The Emptiness of Performance-Based Christianity (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #16)

Have you felt the pressure? Have you tried so hard only to feel a failure? Do many sermons fail to encourage you? Do those same sermons in fact discourage and even deflate you? Where they propose to guide you and you want the guidance, do you feel taken to the cliff and pushed off? I mean you who are desiring to serve the Lord and dearly love Jesus Christ, how is it for you? Though in no way exclusive to us, the performance approach runs rampant through the Independent Baptist world.

What I mean by a performance approach is that approach to the Christian life where performing at a high level is the evidence that I have arrived as a believer. I talk the part, I look the part, and sadly, I play the part. It tends to revolve around high levels of Christian service, documentable adherence to a series of (outward) rules, and a nagging wonderment of whether I have performed at a high enough level after all. Some pastors push this on people while many laden themselves with this load too heavy to bear.

Despite its widespread acceptance, it is incompatible as a model to live the Christian life. It actually robs us of all the peace and joy the Christian life was designed to give us. Come to think if it, that is the proof that the performance-based approach is wrong. It steals the very things it promises to give.

This approach is causing two hideous problems. First, it is crushing many of us. It causes many to leave church lower than they went. It makes many so upset they can barely read the Bible or think of the Lord. Beyond the idea that this approach is the evidence of a successful Christian life, it morfs naturally into what makes the Lord love and accept me. If I am delivering at a high rate He is happy and enjoys my company; if I don’t, He is not happy and I better be scared. The disaster is that I can not deliver. There is too much wrong with me.

People caught up in this approach, then, are faced with one of two choices. They can either allow their pride to convince themselves that they really are living up to this ideal, almost perfect, Christian life, which of course they are not. This choice will usually birth a Pharisee. The other option is to see the truth for what it is and then fall into despair. At least this one is more honest, but it is miserable! You might make the facade quite lovely, but you are dying inside because it is much different than that facade.

The other problem is that it becomes a vehicle for pastoral abuse. I can’t get the Lord’s approval with this approach, I might be able to get a pastor’s approval. The facade might satisfy him. So I go get my approval where I can. What we end up with is a breeding ground for pastoral abuse. If I need someone’s approval to sustain me, I am in that person’s grip.

Can you see why you ought to throw performance-based Christianity on the trash heap of history? It does not work! Can you see why? Something is missing. Actually Someone is missing. His name is Jesus Christ. It is a bizarre idea and foreign to biblical truth that we were helpless and needed Him the day we got saved, but today we can make our own way. Hey, I was a wreck the day He saved me, but in my daily life I am still a mess and need Him moment by moment. He saved my soul, but my life still stumbles and bumbles along failing at the worst of times.

If I am progressing in my Christian life and doing the things I should as well as in my Christian service, it is because of Him.

You would be surprised how much better it is living in the light of the certain knowledge that He loves me than grasping to earn His love with currency I do not have, nor can ever produce.

Please chuck performance-based Christianity for the real deal of Christ-based Christianity today. Then watch the peace and joy come flooding back in.

Find all articles in the series here.

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23 thoughts on “The Emptiness of Performance-Based Christianity (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #16)

  1. if one is currently attending a church where this approach to Christianity is used, is it a reason to seek out a different church to serve in or do you keep praying that it will change?

    • Your question is a question me and my wife have struggled with a lot. We have to understand that any local church is a church full of redeemed sinners. Often, when we see a problem, we take the route of finding a place where the problem does not exist, however, we are not just called to be lights to the unbelievers, but lights to believers. Hebrews tells us to edify one another daily lest people fall away from the faith. And that’s exactly what performance driven Christianity is – faithless Christianity. Instead of finding somewhere else to serve, serve where you are in a way that would produce change. Hold a bible study that would tackle some of the issues. In your casual conversations with people, turn the conversation to things of genuine faith. Talk to your pastor about your concerns, complete with reasons and evidences for what you see, why you believe it is unbiblical, and a proposed game plan for seeing the problem addressed. Yes, stay and pray, but do more than pray. Address it and prayerfully DO SOMETHING about it. Our churches need more than people who serve in the regular capacities of attending, setting up, cleaning, preparing, and these sorts of daily things that die with the day (though still need done). Our churches need people who will passionately push for eternal change in people. People who have discerned that there is a problem and instead of leave, they stay and fight the good fight for the faith in their own Christian community. Maybe that is the battlefield God has called you too! It is a legitimate battlefield, and one that is commonly overlooked! After all, “commitment” is not a term that is confined to marriage. Our churches need more people who apply it to their local assembly as well, because those are the people who really let love bind their hearts to real people, and not just to ideal situations. Through thick and thin, make it work. Push for spiritual health in the relationship between you and the rest of your church. If after a long time and many attempts to produce change you feel that attending your church will only do you and your family more harm then good, then would be a better time to think about leaving. Me and my wife almost left our church 3 different times, but the Lord knit our hearts to the people and pushed us to work for change using the gifts He has give us in Christ. By His grace, there are some good things happening, some situations resolved, and we pray that more are still ahead. Doubtless if you prayerfully pursue your church family in love, you will see change. Maybe just in one or two families, but that is one or two families saved rather than abandoned.

      • I agree with you & we have tried to help (my husband was once a deacon, I was a Sunday school helper, we were the Wednesday night children’s club leaders, etc). Notice that all of those things are past tense. Our current pastor has only been with our church for about 8 years. Things started to change when he came. People/families from his former church that he attended have moved to our state & taken over ministries of the church. Even the assistant pastor is his son-in-law (which wasn’t voted on). We see a trend that we are uncomfortable with. When you give suggestions you are accused of being divisive or unwilling to follow the pastor. Very frustrating & heartbreaking.

