In this week’s episode, we want to tackle the subject of performance based Christianity and performance based living. Jesus confronted the mindset and lifestyle of the Pharisees, for how they strapped people with legalism and a religiousness that missed the heart of God. The Pharisees fueled a performance based spiritual life, where people were put under a pressure to strive. It is an exhausting and unfulfilling lifestyle.
Having a “performance lifestyle” means one has a way of thinking and living where their value, esteem and identity are based on what the do and how well they do it. It is all about what is motivating them on the inside. There can be two athletes playing the field; one is motivated by performance pressure and the other is not. There can be two singers on the stage; one is driven by performance and the other is not. “Performance living” cannot be identified simply by observing behavior, but by recognizing the false motives that impel us.
Performance is the mindset of the slave, yet it is built into so much of our culture. Our emphasis is on people producing results and achieving what man thinks is success. Meanwhile, we lose the life of our heart, our energy is drained, relationships feel shallow and our connection with God seems so far away. A big reason for this is that rejection has trained us to live in performance based Christianity.
In today’s episode, we want to talk about:
- How performance living has influenced our lives.
- Some common signs and manifestations of performance.
- How performance manifests in our families, parenting, churches and businesses.
- How to begin your journey of walking free.
Freedom from Performance Based Christianity
Mark: As we get into this discussion, I first want to say that a performance mindset is really the mindset of a slave. In the New Testament, there’s two mindsets that get paralleled, one is Sonship and one is Slavery. A slave’s identity is based on what he does, because that’s why he’s there. He is there for the sole purpose of doing things for the home. A son’s identity is never based on what he does, his identity is imprinted in belonging by simply who he is. He is a birthed child in to the home. That is who he is and he’s loved in that. Therefore when he lives his life out, there isn’t the pressure to have to do everything right. There isn’t the pressure that his life and identity.
I really feel like there’s a battle raging over all of us. It’s the battle of worth. It’s the battle of where do you get your worth from. Is your worth based on what you do today on the pressures. Here is an easy way to identify it. You can see if your value, and your worth and your self esteem is based on something, when that thing goes up or down, does it automatically triggering you in up or down. That’s very, very challenging, because for a lot of people maybe it’s finances, maybe it’s how things are going relational, maybe it’s how the family is going, maybe it’s how their business or how thing in ministry are going and they’re discouraged and it’s hardwired to their identity.
What Does Performance Mean?
Mark: I think we need to break this down a little bit, and talk about when the word performance comes to mind, what triggers in your heart and mind, like right off the top, what comes to mind?
Melissa: I don’t typically follow, I feel like in my own life, the route of performance as a “doer.” Like I have to do things to perform. I feel like mine has manifested more in the realm of how I act in certain situations. It’s been affected, maybe if I’m in a family setting, if I’m, funny enough isn’t the right analogy, but like-
Mark: In how well you come across relationally?
Melissa: Yes. Thank you. Yes. I was hard pressed to find the words to express how I, because I don’t typically fall under the doer, which there are times I wish I did have a better doer sense about me. For me, I look at self, and I say, “Okay, how does that manifest in me? How does that manifest?”
Mark: It can come out like in the home. Certainly, all moms have this like a performance pressure that comes on to get things done.
Melissa: Yeah. That would be like a second layer. Yes. Absolutely. I’m not a high performer, I guess. Mine comes out in emotional ways, which is sometimes I feel like even more exhausting.
Mark: Let’s look at this and let’s kind of break it down, because I have come out of a %100 performance driven, performance based lifestyle. That was based a lot on perfectionism, based on having to do everything right, and went into ministry very young, so this kicked on very quickly. I talk about the rejection mindset book, about how that leads to such emptiness. Then we try to fill the emptiness with addictions, things we try to fill that void with. Then we feel guilty about having the addiction. We burn out, and so how do we solve the burnout? We get back in to performance again. It creates this hamster wheel that winds over and over again. There’s some, we’ll kind of just rake through some common value systems of performance based living, like some manifestations of it.
Melissa: Before you get in to that I do want to bring out a good point, because I think it’s something I have personally struggled with. When you say performance based living, my first thought is, “Well, I don’t do that.”
