One of the core values of the church I pastor is that we as a staff are all accountable for each other. If one of us falls, we are not going to kick them out of the club, staff or church. We are going to stay with each other until we clear the danger. If a staff member falls, they don't automatically lose their job or position. They get the chance to be helped back up on their feet. We believe our mistakes can be just as big "God moments" as the successes in our life.
Accountability, in my life, means I can share the worst parts of my character with my staff and fellow leaders, and in turn, they can share theirs with me. No one gets left behind. No one on this team lives under the cloud of their failure forever.
Tested by fire
Over the years, we have had this principle tested a few times. Once, a young staff member got into some sin that was hurtful to his reputation and to a relationship. Several people in the church found out about it and demanded that he be fired. We all stood together and said, "No way! If he goes, we all go." We met with the disgruntled church members and clearly communicated to them in no uncertain terms that they would lose all of the leaders if they ran this guy off. Our worship leader, support staff, all our youth pastors and every other staff member said they would all quit; they would not be part of a church that needed perfect leaders.
And you know what? Most backed off. A few people left, but who cares. They obviously don't understand the power of love, friendship, forgiveness, and loyalty. The moral mistake had happened and he had acknowledged it and repented. He worked to heal the ones he had hurt, and that chapter in his life was over.
That happened so long ago that we never even think about it, but the young man that had a momentary failure has become a trusted key leader here now. Only God can make all things work for his glory. And so he does. At some point, I just think that the church has got to be a church for the leaders, too. They need protection and healing as much as anyone else in the congregation. At times, they need even more.
This kind of accountability doesn't appeal to some. I occasionally get emails about how this is a wrong way to live or build a church team. Maybe. I guess we will all find out over our lives because everything gets tested. So far, however, it has been a pretty messy way to live but at the same time it gives us all a very secure feeling that we can be open with each other. People can walk away from our team or our church because that's their choice. However, if they choose to stay and "do life" with us, to engage in ministry and community with us, then we are all accountable for each other. We are accountable to get through our lives and callings until we all get to go home.
No excuses, no giving up, no blame, and no certainly no whining. That's no way to behave in a fire.
Michael Cheshire is pastor of The Journey Church in Conifer, Colorado and author of How to Knock Over a 7-11 and Other Ministry Training (2012) and Why We Eat Our Own (2013)
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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