell you you’re wrong” Can help you navigate away from choices that could hurt you or others that you may be blind to.
A good mentor wants to see God’s Kingdom come over your platform grow.
In today’s church culture we see a drive for more and bigger. More attendees. Bigger buildings. More giving. Then we use those metrics as a measure of success. The more success we have, the easier it is to slip into an earned or deserved mindset. Having a mentor who will sit across the table from us and ask questions like, “Are you striving to build God’s Kingdom or your platform?” can be difficult. However, it can help you avoid potential missteps and mistakes.
So, we’re feeling good, right? We know what a good mentor should look like. However, that’s only part of the work. A good mentor does you no good if you never meet with them. The next step to having great accountability is having a schedule.
Schedule Time with your Mentor
When did Nathan show up? Was it when temptation was pushing David towards poor choices? Nope. Perhaps David missed their monthly coffee date for a few months because he was so busy. Being king has to be difficult, right? I bet he had multiple emails from different members of Israel complaining about how loud the music was when he danced through the streets bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. Not to mention his outfit was not exactly “appropriate” for the king to wear. He also had just won this huge battle a few weeks prior and perhaps instead of answering that text from Nathan, he avoided it because “I’m doing pretty good! Did Nathan see the huge battle we just went through? Doesn’t Nathan know I could use the rest? Not to mention, with the number of enemies we defeated, surely he can see that I am doing great. God wouldn’t bless us with this many victories if I wasn’t on the right track!”
While it’s highly likely none of this played out exactly how I just imagined it, do we see some parallel arguments as to why we may avoid moments of accountability? If you are going to have someone speak into your life on such a deep and personal level, show them that what they have to say is important to you. Set a schedule and stick to it.
Choose the Right Mentor
Now we know what a good mentor looks like and that we have to set a schedule, but how do we find this elusive “right mentor”? This can be difficult. What if the person is a member of our church? What if they serve on our teams? What if they are on the elder board? Can I truly be open and honest with them if they are? Finding the right mentor is difficult, but it’s worth the search.
These steps are not easy. These processes are not comfortable. They are awkward. They can be painfully revealing. However, they can be the steps to help you avoid leadership pitfalls that the enemy has laid hoping for you to fall into. No matter the size of your church, your ministry, or your budget, the Devil wants you to fail. Let’s not give him any easy targets.
I’m ready to see pastors as leaders of integrity, grace, and moral fortitude. I’m ready to hear about pastors who love their families, support their communities, pray for their leaders, and have mentors to hold them accountable for all of these things through grace and love.
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