“Community” Entitlement vs. Accountability


Restorative community is created when we allow ourselves to use the language of healing and relatedness and belonging without embarrassment.  It recognizes that taking responsibility for one’s own part in creating the present situation is the critical act of courage and engagement, which is the axis around which the future rotates.  The essence of restorative community building is not economic prosperity or the political discourse or the capacity of leadership; it is citizens’ willingness to own up to their contributions, to be humble, to choose accountability, and to have faith in their own capacity to make authentic promises to create the alternative future.

This means that the essential aspect of the restoration of community is a context in which each citizen chooses to be accountable rather than entitled.

– Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging, page 48.

Have you ever met the person who wants everything to change, but wants everyone else to do the work?  Or the person who complains about the status-quo, but refuses to pursue the dream of an alternative within the context of a community?

I have.  It’s been me.  It’s been other people I know.  If it hasn’t been you, then you likely know someone who has or continues to think this way.

The problem with thinking this way, and I am happy to admit I’m just as guilty as anyone… its selfish.  It is like screaming for others within a community to come and serve your every desire and opinion because, well, you deserve it.  But the polar opposite of this is accountability.  Accountability is an intense word steeped with meaning.  It means people expect things out of you rather than being served or entitled to something.

If we shift our thinking from entitlement to accountability we make a fundamental pivot in the potential of a community.  In the place of a whole bunch of people tangled in the ‘sponsored by capitalism’ individualistic mindset of entitlement and ‘deserving’ we would have a bunch of people committed to one another in the name of divine communal possibility.  For a church that is to be the agent of God’s mission of restoration and salvation in our various places and spaces, that means we look beyond our own walls and seek relationship with our neighbours.

So we have two dynamics at play.  One that screams individuality, the other points a shared life together amidst the messiness of our world.

The struggle then is for churches to promote and encourage accountability.  I’ve been a pastor for 5 years and hold anxiety over holding people accountable, because, well, people don’t like to be held accountable.  If they don’t like it, they can just get up, and walk down the street to another church.  What then of accountability?

So I beg the question, how do we as church communities hold one another accountable?  (Of course with this question I mean everyone, church leaders, pastors, the piano lady/guy, the usher, janitor, the regular attendee etc…)

For further thinking on this please read Matthew 18… the whole chapter.


  1. Robert Martin · May 16, 2012

    I think you nailed it. I have no problem with communities caring for others. If I did, there are large chunks of the gospels I’d have to excise from my Bible.

    My problem is that demanding attitude, the expectation that I will be taken care of. Or, actually, a slightly different twist, people demanding that I take care of someone else. Again, no problem with me caring for someone else…my question is always, “Why are you demanding I take care of someone else when you, obviously, aren’t doing your part?” It’s that rampant hypocrisy that bothers me.

    Our culture seems to be asking for accountability but I find such calls fall flat when the people calling for accountability, themselves, aren’t holding themselves accountable.

    Thank you for an excellent article on living “anabaptistly” (love the term).

    • chris lenshyn · May 16, 2012

      Hey thanks for stopping by Robert.

      Accountability is tough, particularly in a consumerist culture that has creeped it’s way into Christianity. If someone is holding me accountable, it is easy for me to go to the church down the street. Something in community is lost when we don’t commit to the whole. Yet, if we as individuals acknowledge our own brokenness, accountability doesn’t look so horrible.

      • Robert Martin · May 16, 2012

        Most definitely. Biblical humility is key. And, along with accountability, I think that sense of humility is lost as well in the consumerist church.

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