Melissa: I’m still in a process of that, as you saw, even in my answer. It’s a struggle sometimes to even go, “That’s what I struggle with,” or “that’s what I do,”
Mark: It’s actually discerning where it’s happening.
Melissa: Right. I know you wanted to jump in to those things but I think that was an important thing to-
Mark: I think a easy one to identify, that we have to face, we’ve both had to face, is that when something is not going correctly, we attach it to our performance.
Mark: That’s huge. That is, okay, let’s say, I was just ministering to somebody the other day and we were in a discussion and talked about a big loss, and they shared about how, “Maybe if I just prayed more.” There it is. We connect results in life, then fall back on, “It’s because of something I didn’t do enough of.” We look at our Christian walk that way. People can fall into lots of patterns, like I have a crisis, so I’m going to fast, because a fasting is going to give me the result.”
Melissa: We’ve seen a lot that.
Mark: That’s not what fasting is for, but we do that because we’re result oriented. “I got to get this result,” and I think it’s because no longer is relationships important anymore. We need it, we want it, but our daily schedule does not show it. Our daily schedule shows performance. It shows doing stuff, tasks. It falls into even struggling in just spending time with God. The average person, if you say, “okay, I want to spend time with God,” first of all it’s very like, “Okay, here’s my half hour.” They need a tool, because they don’t know how to sit down and just go, “Hey God, good morning. I just want to share some time with you. I want to talk with you. I want to still my heart. I want to just receive from you.” Most don’t know how to do that because we live in performance.
Melissa: Yeah. It’s true, and I think this is a good place to launch from because as Christians, at the end of the day, we’re searching out, where is God at in every thing. What is he saying over the situation? Where is he in this? Is he going to rescue me, show up, talk to me, give me wisdom? We’re looking for all those things. When we don’t either A, get them or we don’t think we do, or we’re on a journey or process we go to, like your saying, what do I need to do? Do I need to fast? I must not be doing this correctly. God has forgotten about me. What do I need to do.
We were just talking with somebody the other day, “I need to pray for a, b, c, d, e.” You go through your litany of prayers, hoping that you get the right combination to please God. Right? I’m using that word ‘please God’ because we’re wanting to get him to respond to us.
Melissa: We’re forgetting, really, we are sons.
Mark: Right. It goes back to our grid of Mom and Dad of where the imprint was given of how are you going to be evaluated.
Our View of God
Mark: What is your sense of getting approval? It starts right at as soon as you’re able to walk, talk, and interact, that starts to get imprinted to you.
Melissa: Yeah. We really need to recognize that our parents are our first earthly representation of what Father God is. That is meant to point us to him.
Mark: That’s right.
Melissa: Most of us really need to evaluate what is our relationship like with out parents, because ten out of ten, we are transposing that on how we are relating to God.
Mark: Correct. You can find wherever your gaps are in relationship with God. There is a perception, a skewed perception, that was imprinted in your relationship with your earthly father and mother, that now affects your perception of God. For instance, if you have a disappointment in life, and your father for instance abandoned you, then in a crisis, that comes out. “God you’ve abandoned me.” There isn’t a lens of, “No God, you are here.” There’s answers. This performance cycle, it just feeds this exhausting world of pressure. I’ll simplify it. If you have stress and pressure, you have performance somewhere. There is a weight and burden upon you to do something or to carry something.
Our Self-Worth and Value
Melissa: At the end of it, isn’t it really speaking of your self worth?
Melissa: It’s all speaking of how you feel you are viewed in God’s eyes.
Melissa: What is my worth. Well your worth is you’re a son and a daughter. If that didn’t have the value that it could have here on Earth, as we’re processing that out, relationally here. Right now. We’re going to have a skewed lens on how we think he sees of us. At the end of the day, it really speaks of what is your worth before Him, God.
Mark: That’s right. You can look at it as in the setting of a party. If you go to a party, with people, are you able to sit, or are you one of those that has to be the server? Are you able to just be or is there always an agenda? There’s different pictures of what performance seeps into. Of not being comfortable to just be in a relationship, because that’s your primary goal. I had to learn to go from a life, where I am doing, doing, doing constantly draining the tank and then burning out, to now moving into a place where that pressure has to be off. Where it’s like in my days it’s like, “Okay, this is what we may get done today, and that’s about it, because I need to leave room for margin. I need to leave room for relationship, I need to leave room for life and I need to leave room for the life of the heart, because at the end of the day, it’s about keeping the life of the heart healthy.” You could come under the yoke of performance so easily. Wake up, bam, you’re hitting the floor and it’s like you’re hitting the day. That pressure is weighing there.
