Poll Shows Churches Do Poor Job Holding Congregants Spiritually Accountable

New survey data published today by The Barna Group indicates that churches across all denominational lines do a poor job or make little effort to hold members accountable for their spiritual growth and adherence to biblical teachings.

Many Christians are familiar with the story of Nicodemus, whose questioning of Jesus about what it means to means to born-again leads to a discussion of spiritual rebirth and the most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16.

Barna points out further that Hebrews 13:17 exhorts believers to rely on their spiritual leaders for guidance. But if the only regimented guidance is coming from the pulpit on Sunday morning and not mature Christian peers, is that enough? The answer Barna concludes – and I would agree – is no.

No denomination or Christian sub-group reported more than 15 percent participation in peer accountability groups. The 15 percent figure came from evangelical churches.

George Barna said the desire to avoid conflict and uncomfortable personal situations was likely a primary reason why participation in this area is so low.

“Barna Group studies among pastors and other church leaders have consistently shown that such leaders have a distaste for initiating any type of confrontation and conflict with congregants,” he said. “Another barrier is that many followers of Christ are uncertain about the difference between judgment and discernment. Not wanting to be judgmental, they therefore avoid all conversation about the other person’s behavior—except, sometimes, gossip.”

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  1. said:

    Peter, this is a very, very important issue and why I loved Charles Swindoll’s last book, The Church Awakening. It addressed this subject and that members must be accountable for their behavior or face church discipline, even to the point of dis-fellowship. Church membership accountability and discipline was very prevalent in the New Testament church and as a pastor, I felt this message was important enough to use as a message one Sunday. Even I am accountable too, so I am not above this discipline and I am held even more accountable to God for Whom I ultimately answer. Discipline, like accountability, is done in love and not done with judgmental attitudes as you so well pointed out the differences. Thank you for this. I wish that every church leader and lay member could read this. You also brought out an important aspect. It is not up to the Pastor alone. It is up to all members of the Body of Christ to keep the church healthy. Well done. Tweeting this Peter. Thank you.

    November 30, 2010
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  2. DavidPhelps said:

    Our elder-run church gives member heads of household quarterly phone calls to check on family and spiritual health. My elder has not the time nor inclination to be overly intrusive, but his questions can be pointed. Aside from preaching, our main teaching elder’s responsibility is the spiritual health of the other elders; he in turn is member to a group of like-minded elders who hold themselves mutually accountable. It is not a perfect system, nor is it sufficient guarantee of soundness in life and doctrine, but it has proven useful in maintaining a major Reformed tradition to date.

    November 30, 2010
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