Over coffee, a business entrepreneur was talking to me after church yesterday. He asked about my next event and (of course) I mentioned the New Kind of Preacher Forum with its theme 'collaboration'. (Carol tells me it tends to crop up in conversation with increasing urgency!) He questioned whether this concerned preachers working with others. When I replied 'yes' he smiled. His next comment was most revealing. 'I have often been amazed that compared with the business world with its high accountability the church has such low accountability. It seems that people in church leadership just don't feel the need to be accountable to anyone. Perhaps it's because they find it difficult to accept constructive criticism. Some churches seem to suffer from a lot of fear and defensiveness!' I hasten to add this was not directed at our own church - he made it clear that it was a general observation gained over many years in different churches.
I guess the immediate defense preachers and other leaders would make is that their accountability is to God. True - that is the ultimate accountability! Some preachers I know have a Spiritual Director who helps make this much more than a pious claim.
However, it was the link he made between collaboration and accountability that really struck me. I hadn't really thought about the ways in which working with others, being open to their insights and views, inevitably brings a measure of accountability which working solo can totally avoid.
For example, in sermon preparation, collaboration not only exposes the amount and quality of work a preacher is doing with the text and their spiritual and theological depth but also their willingness to listen and discern what God may be saying through others. I conclude there is even more need to highlight collaboration!