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?
Such good, honest questions Kate. Struggling with you in this together.
Thanks, Bronwyn. Grateful to be walking the path with you, and for your ongoing input and encouragement.
This is a timely post. I’ve been discussing this very thing with my husband lately. It’s something I grapple with when having to promote my book. Where is promotion necessary and right for the greater purpose of sharing the gospel through Seekers and when is it pure and simple self-glorification? Is it ever separate?
While I’ve been grappling with this on my own, I’ve become increasingly alarmed at the Christian-writer world around me. It’s like one giant mutual glorification fest. All the patting each other on the back. The sycophantic comments. The FB posts that draw attention to our successes for boastful purposes only (one I struggle with in that I have to promote reviews etc for promoting my book – but it often feels grimy with perceived pride). I’ve heard about how prominent Christian female speakers refuse to travel around without their personal stylist to get them picture perfect for the stage! We seem to have bought into all the frills and accolades to dress up what is not even our own message: the gospel.
Which leads me to my greatest concern: I’ve been watching Christians compromise on truth in order to win online support and hits and in order to please everyone. It’s horrid seeing how watered down and ineffectual the gospel sounds on the lips of ever-increasing pluralistic ‘Christians’.
I get that having a platform to begin with helps to promote a product. But the crazy grappling for online space and carving a niche is wrought with too much ‘me’ and too little ‘Jesus’. It has become a very difficult process to wade into without being touched by the debris of sinfulness that floats around us. I often wonder if it is worth it.
Even the good we do is not necessarily a good enough reason to keep at it. The truth is that in building a platform we will always find a following. Our writing will always strike a chord with someone. Our gifts will always bless someone. So how do we prioritise? This is something I’ve often struggled with and I keep coming back to something Lesley Ramsay once said: “Godliness before giftedness”. It’s helped shape a lot of my decisions around the issue of using my gifts to bless others. It’s uncanny how many ‘good’ decisions involving utilizing my gifts have made way for better decisions involving simply being godly. For example: at this stage in my life, my children physically (and emotionally, spiritually etc) need me and my gifts and services much more than the world out there. The world has a cacophony of voices to listen to. My kids have only one mom and only a brief time in history to have me invest in their lives. It helps me to remember that when making decisions like writing during times they are awake or needing me; when accepting speaking opportunities; when spending time online promoting the book as a product etc. I don’t get it right nearly enough as my sinfulness is big and present, but it’s helpful to keep turning back to the truth of scripture and the fundamentals of living a gospel-glorifying life. It’s something worth applying to all our actions where our gifts are involved – is utilizing our gifts in this situation the better choice for this moment? This event? This life? Is it the better choice for the gospel?
I think the way forward in just about all cases is to pull back and pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. God is infinitely more powerful than strategic platform-building. He is greater than our sin-infused attempts at ‘doing the right thing’. And He knows which of our gifts are to be used for his glory in any given moment – so perhaps our first, continuing and last resort should be to lay it at his feet in prayer. And as we go through each day, each moment, ask Him to help us to put godliness in that moment above even the most noble use of our gifts.
I am praying for you. Please keep me in prayer, too!
Thank you so much, Taryn, for such thoughtful and thought-provoking feedback. This spiritual tug-of-war is so multifaceted.
I so appreciate your insights on the priorities of our children, and that’s a challenge for me on a daily basis. I could relate to Bronwyn’s recent post, “What I’d Rather Be Doing,” where she talked about the inner battle of wanting to write when she had other responsibilities:
I also agree with your comment about always striking a chord with someone .. I nearly added a section to this post, quoting the film, Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” In a sense, if God gives us words to write that resonate with people, they will find it and read it whether we launch it to the sky or not. Part of platform building, I think, shows a lack of trust in God’s ability to use one’s gifts for His glory.
I was chatting about this topic to two different friends this past week, sharing my inward struggle and uneasiness, and both made the same comment. They both said, “You know your own heart.”
As we pray, as you have wisely suggested, may we echo the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Thanks again for contributing to this conversation. May the Lord search each of our hearts and lead us in the way everlasting.
