I LOVE checklists. I use them all the time at work. I don’t have a great memory, and I’m also not detail-oriented. But I’ve been able to have some success in my chosen career (that requires both) in part because I use a lot of checklists.
When something is repeatable, I make a checklist for it. When I forget to do something, I add what I forgot to do to a checklist so I won’t forget it again. Or so I hope :).
Checklists help us to be accountable to complete tasks we need to complete the right way. They’re one tool of accounting that makes getting things done the right way easier.
If a business is to be successful, it has to have good systems for accounting.
But this isn’t the case in relationships. Doing accounting is more damaging to relationships than helpful.
The results of moral checklists
When people get involved in relationships based on accountability, their strategy tends to be to create moral checklists for each other. They check on behavior in certain areas of life to analyze if the person lived up to the expectations placed on them by the standards set.
The intention is to help people grow. But they don’t realize this process isn’t the way to do it.
Keeping one another accountable tends to result in guilt brought on by chronic legalism. The expectations set aren’t met because that’s why they were set in the first place. If they were being met, they would not have been set.
Accountability groups operate by mechanical order. They’re a plan or program built to get a desired output.
This is how Joseph Myers, author of Organic Community: Creating A Place Where People Naturally Connect, describes what happens in these types of relationships…
Accountability groups tend to set up rules and conditions for you to live by. Your accountability partner’s job is to make sure you’re following the master plan.
The downfall of unhealthy accountability groups is that they take a descriptive list, such as the Twelve Steps or Seven Promises, and create from it a prescriptive set of expectations.
An accountability partner emphasizes and inadvertently reinforces the negative behavior by concentrating on it.
Not only this, but it’s not uncommon for churches to programmatize these types of relationships in ways that are simply uncomfortable for people. Just like any situation where attempts are made to manufacture relationships, this tends to be counterproductive.
What leads to spiritual development and maturity
So what’s the alternative? We need people if we’re going to grow, right? Of course we do!
Healthy relationships operate by organic order. Organic order allows development and maturity to emerge from nurturing partnerships. Instead of keeping records, nurturing partners provide whatever help is needed to build up one another and become the best they can be.
No laws. No checklists. No legalism.
Instead, the people inside of nurturing partnerships know they’re accepted and it naturally increases motivation to take responsibility to work on spiritual development. Instead of doing accounting on each other, they simply provide whatever help they can.
Myers points out how it’s like the difference between being accountants and editors. He says…
Accountants are concerned with reconciling you to a list of desired behaviors. An editor is less concerned with compliance than with communication.
The editor makes suggestions, even disagrees at times with the author. The author considers the editor’s suggestions, and will often make adjustments.
The author and editor continue to go back and forth until the project is complete. The entire process is one of give-and-take collaboration.
How people become more like Jesus
Relationships contain life inside of them. They will therefore only work well if they’re in an organic order environment.
Accountability groups and partners are ways to try to manufacture better behavior in people. The thought process is that if a checklist is created, it will help people improve their moral integrity.
But this is exactly what didn’t work for the people of Israel and what Jesus came to show the world. Like He said in His conversation with Nicodemas, people don’t need more information or to try harder. They need to be born again of a different kind of Life.
People’s minds and hearts don’t change because they’ve been given a checklist to measure up to. You can’t manufacture spiritual development with a checklist. This just makes people cogs in a machine.
It’s only through Divine Life working in and through nurturing partnerships that people become more like Jesus; the perfect representation and vessel of God’s divine nature.
No, this doesn’t mean freedom in Christ is a license to do whatever you want. Instead, you get the opportunity to better get in touch with the new nature God has given you.
This is what it means to be organic.
The rest of the posts in the What It Means To Be Organic series are here.