Sponsored post from our ministry partners at ECFA.
Accountability—it’s a word that engenders strong feelings. The obligation or willingness to accept the responsibility embodied in accountability is embraced by many, misunderstood by some and feared by a few.
But how do we know whether people accept responsibility or, in other words, truly submit to accountability? Are we accountable to ourselves (self-accountability), or accountable to someone else in a verifiable way? Verifiable accountability and self-accountability differ greatly.
When someone says they are accountable to themselves, it reminds me of New Year’s resolutions that are often broken within hours of the start of the new year. The landscape of Christ-centered ministries is littered with examples of ministries that were accountable to themselves and now no longer operate, or exist at only a fraction of what they were at one time.
Contrast self-accountability with verifiable accountability. The latter isn’t just a sound concept; it is a theme that runs through the Scriptures. This is why my colleague Dr. Gary Hoag says, “God cares more about accountability than we do.”
As an example of Jesus’ keen interest in this topic, he tells the story about investing funds in Matthew 25:14–30. The crux of the parable is verifiable accountability.
Jesus set the verifiable accountability example when he sent out the disciples two-by-two (Mark 6), the 72 (Luke 10), and others together who were involved in the early church mission (Acts).
In 1 Corinthians 4:2, we read these words: “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Proving faithful requires verifiable accountability!
As ministry grew exponentially, we see continued attentiveness to verifiable accountability in the Apostle Paul’s letters. For example, Paul instructed those he mentored to follow in his steps. He urged leaders to exhibit character that was “above reproach” and “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–11).
When Christ-centered ministries do not demonstrate verifiable accountability, they risk doing what is right in their own eyes, as the Israelites did (Judges 17:6).
In his early years, David, king of Israel, sought the counsel of wise and godly men. When his authority grew, he began to operate as the supreme ruler of Israel instead of God’s servant and then troubles mounted when he went down the road of self-accountability (2 Sam. 11).
Because people form impressions of ministry by looking at outward appearances, the pattern for accountability of Christ-centered ministries and its leaders lies in biblical accountability—in the spirit of truth and love, holding each other to high standards in our individual journeys of faith and ministry service.
“Strong patterns of verifiable accountability keep the ‘wolves’ at bay,” says ECFA board member Michael Batts. He continues, “Sadly, there is an element of society that revels when bad things happen in churches and ministries. This element of society looks for ‘cracks in the armor’ of churches and ministries to try to ruin their reputation. Maintaining appropriate accountability greatly reduces the risk of such damage. Furthermore, when a high-profile financial scandal occurs in the church and ministry realm, it increases scrutiny by government regulators and increases the likelihood of additional burdensome legislation or regulation.”
When one thinks of verifiable accountability, it is natural to focus on finance-related issues. But verifiable accountability starts with a ministry’s governance—carried out by the ministry’s top leader and its governing board.
How do pregnancy resource centers measure up in 2016 on the verifiable accountability index? Many are doing excellently in this arena—but in the words of Paul, we must “do so more and more….” (1 Thess. 4:10) There will always be outliers, but we must do our part to reduce the number in that category and demonstrate that we endeavor to prepare stewards and the ministries they serve to give an account to God.
Trusted ministries welcome verifiable accountability. It is what Jesus taught the disciples, and it remains the model for fruitful ministry today. God is more interested in accountability than we are because he knows our hearts.
Verifiable accountability starts and ends with a heart of accountability towards God!
Dan Busby is the president of ECFA, an organization that accredits Christ-centered ministries in the areas of governance, financial management and stewardship/fundraising. ECFA’s seal enhances trust of givers. ECFA accredits nearly 2,100 nonprofits and churches. These organizations have annual revenue in excess of $25 billion. Nonprofit Times named Busby as one of the 50 Most Powerful Nonprofit Leaders from 2010 to 2015. (ecfa.org)
This blog was taken from an article that first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.
DISCLOSURE: This post has been sponsored by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The opinions expressed herein are those of ECFA and are not necessarily indicative of the opinions or positions of Care Net. Compensation may have been provided to Care Net in conjunction with the appearance of this post and / or Care Net may benefit financially if you purchase products or services advertised in this post.