Gordon MacDonald says he is often asked what sort of things friends in accountability might ask of one another. Having found little if any helpful literature on this subject he put together a list of twenty-six questions, some of which friends might wish to consider if the personal defence initiative is to be effective.
- How is your relationship with God right now?
- What have you read in the Bible in the past week?
- What has God said to you in this reading?
- Where do you find yourself resisting Him these days?
- What specific things are you praying for in regard to yourself?
- What specific things are you praying for in regards to others?
- What are the specific tasks facing you right now that you consider incomplete?
- What habits intimidate you?
- What have you read in the secular press this week?
- What general reading are you doing?
- What have you done to play?
- How are you doing with your spouse? Children?
- If I were to ask your spouse about your state of mind, state of spirit and state of energy level, what would the response be?
- Are you sensing any spiritual attacks from the enemy right now?
- If Satan were to try to invalidate you as a person or as a servant of the Lord, how might he do it?
- What is the state of your sexual perspective? Tempted? Dealing with fantasies? Entertainment?
- Where are you financially right now? (Things under control? Under anxiety? In great debt?)
- Are there any unresolved conflicts in your circle of relationships right now?
- When was the last time you spent any time with a good friend of your own gender?
- What time have you spent with anyone who is a non-Christian this past month?
- What challenges do you think you are going to face this coming week? Month?
- What would you say are your fears at this present time?
- Are you sleeping well?
- What three things are you most thankful for?
- Do you like yourself at this point in your pilgrimage?
- What are your greatest confusions about your relationship with God?
Never before has MacDonald been more convinced that adult Christians need to form personal friendships with those sharing our commitments and values. And yet whenever he has talked about this, people, especially men, have acknowledged that they have no relationship quite as intimate as he is describing. One returns again and again to Jesus’ forbearing statement to Simon Peter: ‘Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat’ (Luke 22:31). It was a warning that Simon did not heed, but came from the lips of a friend who knew what was likely to happen.
How do we protect one another? We watch a friend’s eyes. Abnormal fatigue? Anger? Avoidance of truth? We listen to a friend’s words lovingly to discern inconsistencies, attitudes and negative criticisms of people. We watch spending patterns. Too excessive? Trying to prove something? We note the respect and affection with which they treat others. Loving towards spouse and children? Too harsh? Too distasteful? Disrespectful? Too familiar with others? We are sensitive to questionable habits. Substance abuse? Sleepiness? Workaholism?
MacDonald is not advocating the adoption of KGB-like stance towards one another. But men and women who truly love one another protect one another from broken world possibilities. He writes, “I know of only one way I can protect my friend: stick close enough to him so that we are transparent to each other, so that we can spot the aberrant pattern before they get out of control.”
Friends take time. And most of us do not have that time unless we make this cultivation of Christian fellowship a major priority.
Adapted and updated from a printed 1980’s document, not arribitation on the original document.