In which I question whether platform building can hold hands with Christianity

Originally published Wednesday, 09 April 2014.

Those who rub shoulders with the writing and publishing world will know that ‘platform building’ is a serious buzz word these days.

Literary agents are telling authors they have a quality manuscript, but won’t get anywhere until they’ve built their platform to X amount of blog, Twitter and Facebook followers.

While I understand the need for platforms for marketing and publicity purposes, questions rise in my mind as to how self-promotion can mesh with the calls of Christ in the gospel.

An upcoming seminar by Band of Bloggers poses the very same questions:

“There’s a lot of pressure today for pastors and leaders to build their “platform” in order to gain an audience and build influence. This is especially true if you are seeking to publish a book. With all the encouragement to self-promote and brand your identity online, how does this relate to the gospel call of taking up your cross and denying yourself? How do we make much of Christ when it seems so necessary to make much of our work?”

How can we, as Christians, exalt ourselves in good conscience when we’ve been called by the One who “made himself nothing” to humble ourselves?

Jacque Watkins hit the nail on the head with her post, How to Really Become Big: The Backwards Principle. She writes,

“From our very first breath, we strive to be big …. What if really becoming big, is a backwards principle : living in the small, and becoming even smaller, until we are smallest of all.”

To quote Martin Luther,

“God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”

As we seek to build a platform for ourselves, we should be asking the same questions posed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:10,

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Love Idol just hit bookstores this week. She’s spreading the message that as believers, we are pre-approved, to the glory of God.

If we really believed that we were pre-approved, why do we spend so much time and energy seeking the approval of others?

I, for one, have definitely gotten sucked in by the desire for acknowledgement.

I’ve gawked with starry eyes at the Christian bloggers with heavy influence.

I’ve granted permission for admiration to dance with envy.

I’ve allowed respect to hold hands with jealousy.

In the pit of selfishness that is my heart, I want to be known.

But at what cost? And by whom? And why?

This whole ‘platform building’ thing reminds me of the people in Genesis, who were tempted to rise to the top, to show off their accomplishments, to paint their name in the sky, to gain glory for themselves.  They built the Tower of Babel to demonstrate their ability, and what did God do?  He frustrated their language.

With a reverent and holy fear, I should stand back and recognize that God could very well do the same thing to me. If my writing is motivated by pride or a desire to promote myself, God would do well to frustrate my language.

I recently wrote a devotional that included the example of a family who has endured a tragedy that I would not wish upon anyone.  One of their daughters died unexpectedly in her mother’s arms on the mission field.

Before submitting it for publication, I sent the devotional to the family to read and give feedback.

The mother’s response was so humbling.  She thanked me for being ‘faithful to write.’

Faithful to write

which raises another question:

If we’ve been given gifts by God, shouldn’t we use them?

God doesn’t want us to stash our gifts away in the utensil drawer, never to be seen again.

As Christians, the Bible says we are the light of the world. God even tells us to let our light shine.

But why? And how?

So that we can be seen?

Jesus says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

It’s all about the glory of God.

As a member of my Bible study group recently pointed out, a lamp is not lit for its own sake. Its light shines for the sake of others.

Ann Voskamp does a phenomenal job with this.

She takes the lamp she’s been given and turns the spotlight onto Christ, the only deserving recipient.

I don’t have the answers yet. I haven’t figured out whether personal platform building and biblical Christianity can co-exist.

But I’d love to hear your input.

How do we reconcile the “make yourself nothing” with the “let your light shine”?

How have you strived to use your gifts and grow your influence while still magnifying Christ above yourself?