I find that I have to everyday I have to work against that resistance, that, “No. I will not serve that pressure.” I broke that off of my life when I speak places, and there is a personal declaration I make every time I speak. People don’t really know this, but if you’re ever at an event and just before I go up, you might see me mumbling. The thing I mumble to myself, it’s a personal declaration, is, “God, you love these people more than you love me. You will work beyond what I say today, and there’s no pressure. The pressures off.”
Melissa: You love them, more than I love them.
Mark: What did I say?
Melissa: You said more than he loves you. I’m like, that’s not a good declaration. That’s not a good declaration.
Mark: That’s good. Thanks for catching that.
Melissa: I’m like, “I’ll let him finish talking.”
Mark: “God you love these people more than me.”
Melissa: That’s all right. That’s okay, do over.
Mark: Do over. I say, “God, you love these people more than I do.” Is that right, yeah. The reason I say that is because I have a heart for people to see them change, but I have to establish, “God you love them more.” I have to establish that, “You’ll speak beyond my words,” because I can’t have this pressure to say everything right, which followed me growing up. The pressure’s off.
Outcomes Actually Improve
Melissa: I will say, as your wife, I have noticed, especially in the last couple of years, the massive amount of change in you just living from that place. I’ve watched you in the transition over the past ten years of, you’ve always been, those of you that have seen Mark speak and teach, he’s like amazing. What you bring and the power you bring. It’s like there’s been this really beautiful, powerful exchange of you letting go of that performance place and coming out of just who you are. The power that came out of you, out of you releasing that, has been so beautiful.
Mark: Isn’t it interesting, I appreciate that, I really do. That means a lot. Especially coming from you. To add on to that, isn’t it interesting, that when you get out of performance pressure and performance based living, you’re performance is better.
Melissa: Is better. God has more room to move.
Melissa: More fruitfulness. I’ve watched it.
Mark: It’s a process of being stripped down and rebuilt.
Mark: It’s like I share this with some athletes or people that I work with that are involved in business or in athletics, that as we get rid of the performance based mindset, they will actually become better athletes, because the energy that creates the stress and pressure will actually become a confident, exciting energy that will enhance what they do.
Mark: Same in business.
Melissa: People can’t see that though, because we’re taught, this is by your own strength, and because we’ve been so wounded and we have so many things, we have really held on to that belief. If I don’t do it, nobody else is going to. If I don’t push hard, which listen, we all have to push hard and we all have to stay in the game of life, but we have a deception that I have to push this. It’s all on me. It’s all on me. When we can recognize, “Okay, yes. We have a part to play and we have responsibility in life, but we can cast our cares. We can have relationships with people and bare the burdens. We can have fruitful relationships and work through pains with each other.” That it really isn’t all on you. There’s a massive deception that the enemy has put over us that it’s all on you. It’s all on you. God has forgotten about you, it’s all on you.
Mark: Right. Where does performance based Christianity manifest the most. Let’s kind of talk off the top of our hearts.
Performance Pressure in Parenting
Mark: I want to first start in the nuclear home. It starts with when we parent our children, parents need to listen to this, is your assessment of your child primarily based on what they do. This is really tricky.
Melissa: I think every single parent has battled with this.
Mark: Because we have our own insecurities of unfulfilled thing and things want our children do, have that we didn’t. Out of that insecurity, comes a pressure. I find the two areas it often manifests is in grades and in sports. We see areas the excel in and we’re just going to put them high on that pedestal and that platform, because of how they’re excelling. We’re going to put a lot of emphasis to where they’re not excelling because you need to get that up. It creates this subtle grid that who I am is what I do. It affects then how we relate to others and as a child growing up. That was the grid for me is that I don’t feel loved, but I get attention when I perform well.
Melissa: Good and bad behavior gets attention.
