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.