I posted this in an online forum for ministers, but decided to post it here for the sake of posterity. This was a response to someone's question about "What do you do to protect yourself?" etc. Several questions were asked regarding accountability, et al. This is my response.
PS: The reference to the "Music Devil thread" concerns a thread that was started in this same forum. Pardon the confusion.
If you want to make matters really confusing, let the man whom you once knew as your bishop, pastor, shepherd (or whatever other tag we choose to hang on 'em) go haywire, and then you try to pick up the shattered fragments of respect and awe that you once held for 'em.
This is why respect for the ministry and the "Man of Gawd" is so sorely lacking anymore. Too many pastors (and other ministers, but pastors are the ones primarily in the leadership spotlight) have made this a "Follow Me! Follow Me!" ministry, instead of "Follow Christ" or even "Follow me as I follow Christ."
I thank God that one of the most valuable lessons my dad ever taught me across his pulpit was that man might fail, but God never does. Man can make mistakes, but God doesn't. His philosophy was always "Follow me as long as I'm in the Word, but you check the Book out and make sure I'm in the Word."
I have had very few pastors in my life. I'm sure I'll come under the gun for making such a brash (but honest) statement, but the fact of the matter is that I was always able to exert at least a small amount of control over them because of my extraordinary gifting in music. (Before you launch into your attack, please read what I wrote on the "Music Devil" thread...if it's still in existence.) The number of men who refused to be "played" by my carnal, arrogant nature can be counted on one hand.
But one of those men just flatly sat me down across from him, poked his finger in my chest and told me where I stood. He immediately had my attention...and my respect. He became my pastor, my bishop, my mentor. I loved him, admired him, prayed for him, followed him around like a puppy, longed for attention from, and fellowship with, him. I held him in awe.
The problem is, that same man has done some---pardon me---pretty stupid stuff in recent years, and although I still love him and respect his ability to deliver the Word (few can touch him) I would never, ever be able to go to him for counsel.
The man who is now my Superintendent is also my current pastor. But he is my pastor not because his name is renowned, but because, over a period of almost two years, I have watched him closely. I've watched for weaknesses, for chinks in his armor; I've watched him to see how he dealt with certain issues, certain people that I knew were "problem saints". His manner, his administration in all matters is always---ALWAYS---consistent. He preaches across his pulpit what he writes in his books. He writes in his books what he preaches across his pulpit. I got to spend two weeks traveling with him, chauffering him to various ministerial functions, and I promise you, spending that time with him, getting acquainted with him, watching him interact with other men---both small and great---made me realize this guy is 100% real.
I suppose I have written yet another epistle without meaning to, but let my story convey something to all of us: People watch us.
Too often I think we're guilty of writing folks off as "dumb sheep", and that's why some men fall into the "follow me" trap. No one's watching, no one ever notices my attitude, no one else sees me speak sharply to my children, no one sees how I treat my wife like a common servant, nobody ever notices these things.
Take it from someone who's been around the block a time or two. People are watching. If you're inconsistent in any area of your life, rest assured there's someone who knows it.
We love to preach accountability. I think if the truth were known, however, very few of us are actually "accountable" on a regular basis to other men. We are, after all, "men of God" and we answer to Him alone. We have no problem answering the easy questions---no we haven't looked at pornography, yes, we've prayed and studied the Word---but let someone start asking some personal questions, such as "How are you treating your wife? Have you spoken harshly toward your children? Are your bills being paid in a timely manner? Are you eating healthy and taking care of your temple?", and suddenly "accountability" becomes "being nosy".
If we expect those who follow us to be accountable to us, we should give them a man (or woman) whom they feel they can trust with their soul.
After all, God does.