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Paul Tripp on the inadequacy of external accountability

Pastor, author, and counselor Paul Tripp recently resigned from the Mars Hill Church (Seattle) Board of Advisors & Accountability. There was a lot of speculation at that time as to why Tripp was resigning, and in what capacity he might stick around as a consultant and counselor. Tripp cleared that up today with a statement on his website wherein he describes the inadequacy of that sort of external accountability.

It’s because of this love [for the church] that I accepted the position on Mars Hill Church’s BoAA. But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn’t a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.

Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.

So, since I knew that I could not be the kind of help that I would like to be through the vehicle of the BoAA, I resigned from that position.

(Emphasis mine.)

I think Tripp’s point here is key – that healthy, functional leadership comes about by having a local group of elders who can support, protect, and guide the pastor(s). There is no substitute for “firsthand witness” to what’s going on at the church.

All of us involved in church leadership, whether pastors, elders, or other, should be reminded that mutual, humble accountability to people right there within the local church is the best way to stay on track.


  1. At my previous church, the pastor mentioned one business meeting that he was setting up a board of directors, a group of people he respected that he could be accountable to. The only time I’ve spoken up in a business meeting was to ask why his board wasn’t made up of ministers from our church. He had chosen a group outside of our church, with most many states away (and one in Canada).

    Fast forward to years later, and neither one of us is at that church any more. After he left, it was found he had inappropriately used the church’s funds for personal purchases.

    I can really relate to this post.

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