Outcomes and accountability
It's a life basic and not a precious truth solely reserved for leaders. Jesus spoke it to his disciples so they could understand how life works. it was in a long discussion of watchfulness when the master of the house was expected to return from a wedding banquet. At the conclusion of the teaching, Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; from the one who has been entrusted with much much more will be expected" (Luke 12:48).
Translation 1: More is expected of blessed people.
Translation 2: Leaders are held to a higher standard that those who follow.
Translation 3: Spiritual leaders are accountable for their leadership.
The same truth was revealed to James when he wrote his very practical Epistle.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we
who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
James 3:1, ESV
Luke underscored this truth in recording Paul's message to the Ephesian church elders---
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with
his own blood.
Acts 20:28, ESV
Two verses in the Epistle to the Hebrews add a sharp point to this same basic of spiritual leadership---
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the
outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7, ESV
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as
those who will have to give an account.
Hebrews 13:17, ESV
In a culture of pulpit all-stars and fiercely independent church cowboys the underlying truths of these verses are often ignored. It is especially true when the authority and accountability boundaries of spiritual leaders is obscure. Two very obvious basics of spiritual leadership have been shoved to the edges of church life in very many ways.
1. Spiritual leaders will always have human eyes on them.
The souls entrusted to their care are looking to them for guidance. In Hebrews
that guidance is at least two-fold: speaking the word of God to them faithfully,
and translating that truth to a biblical way of life so they can imitate their
2. Spiritual leaders will give an account to God for their leadership.
Whether or not the Hebrews text anticipates a hierarchy of human
accountability is arguable. But, some measure of accountability is at least
implicit in Hebrews 13:17. Certainly this unknown writer could have at least
referenced Hebrews 10:31: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
The non-hierarchical system of governance in denominations like ours and many of the non-affiliated community church models have given license to those who would abuse their spiritual leadership responsibilities. Hardly a week passes when a very visible or popular pastor or teacher openly violates the sanctity of Scripture with some outlandish claim with little accountability other than the school of popular opinion. In our overly sensitive world these leaders are usually given a pass for their arrogance because (1) they are just mere humans, (2) they are covered by his grace, or (3) no other human is worthy to judge them. So, error, misapplying the Word of God, or ungodly lifestyles are never challenged.
The answer? Of course, we'll all give an account. The great majority of spiritual leaders live for the day then the Master says to them "well done, good and faithful servant". Before that day, however, the final accounting of all things, spiritual leaders must permit personal accountability for their handling of this stewardship, the leadership of God's people. Every spiritual leader must have an intimate circle of accountability partners that can be honest and frank about rightly handling the Word of Truth and the lifestyle they lead as a result of it.
It's a basic of spiritual leadership, to be accountable for the outcomes of that assignment. To ignore it is an abuse.