I watched the news yesterday about prison managers moving difficult and vulnerable prisoners ahead of inspections with a mix of emotions.  While I’m certain that many would agree that such actions deserve the possible charges of gross misconduct the managers now face, I also suspect that just as many people would consider their strategy as inevitable.

I worked in a performance driven environment for many years as a surveyor.  The process was always the same.  When you knew what was being measured you made sure your statistics were at their best.  That didn’t necessarily mean that you were doing the job better – that wasn’t the point.  It meant that you kept your manager off your back.  And not everyone was honest in the process.

The better your figures looked, the more highly you were regarded.  In some cases, the more you were paid.

The problem is that when you start to measure people’s worth through the lens of a narrow set of performance targets they will do what they need to do in order to meet the targets and be seen to perform well.  That doesn’t mean that they really are performing well though. 

And for Christians who live and work in a performance driven world church life can be a very difficult challenge.  Because church is not about performance, it’s about relationship.  It’s not about how many people were there on Sunday, how professional the music, PA, artwork or preaching is.  It’s not about achieving status or approval, how many hits you’ve had on your website or visits to your blog (thankfully).  It’s not about how often you pray, how many bible verses you can quote or what responsibilities you have.  It’s not about performance at all.

“What does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8.

“If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit,” John 15:5

“Follow me,” Mark 10:21

And when we forget that, we walk into a very different kind of prison of our own.