Wineskins Archive

February 10, 2014

4 Lessons I Learned About Accountability (Jan-Feb 2003)

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by Terry S. Smith
January – February, 2003

Recently driving home from a business trip, I was exhausted emotionally. My wife was out of town due to a death in the family, and I was coming home to an empty house.

I found myself under great temptation. The thoughts that I was allowing to go through my mind were dark, enticing and scary. I was being tempted to move to the dark side and medicate my exhaustion in a way that would rob me in the long run of joy but fill me with relief in the present moment. I cried out to God to help me. What came from this cry were the names of two people, Richard Jones and Sid Millson. I needed help from doing damage to myself and to those I might meet if I chose to follow the dark side of my soul. I got Richard’s answering machine. Sid was there. I asked him if he would meet me for about ten minutes when I arrived in Nashville. I shared with him specifically what I was feeling and thinking. I brought everything into the light. He listened as my friend, prayed for me and I went home and went to sleep and rested peacefully.

How do you get a friend like this that you can tell the truth to when you are tempted to go to the dark side of your soul? When I moved to Nashville I asked God to lead me to the people that I needed to be with and who needed to be with me. I spotted Richard Jones when I heard him speak around the celebration of the Lord’s Table one Sunday. He was dressed casually, but what he said caused me to want to know this man. I sought him out. He invited me to meet with him early one morning with a group of men who met weekly together to pray. We began to meet one-on-one to share our stories and how we came to seek God in our lives. After a couple of years we were inspired by Hal Hadden who was leading a ministry entitled, “Christian Leadership Concepts for Men.” His work inspired us to begin praying that God would lead us to ten other men who wanted to meet weekly for two years in a covenant relationship for the purpose of encouraging each other on our spiritual journey.

Charlotte, my wife, joined a similar group for women and made a covenant to meet together for two years to grow in their personal spiritual journey. Out of that group of women my wife has bonded and discovered her best friends.

Jesus modeled the power of account-ability in friendship. God knew that we cannot make it alone. We were built for community. He modeled it. He taught it. He demonstrated the beauty of friendship when he said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13, NRSV). Then he adds in verse 15, “…I have called you friends…”

Jesus demonstrated the secret for the overcoming life. He prayed all night and then he chose the twelve to be with him. They had many questions to ask him. He would move about the land doing good to the people, then the disciples would ask him the questions to try and understand this kingdom he was proclaiming. His patient mercy was demonstrated, as none of them really understood him. But he understood them. In the group they learned to love one another. They learned to stop judging one another. They became closest of friends. They knew the truth about each other’s dark side and they learned to love each other because Jesus showed them how to do it.

My friends, Richard and Sid, saved my life that night. If I had sinned that night, my God would have forgiven me. My wife would have forgiven me. But oh the joy of celebrating the victory over sin in my life because Jesus showed me that I do not have to hide my dark side from my brothers who are just like me. Jesus knew that we would be able to help each other on this journey if we would risk telling each other the truth.

I meet with the twelve each week. I meet weekly with my friend to share and pray. God has called me to seek him daily as I learn the joy of celebrating his love every morning.

I pray you will also find the “twelve” to meet with weekly. I pray you find the one other person in your life you can meet with weekly, and the best thing of all is that you will access the gift of God’s presence along with the physical presence of your friend. May God help us all see the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters and respond to that loving presence.

This temptation was in my 60th year! But I learned some important truths from when I was 21. A beautiful young lady needed a ride back to the big city 50 miles away from the college I was attending. Several months earlier I had asked her to marry me. She said, “No!” I grieved and accepted that and was moving on with my life. Before leaving at 10:00 p.m. in the evening to return her to her apartment, I called two friends together and asked for their help. I felt desperately weak having only two years earlier abandoned my hedonistic pagan lifestyle at Ole Miss.

I learned four things that I still apply today.


    • When you are weak, ask for help. I knew I was vulnerable sexually and my heart needed guarding so my behavior would honor God and this young lady. I asked two friends to pray for me and ask me about the trip when I returned.


  • Tell the truth. The friendship accountability was with some brothers I had sought the face of God with earlier. They were there for me. Tell the truth to yourself, to God and to others. The truth about me is this: I knew that there was not any evil I could not do. Tell the truth to others. This young lady told me as we were traveling alone those fifty miles that she loved me and her answer to my marriage proposal was now, “yes!” I told her I loved her, but I was not able to say “yes!” I had found someone else and could not pursue this with her. (This someone else, Charlotte, has been my bride for 37 years).



  • Pray. I had learned above all else through Proverbs to guard my heart with all diligence. I prayed to God, prayed with my friends, and I prayed with this lovely lady about being His person. I left her at the doorstep, kissed her goodbye and have not seen her in 39 years.



  • Remember the secret. My parents were not Christian but alcoholic and dysfunctional. I was disillusioned by religion but in crying out for direction God taught me through reading, meditating, thinking, praying, and contemplating in response to the teachings of Jesus. Proverbs became my father, Psalms became my mother and the Gospels introduced me to the power of God’s loving presence.


I expect Satan to tempt me, but I daily meet with my small group: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, inviting them to teach me. That always makes them smile. Then they teach. Because of the community I have with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and supportive Christians who hold me accountable, I am ready for the day!New Wineskins

Terry S. Smith is Adult Minister at Woodmont Hills Church. Dr. Smith also serves as a “Life Coach” for Leadership development, Spiritual formation, and is the Director of Executive Mentoring. He and his wife, Charlotte, have four daughters, three sons-in-love, three grandchildren and one on the way. In the past he has served as a university campus minister and a director of a counseling center. He has a Doctorate of Ministry in Personality, Religion and Culture from Boston University. Email him at []

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