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Biblical Accountability – An African Perspective

Leading a business with integrity is not always easy – and yet ‘doing the right thing’ is so important as Christians in the marketplace today. The Bible makes it clear that God wants us to embrace accountability in our lives – not just as a means of evading what’s ‘wrong’ but encouraging all that is right and needed to unlock our God-given potential.

We got together last month to ask these questions during Ziwani’s second ‘At the Lake’ online event. Joining the discussion were four esteemed panel members: Winnie Njenga, executive director of the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability; Joey Mongalo, defence coach for the Blue Bulls rugby team; Muyiwa Bamgbose, chief strategic officer at the Educational Advancement Centre; and host Pieter Faure, Mergon CEO.

 Amongst other rich contributions, the panel talked us through the origins of accountability, both from a Biblical and African perspective. Here is an overview of that conversation.

Biblical accountability – an African perspective

Accountability isn’t optional

Pieter kicked off the conversation by firstly acknowledging accountability can mean something different for everyone, depending on your experience or inherent bias. ‘For some people accountability conjures up an image of someone who meddles in your life and tells you what to do,’ he said. ‘Others may see it as a type of confessional relationship. Still others may feel like that’s someone you need to go and report to, almost like a boss.’

‘For me,’ Pieter continued, ‘when I think of accountability rightly understood and expressed in a healthy way, it can be incredibly liberating and empowering. Accountability done right can shape our life journey and can ultimately help us to be the best version of what God intended us for us to be. The reality is that none of us stand alone, we need each other, we need relationships and we need people who journey with us. Understanding accountability and healthy accountability is actually not optional – it is part and parcel of walking the Christian journey and walking in relationship with others.’

Joey brought this truth home through the practical illustration of sport: ‘The degree to which the least of us is accountable is the degree of our team’s accountability. We only need one player to not be accountable, and the whole team will suffer in some way because of that.’ Joey reminded us that our actions bear consequences, and therefore accountability is vital to the health of the collective as well as the individual.

A Biblical perspective on accountability 

To frame this understanding, Winnie brought us back to its origins, where God charged Adam to ‘work the land and take care of it’. Said Winnie, ‘When God began things in the Garden of Eden, He created a beautiful place of refreshment and fruitfulness. This place that was supposed to be the venue of his fellowship with man, and he put man in there to enjoy it. He gave Adam stewardship over the Garden – a ‘governance framework’, if you will. He created a place for life to be lived fully and in abundance and then put this person in charge and gives him responsibility – even for naming the animals. So, accountability and stewardship go together.’

Pieter noted how ‘incredibly natural’ was the relationship between God, Adam and Eve before the fall, framing accountability as an unforced and reflexive expression of intimacy: ‘it was a walk in the garden, a journey together’ he said, ‘born out of wanting to spend time together.’

‘After the fall,’ he added, ‘Adam and Eve took to hiding – that beautiful relationship in accountability became more about evading God. What was intended to be healthy, nurturing and extremely natural, suddenly became a great source of tension.’ As a result, humanity no longer knew how to relate to one another, Winnie noted: the pattern meant for relational wholeness and intimacy, now fractured in heaven, was also broken on earth. When we no longer sought to be accountable to God, we no longer sought to be accountable to one another.

By nature, Africa is accountable 

‘And yet, if you go back to the beginning of African societies, you’ll see these communities were established purely on accountability frameworks,’ said Winnie.

From both a personal and cultural perspective, the panel shared how traditional African societies were designed for healthy accountability and finding one’s strength in the collective.

Winnie explained: ‘Within the community there were safe institutions – authority structures that ran the affairs of the village. The men were responsible for protection of the communities and to provide food, while the women worked the land. There were structures for sustainability and food security like granaries which carried them through to the next harvest – a whole framework was in place.

Unfortunately that structure, just like the fall, was destabilised. Over time, a different structure has been implemented, one that has not built or borrowed from our original roots, but served as a departure from who we were and what God intended us to be. This led to a degeneration in accountability, based on structures that enrich some and impoverish others today. From Cape to Cairo, we see this brokenness and corruption everywhere, as the divide between rich and poor gets wider.’

But within this disrupted social fabric, Winnie contended, still lies a firm foundation on which we can re-establish that order and re-align to these accountability frameworks.

She encouraged us to take up our role as Christians and ‘carry forward’ this mantle of God’s redemptive work of accountability: ‘If we have faithful stewardship of God’s resources on the continent of Africa, driven by Christians who understand their origins (not just as Africans but as how God created it to be) then we will most likely have a more accountable continent.’

Muyiwa added to this by encouraging the Christian business community to ‘pioneer and restore what accountability looks like on our continent’. He said, ‘There’s a need for us to be responsible with what God has entrusted to us. As we begin to walk in line with scripture and what God has instructed us to do, I believe God can help us rebuild Africa.’

Would you like to hear more from this conversation, and how you can practically embrace accountability in your life and work rhythms? Watch the event here.

To assist you in your thinking around this relevant topic, Ziwani offers you its Guide to Biblical Accountability. This booklet establishes the Biblical framework for accountability and helps identify the ‘how’ of living it out meaningfully, with several practical guidelines for healthy boundaries in an accountability relationship. Because it is written with business leaders in mind, it is relevant to your day to day realities in the work world. Download it here.

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