In the new year, armed with resolutions aplenty, many Christians will begin meeting with an accountability group. The theory is sound: Meet weekly with a few same sex friends, ask each other tough questions, hold each other accountable, pray for each other. Sounds like a winner to me.

The thing is, I’ve been part of a few guy accountability groups over the years and for the most part they don’t work. At least not for me. In my experience, these things lose their fizz in a big hurry. When I was in College and a young believer, I met with a bunch of golden-hearted guys—some of the best I’ve ever met. My big issue at the time was lust and porn, so each week they’d ask me, “Did you look at porn this week?” or, “Did you masturbate?”

Bam, right? Spiritual growth time.

Not so fast.

The human heart is so deceptive, so cunning. Mine is no saintly exception. So I’d find ways around not answering the questions directly. Did I look at porn lately? Define lately. Not for days. So the answer is no. (I became a master at hiding behind imprecise questions). Or, let’s say we met on Friday night: I’d indulge the Monday before so I could say, “Well, Monday was rough, but the rest of the week I did great.” They’d pat me on the back for doing better since Monday.

Today, my wife Shauna and I are soul-mates, and I’m an open book to her. We’re accountable in ways I never could be with another guy. But if I were to join a guy accountability group again, this is how it would have to roll: First meeting, I’d say, “Here’s the deal: This week, we’ll each think of three questions we hope to God no one ever asks us, phrased so concisely that there’s zero wiggle room. Those are the questions we’re going to ask each other every week. If we’re not willing to do that, this is a waste of time. See you next week. Or not.”

True accountability must touch what matters most, or it’s a sham. It’s got to be uncomfortable, or it’s not working.

What about you? Have you ever been part of an accountability group? If it worked, why did it work? If not, what went wrong?