Saturday, October 31, 2009

Missional Monday: Editability vs Accountability

Do you live in a world of accountants or editors? Are you yourself an accountant or an editor? I’m not talking in the sense of actual professions, but rather in your relationships, in how you understand others, and in your community.

Joe Myers, in Organic Community, speaks of the difference between accountability and edit-ability: the former looks for mistakes and problems while the latter looks for goodness and improvement. Here is the quick and dirty as Myers breaks it down:
- accountability relationships are bilt on the understanding that people are primarily bad and sinful.
- edit-ability relationships are built on the understanding that people are good, made in the image of God.

- the accountabilty partner looks for mistakes and keeps an account.
- the editor looks for trengths and makes suggestions for imporvemnet.

- the accountability partner initiates accountability discussions on a regular schedule or on whatever schedule that accountability partner deems necessary for proper recording.
- in a relationship of edit-ability, one person brings requests for help to the other on an as-needed basis.

- the accountability partner tries to help by creating more structures, rules, and regulations.
- the editor makes suggestions but leaves the major reworking wih the individual.

- the accountability partner is often drawn from a limited resource pool (e.g. someone within the individual’s organized small group).
- the editor is a person of one’s own choosing, in whatever spher of life would be helpful.

- the accountability partner tries to get the individual to cooperate with and conform to certain standards and expectations (a prescriptive pattern).
- the editor allows one to resource oneslef in whatever ways are healthy (a descriptive pattern).

- the accountability partner emphasizes and inadvertently reinforces the negative behavior by concentrating on it.
- an editor celebrates the journey of wholeness.

- the accountability partner holds the power.
- the project--health or wholeness--holds the power.
Now for the most part, I really like the way he construes this, speaking of the accountability relationship as one of cooperation according to a master plan as opposed to edit-ability as a relationship of collaboration according to an organic order.

But I must say, that while great in theory, often life is not so clear cut. There needs to be a connections relationships of accountability to root out sin and relationships of edit-ability to foster grace and the gifts of the Spirit. While one portion of my theology says that humans are created good in the image of God, another part of my theology (and most of my experience) says the Fall messed everything up, so I can’t whole-sale affirm editorial understanding of relationships. However, as Myers says, “when presented with th option, most peole prefer an author-editor relationship over a client-accountant relationship.” And certainly this is true, and a needed corrective to such evangelical spirituality which merely focuses on sin-management. So let us recover this edit-ability where we celebrate God’s grace in each other, but let us not abdicate the responsibility of legitimate accountability


  1. Jeff Andrews7:08 AM

    Amen Geoff. I wholeheartedly agree. Of course we would all choose editor relationships...we are messed up by the Fall. It's difficult to have people speak hard truth into your life. But quality accountability relationships built on love are necessary for this reason. I don't necessarily think these need to be different people either. Peace, Jeff

  2. With my children, I take an accountant relationship when there is a willfulness on the part of the child to do his own thing without respect for others. I take an editor relationship when I see a desire to please or improve.