Mark: Correct. Not necessarily in grades. I found I got attention when my grades dropped, because I was a straight a student and after awhile it was kind of like I could see a pattern in my life where then I get my first D, and it’s like now all this attentions brought to it. Then I found that I gained a lot of attention then in things that I performed. I did plays, I did drama, I did those kind of things. It fed that esteem in those areas. I’m not saying that’s 100% evil. I’m not saying we shouldn’t applaud people’s performances. I’m saying in a day-to-day life, what’s our basis? A lot of parents don’t know how to just instill confidence.
Melissa: No matter what you do.
Mark: You can’t formulate this, because it’s the heart of day-to-day relationship. That, “I just love you because I love you. You did well on the soccer game,” the love is there, “You did terrible in the soccer game,” the love is still there. It’s not necessarily something you say, it’s just in how you come across and a consistency of where love comes from. It’s tricky, because the only way you can learn to change your parenting, is by first learning how to be a son and daughter before your Father God in heaven. That’s the mistake parents make and then they perform in how they parent.
Mark: I saw myself, even with our Revelation of the Father’s Love, we have our first child. Max is born and, bam, I went full on in to this performance awkward kind of fathering. It’s like, “No, no, no, I need to be a son first.” Then approach him from that place.
Melissa: I feel like it’s compounded too, in these generations, and I know I’ve talked with a lot of people and other moms are expressing the same things, the enemy is out to steal that. He’s using every tactic he can. I feel like nowadays rebellion, it’s in the land. We see it in everything on the news, everywhere. I feel like kids are manifesting this more than ever.
Mark: Sure. More rebellion.
Melissa: Yes. More rebellion. I’m seeing it so much in store, when I go out. Our own children are doing this. Freaking out over things, and just a lot of rebellion going on. What it does is it really sets how I’m going to treat you when we get home. You didn’t act right. Even take out the sports and the other things, I feel like just temper tantrums, brattiness, rebellion is on the rise so much, because of spiritually what’s going on in just our land. Never mind generationally, what’s coming down the pike. That right there is a whammy that’s knocking families out of how you then react to the child. “Well you’re bad. You’re bad, so I’m going to shut off from you.” That’s a massive problem going on, so then the kid is either going to go one of two ways. “I’m going to high perform, or I’m just going to keep acting bad, because either way I’m getting attention.”
Mark: Parents will often say, “okay, what’s the solution? What’s the technique?”
Melissa: Right. We’re all looking for something.
Mark: Really it’s all about God working on you and your identity.
Melissa: Absolutely. Right.
Mark: For instance, when our kids are acting up, what’s the thing we always have to work through when they’re acting up in public? How we feel as parents, with them acting that way.
Melissa: Yeah, that’s a great point.
Mark: It’s not really about them misbehaving, because if they were doing that in our home we could probably deal with it a certain way. It’s because it’s in public, there becomes this intense, we can’t look bad, or look this certain way and you’re embarrassing me. This goes back to worth. Identity. Value.
Performance in the Church
I’ll jump in to another ring, where performance is chalk full to the rim, and that’s church, the church culture. Especially western church, I’m sure it can be in a lot of other places, but church often mirrors so much of what’s in the business community. We have marketing. We have image. We have productions. We have performance, video all these things. There’s nothing wrong with excellence. I love excellence. Everything should be done with excellence, but performance gets in because people then, we communicate a gospel that’s not by works. There’s nothing you can do to let God love you. There’s nothing you can do to have him more or love you less. Just come to him. When people come in, it’s like, “Okay, we need to get you serving and get you involved, do, do, do.”
Again, I’m not saying that’s wrong. Serving’s great, but I find that people’s identity, if you really strip it down, is based on what their serving role is in the church. “I’m deacon so and so, I’m pastor so and so, I’m in charge of the pantry, I’m in charge of worship.”
Melissa: I was just going to say that. The accolades we give ourselves. “I’m the head usher.” “I’m the deacon.” “I’m Bishop so and so.”
Mark: Yes, that’s true, in the upper roles and titles. I want to even get down to the lower levels, like “I am the kid’s group,” and without that, who are you.
Mark: I had this stripped because when I left a pastoral position to start turning hearts to ministries, part of that time I had to work construction. God stripped me down and was like, “Okay, who are you now?” There’s no gig right now to speak at. There’s no this going on, there’s no that going on. I could feel myself literally being exposed naked in a good way of like, “Okay, who am I really? If none of this works out, if none of this goes anywhere, who am I? What am I really in my core identity?” I had to strip another layer of that performance off.
