“I began to feel I was an exception, that what I would censure in others, I could justify for myself,” a pastor reflects. “Looking back, I realize that as I was burning out, my values were going first. And there were no relationships where I was open or accountable.”

Individualism. Narcissism. Loneliness. Value-free choices.

“My counselee told me, ‘If you really cared for me, you’d hold me,’ ” a pastor reports. “So since caring is the essence of pastoral care, we held each other. Then we decided that much more caring was needed by us both.”

Individualism. Narcissism. Loneliness. Value-free choices.

“I became convinced that I deserved more pay. Other professionals around me were making double my salary,” a parachurch minister confides. “I found a way to enable my board to correct my problem and to increase their fringe benefits at the same time.”

Individualism. Narcissism. Value-free choices.

These are all key elements in the decline of the practice of mutual accountability in Western churches, among clergy and laity alike. Where once believers stood watch with each other against the loss of center, of values, of faithfulness, there is an increasing willingness to wink at questionable ethical choices, considering them “none of our business.”

The practice of ministry, however, always involves making, fulfilling, and keeping covenants. A group is as healthy as its “social contract” is clear; a congregation as faithful as its covenant is mutually understood; a pastor as effective as the pastor’s and people’s commitment to trust and integrity is honored, guarded, and fulfilled. The integrity of boundaries and ...

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