I’m working through Hebrews 10: 19-25 for an upcoming sermon. In verse 24, the writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” The phrase that the ESV interprets as “stir up” is translated in other versions as “spur one another on,” “provoke one another,” and “stimulate one another.” The Greek word literally means to irritate or incite. The only other place this word is used in the New Testament is in Acts 15:39 describing a “sharp disagreement.”
As I study this passage, I’m growing more and more convinced that we do not disagree enough in the church. Many of you will find that hard to believe because the church is often perceived of as a place where people argue and divide regularly over ridiculous stuff. The reality, however, is that we are willing to argue over ridiculous stuff that doesn’t matter much in the course of eternity, but are rarely willing to do the hard work of disagreeing with one another on the things that actually matter. In Galatians, Paul describes a time when he opposed Peter “to his face,” because he was in sin. The church is called to be a place of holiness and love, but not a place where niceness reigns.
I’m not writing to advocate more infighting in your church. I’m writing to suggest that loving one another will often require us to irritate each other for the sake of the gospel. How is this possible? Here’s a hint, it doesn’t start by you looking for sin in the lives of others and pointing it out. Being obedient to the command to “spur one another on” is not easy, but it is necessary so that “love and good works” can become commonplace within our churches rather than the exception.
Here are six ways your can create this culture of accountability in your church:
- Pray. Pray that God would give you a spirit of humility to accept correction and rebuke. Pray also that God would give this same spirit to the members of your church.
- Study. The Bible has much to say about accountability within the church. Study the word, discover all that it has to say about accountability and discipline and share this message with others.
- Make Yourself Vulnerable. Invite others into your life to hold you accountable. You need to give a few people specific permission to “spur” you on when you are not living a life that honors God. You cannot hold others accountable until you are being held accountable yourself. Someone needs to be willing to “disagree sharply” with you and you need to invite them to do that.
- Swallow Your Pride. When others call our your sin, accept their correction with humility. Defending and explaining our sin does nothing to promote a culture of accountability.
- Love and do Good Works. The end result of a culture of accountability should be a church that loves better and is more actively engaged in working for the Kingdom. Make sure that your life is an example.
- Hold Others Accountable. Love, and then practice accountability. When people know you love them, they will be more open to hearing what you have to say.