Performance Pressure in Business
Of course, people at their jobs, I help a lot of people in our coaching sessions, I’ll help people in their business, to overcome limitations and break through. Business is a tricky area because it’s all performance based.
Melissa: You have to perform or you lose a job.
Mark: There is no basis of so, “How are you doing today? How is your life?” They don’t have time for that. There’s no culture for that. Again, it’s another arena that if we strip down performance based living and establish sonship, that quote-unquote performance, actually improves and people are going, “Wow,” because there’s a confidence in who they are as sons and they know how to serve people. One more area that I think of is going back to family, is performance affects even in how we relate, like how we’re doing stuff for relatives, how we jump at every need, we jump at every demand that gets in to the whole people pleasing category, because we’re just not solidified in who we are. I need something to pull me in a direction so I can feel validated, because it’s not already established.
Melissa: At the end of the day, we do all of that stuff to feel loved, to feel a part of. “Do you accept me? Do you love me?” We do it with family. We do it with God. We do it with jobs. We do it at church. We do it everywhere. Subtly, it goes on everywhere.
A False View of Success
Mark: I listen to a lot of different podcasts in various arenas and I listen to interviews of people that are considered extremely successful. One of the things that bugs me, is when I listen to them, there is this common theme where a lot of them talk about when they have downtime and vacation, they can’t stand it. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They don’t know what to do apart from their mission and calling. They’re like, “When I’m on vacation, I’m miserable,” or “On days off I just don’t do well.” People listening, I feel like they’re like, “Oh yeah.” They kind of laugh at it and, “Yeah me too and isn’t that crazy.” I’m going, “No.” This should not be something that, we need to see it for what it is. It’s wrong. That’s a wrong mentality. That would be like me, like us talking and being like, “Yeah, I hate that guy next door. I just hate him.” We’d be like, “Okay, no that’s a problem. Hate is not healthy. It’s not of God.” Performance based living, striving and the mindset of the Pharoacies and all that garbage, infiltrates performance but we make it acceptable.
Melissa: Well, because it’ll produce money. It’ll produce accolades. It’ll produce things that make you, I’m doing air quotes, feel better, look good.
Mark: Look successful. We forget that there’s going to come a day where God is going to take our works, and there’s going to be a lot of stuff that burns up.
Melissa: Yeah. Right, which that’s just going to blow up people’s minds. You’re going to blow your mind. “But wait, I spent 20 years doing that.”
Mark: You’re going to look at a whole business, a whole ministry or a church. That a bunch of it goes up in flames.
Mark: I’m not saying that to scare people. I’m saying that to sober us, that performance based living is not of God. It’s sinful.
Melissa: Don’t say the S word.
Mark: Why is it sinful? Because it doesn’t involve rest. It doesn’t involve identity and who God says that we are. It doesn’t involve yielding and trusting in the faith that we have. There’s really not-
Melissa: It creates a lot of idols.
Mark: Yes and there’s not a lot of faith involved because it’s all on me. It’s all on what I can do. It’s all in what’s in front of me. I’ll say this, and people can argue with me all they want, but I have coming in to my office and people I am coaching who are dying of disease, because of performance based living. You want to tell me that I’m getting a little crazy with how we need to get free from it. It’s infected us.
Melissa: It has. What do we have to do to overcome.
Getting Free from Performance Pressure
Mark: When we talk about how to get free, I think we have to first admit that this is a problem. I think we have to see, “Okay, I’m going to recognize this, it is what it is. It’s not of God. I need to get free,” and start discerning it. Where do you see it happening? “Okay, I see it happening here in church.” Where do you see yourself burning out? Where do you see yourself exhausted and losing energy. Performance is somewhere in there. You have to take a step back and go, okay, follow the trail, where are you getting your identity from?
Melissa: It’s so true.
Mark: Where are you getting your love from? Where are you getting your value from?
Melissa: Back to the “everythings.”
Mark: Correct. The foundations.
Melissa: The foundations. Yes.