      • Ah, I’ve seen situations like that happen in sister churches in the past that have caused church splits. I don’t know the whole situation, but pastoral abuse as I’ve seen it never ends well for anyone, even the pastor, and few are edified along the way. I hope God gives you the wisdom to decide what needs to be done. I hope there are some like-minded families in your church that you can unite to genuinely in the Gospel and maybe see some changes happen as you join hands. Some men can be redirected from an unfortunate path, and some men are more stubborn. I hope the best to you.

  2. We will not always leave church feeling better but we can,and hopefully we do, leave seeing Jesus more clearly. Just because I leave discouraged does not mean I am being manipulated or driven to preform. It may mean I have failed to rely on Christ. Of course preaching will expose problems in our Christian walk. Of course preaching will make people feel uncomfortable and down right condemned. The issue is do we point people to performance or to Christ to improve there condition and remove their condemnation. I cannot be the motive for my people’s response to preaching. That is the Holy Spirits Job! —

    • I once heard Dr. Jim Berg say there are two sides to this issue: Do you use the work to get the people done or use the people to get the work done? I’ve experienced the later approach and know the discouragement and emptiness of it. I long for the former approach and pray that some day I can experience it.

  3. As far as JUSTIFICATION we must believe that it is finished!! As far as sanctification; if you walk in the Gift of Grace He has given us you will be fine. The Holy Spirit, (not us) leads us to this place. My thoughts just remember, please remember, No man will ever be able to pluck us out of the Fathers hand. I love where I really find the Gospel for Justification. 1 Corinthians 15 vs. 1-4, It really is this simple as our Apostle to the gentiles states,

    ” 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

    2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

    3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

    4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

    LOOK at verse 2, By which ye are saved!!

  4. This performance based Christianity (or as I like to call it, Professional Christianity) is evidenced it two major places in amongst Fundamental Baptist Churches:

    First – It is evidenced in how we talk about the Church. The Church is the people, and the people are built together as the body of Christ. We, however, talk about the building where we meet as if it is the church even twisting the grammar in Hebrews 10:25. The Bible says:

    “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

    Grammatically, we should be exhoring each other “so much the more.” We, however, have made a professional standard of “being faithful whenever the doors are open” that we guilt people into coming 3x a week. Or, we say, the faithful brethren come on Sunday Night and Wednesday Night. Or we say that anyone can come on Sunday morning, but if you come on Sunday Night you love your Pastor and if you come back on Wednesday, you love Jesus. This is ridiculous. The grammar says we should be EXHORTING each other more. The exact thing that your article says is being left out is also being ignored because our Pastors don’t know how to reach the heart of their people, so they guilt their people into coming to church.

    ANYWHERE that two or three are gathered together, “the church” (the body; the people) have come together, and the main reason of our coming together is in worship of God and to exhort one another.

    Secondly – Along with guilting people to come to church, we teach the unbiblical giving by compulsion. Here’s how it goes: You pay the tithe because that belongs to God. It is 10% and it belongs to Him. AFTER that, you give offerings to show how much you love God. The “Faith Promise” giving (which isn’t Biblical – see James 4:13-14 – the principal applies) is a gift of faith by love. We are told that the greater we give, the greater we love. Giving by compulsion, also called Tithing, is hogwash and is not a New Testament doctrine. We teach people the unbiblical tithe (which was introduced to the ‘church age’ by the Catholics as a tax) and ignore what the Bible says true New Testament giving really is.

    I won’t go into a long speil here, but anyone who is interested can email me directly at nicholas.holmstedt@gmail.com, and we can discuss it.

    A quick overview. Of the tithe, the Bible teaches directly:
    1. It was always food
    2. It was food (livestock or fruit of the ground) from the Promised Land only.
    3. There was three different tithes (it totaled approximately 23% per year for those who had to tithe).
    4. The poor didn’t tithe (they received tithes).
    5. Laborers (such as Carpenters) were not required to tithe.
    6. The People brought their tithe to the Levitical Cities, and the Levities brought 10% of the the Tithe they received to the storehouse in Jerusalem (this was used for the Priests when they ministered in their courses). This is also the context of Malachi 3. Since the storehouse was being used by Tobiah as a dwelling place (Nehemiah 13 – Nehemiah and Malachi were contemporaries) giving into the storehouse was interrupted and the Levities were robing God.
    7. The tithe was only given of every tenth. For example, if you had 18 sheep, you only tithed on every tenth, so you gave 1 sheep (not 1.8 as we would say today).
    8. The tithe was the tenth regardless of speckaled, spotted, without spot, etc. It didn’t matter.

    Deuteronomy even tells us that if you lived to far away from the place you were to tithe and it was too difficult to bring your tithe there to turn it into money. Then when you arrive at the place, purchase those things you were going to tithe again.

    Deuteronomy 14:22-29, “Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.”

    True New Testament grace giving, is far better. Much more complex, and requires a relationship with the Lord, an uncovetous heart, and a steady prayer life in order to utilize the money and food that God provides you for His glory.

    PS > Whenever I discuss this with people, I always get told the following: “You just don’t like to give.” I can show you privately how this isn’t true.

    • I never noticed the grammar in Hebrews 10:25. Wow, how could I miss that!!! You are right on how tithing is used to beat us into submission with fear and guilt and takes all the joy out of giving cheerfully.

  5. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

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