I appreciate your words here and Taryn’s words, too. I’ve been struggling with this same issue. I even last night wrote and then deleted a fb post that I was trying to justify as helpful to others and in the end realized it was only to try to build my “platform” and really not in the right place or way. Sigh. I’m new in the blogging and writing world. I know I’ve been called to write. I really know that. I even feel the pull to write a book…one day. But, I also have two small children. I quit my job last year to be home with THEM and I’m going to attempt homeschooling next fall. Your words about them needing me more than the world needing my words hit home…hard. And I’m not sure what to do with this. Thank you for sharing from your heart and I’ll be praying for all of us to “get this right.” I was reminding a friend struggling with this same issue yesterday that we have to remember why we are doing this. For Jesus sake. Not our own. For His glory. Not our own. So, we write and the platform either comes or it doesn’t. And it certainly shouldn’t be “forced” in sacrificing the small souls I’ve been charged with raising for His glory, even more than writing for the same reason. I suppose I’m rambling. Thank you again, though. I appreciate this post.
Hi Meredith. Nice to cyber-meet you 🙂 This subject is messy and complicated. It’s encouraging to me to read of others grappling with it honestly. I think the only way we may ever get it right is to avoid it completely but even then … there are plenty of people not writing who have great pride in their hearts: about how they’re *not* building a platform. Ugh. And even writing with no intentional platform-building can trip one up – because there’s great pride issues to grapple with when the audience does come. It’s a moment-by-moment-commitment-to-God kind of thing. And a constant examination of our own hearts. And always putting our writing low on the list considering we have more immediate responsibilities.
Now I’m rambling about the same stuff. 🙂 thanks for your prayers – let’s keep this prayer a priority for each of us. 🙂
Yes…pray we will! Thanks for responding back. Blessings today friend. 🙂
Thanks, Meredith, for being willing to grapple with us on this sticky topic. Psalm 115:1 comes to mind, “Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” May it be our mantra as we seek to use our gifts for His glory.
Yep. I struggle with this one, too. It’s so hard to let God be your PR agent when everyone assures you that YOU have to fulfill that role. Thank you for the thoughtful reminder and discussion opener.
Great point! I love how you put that. Yes, may we trust in Him and His wisdom as He guides and directs our hearts, our steps, our words.
I love your bravery, Kate in pursuing this topic. This is an area I would need to explore more deeply myself in order to reflect on what I believe. However, all of your points were well thought out and to me, writing is a chance to encourage and if that means I have somehow touched one person, that is enough! Visiting you from (in)couraging writers. I would love to see how you follow up if you have plans for that! Mary
Thanks for your input, Mary. Yes, when I first started my blog, I included a “Why I Write” page. In it, I expressed my conviction that “if even one person is blessed,” it would be worth it. May He guard our hearts to keep encouragement as our primary goal, not the numbers.
Kate, I am so glad I found this post from (in)couraging writers! It’s always so nice to see other Christian bloggers prayerfully seeking the Lord in what they do and say. This is a complicated issue with no easy answers and I really appreciated your take on it. Thank you!
Thanks, Sybil, for taking the time to read and reply. Blessings to you as you also seek to glorify God with your gift of writing.
I’m following a similar thread on Facebook now. So a year later, the same struggles seem to exist. If there has been change for me it’s how I approach the work. I’m completely settled with the fact that my blog, my words belong to Him. I submit them on His wings. He will do the rest. I work hard to be consistent and faithful with what He’s given. That said blogging is a lot of work and I want to publish or be published. I spent the first few years learning and now pray for opportunities to earn at least a part time salary. I’m toying around with self-publishing now and working on the confidence to promote my own work. I may never have a huge platform but a dedicated few who consistently engage is a blessing to me. I started writing to be an encouragement – not to make money or achieve fame. When I see a lone visitor from Malaysia or Brazil, I know God is working. It settles my heart to write for an audience of one. Great post Kate! Thanks for sharing it.