Mark: Disconnect your value from those things. That’s why I say, “God you love these people way more than I could ever love them,” because I can’t carry this pressure. The pressure’s off, so I’m going to have fun. There’s a preacher that I heard about. I can’t validate this is 100% true, because I heard this second hand. There was a story of a revival preacher, and if I said the name, half the crowd would say, “Oh we love him.” Half the crowd might say, “I don’t know about him.” Anyways, doesn’t matter. This is the story that he went to a meeting. The church had booked him to come, and they were so excited. I’m going to just throw this story and let people process it how they want to. God used him in tremendous ways. They came to the church and they walked by a room, and he walked by a room, and there was a kid playing a video game.
Melissa: I knew you were going to tell this story. I had a feeling.
Mark: The leaders of the church were like, “Come on, come on, come on, we’re going to go in to the prayer meeting. He stopped and he said, “No, I want to go in there and I want to play video games.” He went and played video games with the kid before service. Now, is that teaching us that before service, we should play video games? There are probably some pastors out there who are playing video games that need to get on their knees.
Mark: The point here being that he wanted to disconnect performance based Christianity. We have a service now, so now we need to pray, because our prayers are going to make the service better. We have these subtle a plus b equals c.
Melissa: Right. It’s this magical equation. I’m not saying prayer’s not good, but we put these things in place. “I have to do one, two, three, four, five. I have to do those things or God’s not going to show up.”
Mark: Yes. It disconnects relationships. It affects our prayer life and how we, I’ve got to do my devotions or I’ve got to do this. I find in my life, I stripped it all down. I even tell some people that have this really bad, I tell them, “You know what? Just for a little bit of time, just stop praying.” That’s terrible Mark. I’m like, “No, you need a detox, because every time you go in to prayer, it’s burden, it’s pressure, it’s performance.” Strip it down and learn how to be God’s kid. Break the programming, break the pattern that you fall in to and establish a new one that says, “No, I’m going to base this on relationship.” I did that, I detoxed prayer, so that when I revisited the whole subject, how I pray and talk to God is 100% different then how I did 10, 20 years ago. I think that we have to look at the Christian life as “I’m not performing today. I’m practicing who I am.”
Melissa: That’s really good.
Mark: I’m practicing. I had a lot of people that would take this message in the wrong direction. It was aggravating, but it’s just how people’s minds interpret it wrong, is they would say, “Well, I didn’t do it, because I don’t want to perform.” Getting out of performance is not an excuse to live in passivity and to do nothing.
Mark: What getting out of performance is, is shifting the motive of “Today, I’m practicing who I am. I am working this out.” What’s the difference? I’m living from approval, not for approval.
Melissa: Excellent. Say it again.
Mark: I’m living from approval. I’m approved today. God you love me. There’s nothing I can do today that’s going to change it. Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. It would be foolish for me, out of that love, to just sit here and do nothing.
Mark: That means I’ve not gotten his love, because if I get his love, it moves me in to faith. That faith works through love. Love now moves me in to a place where I’m yielded to that, the energy flows. I don’t have to earn it. There’s nothing I’m earning today, and if there’s problems and things going on, it’s growing opportunities to practice my sonship. When times get tough in our lives, and they have, we have so many stories that we’ll shell out over the years, of things that we’ve gone through. It’s those moments where it’s like, “This is my time to practice my sonship at a new level. To really connect to my value and my worth is not in that, it’s in who I am. To rise above circumstances and overcome.”
I find this takes a lot of practice in my life. Sometimes it would aggravate me, because people who are very, very broken would not step up and take on overcoming challenges, because they go, “I don’t want to perform.” It was just like another deception of excuse. I no way am I communicating to people that you need to just do nothing. What you’re doing is not adding value to your life. It is a manifestation of your faith, of who you are, that I’m letting flow out of me.
Mark: It’s not who you are is what you do, who you are is what you do. What do you do every day? Be who you are. Be confident in that. Well that’s a struggle. Exactly, so that’s your emphasis. Focus on identity, flow out of that. What is Mark DeJesus look like today, in just being a son as he’s hanging out with his wife, as he’s fathering his children, as he’s coaching people, as he’s doing the podcast. What does a son look like? Not what does a podcaster look like? Not what does a writer look like. What does a speech giver look like? No, no, what does a son look like and you flow out of that.
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