The Power of the Performance Machine


This post is a part of a series that starts HERE.

By now, there are lost of possible reactions to what has been said regarding the difference between performers and worship leaders. For many of us, laying things out like this may be causing a celebration of worship and freedom. After all, not being measured by our performance is exactly what the gospel is about. But here’s the rub, the performance machine has power. It is natural for us. It is wired to our motivations and actions, and is therefore a big part of who we are. It isn’t easy to let go of it, because it has its hands wrapped around our necks.

The Achiever’s Concerns

For some people, the performance machine isn’t only good, it’s necessary. A person who is strongly motivated by pride and/or fear will be TERRIFIED that without those motivations nothing will happen. If I work on my craft for a reason, and someone comes and tells me that I shouldn’t worry about that reason anymore, it makes sense for me to wonder why I or anybody else would continue to work on our craft.

This was true of me around a dozen years or so ago. I was in the middle of a meltdown and was seeing a counselor who told me I was too concerned about how much others appreciated me. I didn’t refute that I was concerned about the appreciation of others. I refuted that this was the problem. It wasn’t hard for me to connect the dots and realize that seeking the appreciation of others was a part of the core of who I was, so much so that I didn’t know why I would do anything if seeking the approval of man wasn’t my motivation.

Me: “I hear what you’re saying, but I have no idea who I would be if I stopped worrying about what others thought of me.”

Counselor: “I don’t know who you’ll be, either, Eddie, but I do know you’ll be a lot more like Jesus.”

Ouch. The dude stopped me in my tracks. I eventually came to understand that the performance machine had me in its grip and that I was not being motivated by grace. The approval of others was an idol of mine. It had become my motivation. For the record, as the idol was let go, I didn’t stop doing things. In fact, I’ve seen that grace is a much more effective motivator than the fear of man. It’s just that it motivates us towards more appropriate things for much less selfish reasons.

The Weary One’s Concerns

On the other end of the performance machine spectrum are those who are tired of trying and failing. Still locked in the grip of the performance machine, these weary souls read that they should be motivated by a love for Jesus and it makes them sink inside. They don’t necessarily feel like they love Jesus, and don’t want to be under the microscope if they can’t manufacture it, either. Some may see these motivations as a burden so heavy that they don’t feel like they have the qualifications needed to be on the team. It weighs them down.

To any believer who feels that way, be encouraged. You are not being shown another set of obligations you have to meet in order to worship Jesus. You are being shown a pathway to the freedom of being unconcerned about your obligations at all. God is not coming to you with expectations. He is coming to you where you are right now. Jesus has clothed you with His righteousness, has paid the debt for all your weaknesses, and we have seen that the Father accepts His sacrifice. You may be surprised when you discover another area of pride in your life or another fault or weakness. God is not surprised. He has always loved you with a special, saving love entirely because of the work of His Son. If God Himself accepts you, why worry about whether or not man does?

For many of us, the grip of the performance machine is exactly why we are not experiencing gratitude for the work of Jesus. We are still convinced that there is something we have to add to our lives to make us more complete. We may agree that Heaven’s doors will be open to us, but are still adamantly working to make sure that all others doors remain open as well. Weary one, look at what you’re doing. The greatest thing you could ever achieve or control is a vapor compared to what you share because of the accomplishments of Jesus. Because of Him you cannot fail. He’s holding you up. Don’t you notice?

Reliance on Grace

Relying on grace is not a variation of the performance machine. It is an attempt to abandon the machine altogether. Our relationship to Jesus isn’t just about Heaven, either. It is about freedom while we are still here on earth, too. If our agenda is to praise His victory, we can never be disappointed. It is when we start banking on our own personal success that we’re in trouble.

The abandonment of the performance machine is not automatic, either. Even if we assert with all our minds that we are going to step off of it, our deceptive hearts will make sure a part of us is still there. As fired up as I am about being off of it, there is still a constant struggle within me to seek some appreciation for my playing.

Not too long ago, I was supposed to play an introduction to a song that I didn’t have written music for. There was no introduction (I WAS the introduction), and my mind went completely blank. When I did remember how the song went, someone played a wrong chord which just added to the mess. I was mortified. Why didn’t I just laugh? Where did my embarrassment come from that caused all of the blood in my body to rush to my face? It’s called the performance machine, and this event showed me that as committed as I am to be off of it, some part of me is holding out.

Reliance on Forgiveness

Which brings me to an important point. No matter what we find in ourselves that is wrong or weak, the cross is there. My discovery of the pride in me is not something that condemns me. God knew it was there before I did! Any discovery of weakness is simply a reason to shovel more of my sin on the cross and increase my gratitude for all that Jesus has forgiven me. The more of my own weakness I discover, the more I see that Jesus has forgiven, and the more precious His love is that He pours on me anyway.

Can we see how the performance machine gets in the way of this awesome functioning of the gospel? EVERY moment we spend worrying about our performance is another moment we are not thanking Jesus for the gift of His.

BTW, this is what applies in every area of our lives, not just preparing for a Sunday worship service.

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About Eddie Lovelace

I am a nobody. Or, rather, I'm a nobody who has all spiritual blessings because my life is redeemed by the work of the risen Jesus. He is everything I need. Hear that, heart?!? HE IS EVERYTHING I NEED!

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