Letters to Young Men: Why Accountability Groups Fail

letters to young menRemember that accountability group in college where everyone went around the room and confessed their sins? You knew what everyone’s struggles were and sometimes you suspected your buddy was lying to you, but you didn’t quite have the guts to call him out. So it all broke down and everyone was still living with the same struggles as before. When you tried accountability you thought it was the key to everything… I mean it works so well on paper, but after you tried it you realized you were still lying to your mom, looking up swimsuit models on the internet, and letting curse words slip at the same frequency as before… but now you also had to lie about it once a week.

Here is the truth. Peer based accountability groups seldom ever work. I know they never worked in my case. Do you know why?… are you ready for it?… wait… wait… ok… here it is… The guys my age (myself included) didn’t have a clue! That’s right there is no, count it, zero wisdom in a room full of idiots… so maybe that’s a bit harsh (since I was in the room and those other guys might read this blog post). How about this… “You can’t tell someone how to get to where you have never been.” Jesus put it this way when talking about the Pharisees, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 ESV)

The solution to this problem is actually quite simple though, you only need one person in the room who can see. Put someone in the room who isn’t an idiot and accountability might work (again I know this sounds harsh… but hang in there). Someone who has been around the corner can tell you how to get there (and doesn’t mind redirecting you when you blow it… because they actually know the next step)… That’s why there is value in having older mentors.

Do you want to be wise? Do you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord? Do you want to progress on the path of sanctification (be more holy)? Then find some godly older men to be your mentors!

When you are young you are looking for approval. It’s easy to hang with people your age because they are easier to impress. If you’re honest, part of you is a little bit threatened by hanging out with godly older men. I mean, after all… they aren’t talking theories anymore like you and your crew… they have actual battle scars (from real battles!) and war stories (from real wars!). But if you want first hand information on how to win the fight… these are the people you need to listen to (because they’ve been kicked in the teeth by the enemy and are still grinning!).

I was blessed early on to be mentored by several Godly men including my dad and my mom’s dad. I’ve served with two great pastors and sought out advice and wisdom from other great men along the way. There were times where I was intentionally the only idiot in a room full of wise guys because I needed their wisdom. My wife and I attended Sunday School Classes with older couples and intentionally befriended men and women who would invest in us. You see an idiot in a room full of idiots stays… get this… an idiot. But an idiot who will listen to wisdom from a wise guy… at least has a chance of becoming a wise guy.

Oh and one more reason you need to be mentored by someone older. You are looking for affirmation and you won’t find what you really need from your peers. But when an older guy affirms that you are on the right path, you are closer to becoming the confident young man God called you to be... so next time you feel the urge to get an accountability group together invite a godly older gentleman to the group and ask him to pour into you and ask him questions about whatever it is that causes you to struggle.

One word of caution: Not every older gentleman is wise about the same things. If you have financial goals pick a guy who seems to have his financial affairs in order. Unfortunately there are a lot of older men who spent too much time trying to impress their friends that they never picked up any wisdom along the way and they have little to share with you other than the testimony of wasted years. I pray you don’t become one of them.

Check into 1 Kings 12 to see a story about a guy who was more worried about impressing his peers than listening to the advisers his father appointed.

Letters to Young Men: Let the Word be Your Authority

Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you doing well and continuing to grow in wisdom and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I have written you before and challenged you Treasure God’s WordI am confident that you won’t find this letter much different, yet I still find it necessary.

When I was a younger man at the age of seventeen my father challenged me with the advice that I now share with you.  Let God’s word be the final authority in your life.  When discussing issues, debating doctrine or discerning how you will behave, know there is no more important guide than the Bible. The Apostle Paul writes about this when he addresses Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

(2Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)

You cannot and should not form doctrinal stances and practices based solely on the opinions of others men. You must first and foremost regard the Scripture as authoritative.  The words of your father, your mentor, and even your friends do not carry the same weight as the Scriptures.

Here is what you should know.  People can be wrong.  Sometimes, we cloud our judgment with self-love or hatred of others.  We dull sharp edges of the Word and sharpen dull edges to suit our needs. Often not by design, but perhaps by preference.  We embrace what is comfortable.  We accept what is tradition.

I’m not asking you to doubt everything.  Descart started us down a path that in the end only reveals that the human mind is significantly able to doubt everything.  Instead I am asking you to test the genuineness of your doctrinal positions and motivations by the Scripture.  Be correctable, but let it be the Word that corrects, not merely the opinions of another man.

I am confident of this, that those who judge the Word and hold themselves above it, will in the end be judged by the Word and found to be false.  Those who come humbly to search the Word will in turn find that their own hearts have been searched by the Word of God.  Let the Word be you authority.


Your Friend,

Pastor Jonathan

Letters to Young Men

I’m starting a new blog series entitled, “Letters to Young Men.”  I hope to post on this topic once every other week or so. Though I’m not particularly old, I have been blessed and encouraged to share insights with several guys in their late teens to early 20’s in regard to life and ministry.   Some of you live in far away places and we talk only a few times a year; most of your mentoring is behind you, yet we check in from time to time.  Others of you live in closer proximity and we meet on a weekly or monthly basis.  Many you who read this post won’t know me, but hopefully you will be blessed through the series, feel free to contact me.

Many of the lessons I will share here I learned the hard way.  When appropriate, I will share my failure in hopes that you will miss a few bumps along the way. A precious few lessons I learned under the hand of various mentors in my own life and thus avoided the scars and bruises I would certainly carry apart from their influence.  When appropriate I will give them credit and honor for their influence in my own life.

I publish these thoughts to honor, educate, and encourage young men through the trials of life. I will write them as letters.  They will be addressed, “Dear Friend.”  My intention is not to share particular conversations that have taken place in private.  The letters will address subjects that are in some way particular to young men and have developed over many conversations with many people.  My goal is to produce letters that appear personal in nature and cover themes that are certainly relevant.  My prayer is that these open letters are a source of strength and encouragement to you.

I mean no disrespect by the use of the phrase “young men.” By many accounts, I myself could still be considered a young man.  I use the word “young” only in terms of comparative age; I use the word “man” in terms of maturity.

I welcome comments, feedback and input all along the way, but chose the right to delete or edit comments that I deem as disrespectful, rude, or not-profitable for discussion.

The Lost Letters of Pergamum (Review)

Lost Letters of Pergamum, The: A Story from the New Testament World by Bruce W. Longenecker is a great read for anyone fascinated by the cultural settings of early Christianity.  Written as a fictitious exchange of letters, primarily between a nobleman named Antipas and Dr. Luke, the writer of Luke’s gospel.  The book is written in a way that is engages the imagination, yet maintains a level of historical accuracy that is seldom demonstrated in historical novels.

If you want to know more about the world in which the New Testament was written, but have a hard time getting excited about a text-book, this book is for you.  However, if you are a fan of fiction (and not a fan of history) you may quickly become bored.  The book is written to be a collection of letters and therefore reads as the voice of two or three narrators, thus leaving out the action, metaphors, etc. that normally accompany great fictional works.

If you are looking to get a broader picture of the customs and manners of the New Testament world in a way that is more engaging than a regular text-book, then  this book is for you.  The retail price of The Lost Letters of Pergamum is $17.99 (Paperback), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $12.23. I gave it four stars.


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