When Helen Thomas made those remarks about Israel recently that led to her abrupt retirement, she discovered that even for established veterans of the media corps, some accountability remains. Her fellow reporters demanded a standard of conduct and held her to it. Whether one agrees or disagrees with her remarks is another issue. My point here concerns accountability.
Which, in my opinion, often seems lacking in the church. Now I am not referring here to the clergy, which is a separate subject to my purposes. I am referring to the idea among many that what they believe and how they live is no ones business but their own. They answer only to Jesus. In my ministry this attitude has impacted two areas in particular: sexual behavior before marriage and fellowship at the altar. Over the span of two decades I have encountered many who have believed that their involvement in the church was similar to that of any other club, minus the fact that there are any mandatory dues. Answering to their fellow members and pastor for what they believe and how they live their lives is clearly an 'over the top' expectation. Thus, when confronted with the unacceptability of cohabitation prior to marriage, some couples simply move the ceremony elsewhere or join another church. They have no interest in abiding by what God's Word may say.
When it comes to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion the altar easily becomes akin to a fast food establishment. You have food, I am hungry, you must feed me, no questions asked. Period. You don't need to know what I believe or how I live. That's my business. Between me and God, so keep out! How foreign such an attitude is to the Bible and the practice of the Early Church. How far we have drifted from these convictions, where the doors of the church would literally be closed to the unbaptized prior to the Communion liturgy. Instead of holding people accountable so that they might live genuine lives of repentance and forgiveness in Christ, we ignore sin, explain it away by justifying it, and duck from any confrontation. As a pastor I stand indicted myself for a failure to truly hold up my end of this responsibility as faithfully as I am required to do so.
If the church today is to find renewal it must rediscover accountability under the Word of Christ. Anything less will simply be 'playing church.'