Why Christians, of all people, need to be Platform Builders

And Why I'm A Platform Builder

In a recent article, Christianity Today contributor (and thus, platform user) Martin Saunders wrote a piece titled, “Platform: why a culture of self-promotion threatens to throttle the church.” The article takes aim at former CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt, and the influence of his book: “Platform: Get Noticed in a  Noisy World.”

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In the article Saunders writes:

“… my nagging concerns about Christian platform culture have slowly escalated. I’ve watched as self-promotion among leaders, speakers and writers has gone from a sin of pride to an act of apparent necessity.”

Saunders thinks that platform building for Christians is all about making Jesus “more famous,” which he correctly calls out as not being right, but judgingly assumes that that is the motive behind Christian platform building.

So on that note he quotes Mark 9:35 about how we are called to be “last” and to be “servants to all” (as if to assume that platform building isn’t about serving!).

Saunders, it seems, is frustrated because though he wrote on this before, nothing changed. Why aren’t people listening to me and doing what I said? he’s wondering. I mean, if Martin Saunders wrote for change on this subject, why hasn’t the culture simply changed?

“I wrote a couple of articles on this a few years ago, and lots of people sagely nodded in agreement. Nothing changed though, in fact platform culture has become more entrenched in the modern church.”

So this time it’s no more mister nice guy. Saunders is throwing the gauntlet down, or rather, throwing “open the window” (presumably it’s high up, probably so that his message can get noticed in a noisy world…):

“Stop! This is ludicrous!”

He goes on to quote Paul in Philippians 1, that “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Then Saunders writes this:

“We need leaders who genuinely prefer one another; who seek to build each other up rather than jostle for position. And when some of us find ourselves in positions of influence, we have to continually guard ourselves against pride and abuse of position. One of the best ways of doing that is for leaders to surround themselves with people to whom they’re genuinely accountable; friends who will tell them when they’re starting to believe their own hype or get competitive, and to whom they’ll actually listen.”

And he’s right, 100%. But what’s that got to do with platform building? It seems to me that paragraph serves to judge the motives of platform builders. As if to say, if you’re building a platform you don’t “genuinely” prefer one another. As if by platform building, leaders are by default jostling each other for positions rather than working together for God’s Kingdom.

Why I’m A Platform Builder

By day I own a Christian retail store. By night, I work on my platform and help Christian use social media to reach more people for God’s Kingdom glory. On the weekends, I’m a part-time minister, occasional preacher, and tech-support guy for my church.

And Michael’s book, Platform, has had a huge impact on my life. No Saunders, it’s not sitting next to my Bible on my bookshelf (that place is reserved for the works of N.T. Wright!). But it has had a huge impact on my life.

See, I’m the kind of guy who loves to help people. When a young person connected to our church named Bailey was planning his first mission trip to the Philippines to help with the relief effort after a Super Typhoon devastated the country, I built a website for him.

I didn’t have a lot of money at the time to donate toward his cause, but I do know how to build platforms. And I so built one for him to help raise funds.

My “gifting” is with technology and social media.

I’m not good at a lot of things. But I’m good at this and I can use this gift to help people like Bailey.

And when pastors and itinerate preachers began asking me about my social media platforms and websites, and about how social media can help them in their ministry, I thought to myself, “Yes! This is it. This is my calling!

After being on this earth for over thirty years and never having a sense of “this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” I finally got that. I’m a platform builder. It’s my calling and it’s how I help people.

Why Do I Sometimes Charge Money With My Platform?

To me, that’s a dumb question. Why does anybody make money? Some people might just want to get “rich and famous.” But most people just want to make sure their family is taken care of and they can pay their bills and perhaps leave a little nest egg for their children.

Do I want the freedom to not have to go to work each morning? Yes. Do I want the ability to work from anywhere (even while travelling)? Yes. Do I want to generate enough income that my wife can eventually live her dream of being a stay-at-home mom? YES!

And what’s wrong with any of that?

See, as I said earlier, I own a Christian retail store. And I don’t know if you are aware of the times, but I’m feeling the earth rumble beneath my feet. I don’t mean to speak doom here, but I don’t have the confidence I once did in the Christian retail industry.

So what do I do when I’m not doing what I’m doing now?

Working in Christian retail was my long-time dream. But what do I do when that dream fades away? Should I not pursue another dream? Perhaps one that enables me to help people with my particular set of skills? Perhaps one involving a platform?

The Real Problem Is A Heart Issue

When Saunders quoted Mark 9 he assumed that platform building isn’t about serving. Is that true sometimes? Sure, it can be. I’ve organized concerts and events for Christian musicians and speakers who throw tantrums if the Skittles they requested are not in their prep-room before the event.

But I’ve also known and met some incredibly humble Christian speakers and musicians.

As Michael Hyatt said, “a platform amplifies what you are.” If you’re a humble and genuine Christian, your platform will amplify that. If you’re a narcissist, your platform will amplify that. But the platform isn’t the problem.

I come from the holiness tradition (I’m still there, and love it!). And I can spot legalism a mile away. Blaming the morally neutral “thing” for the sin it sometimes highlights in others, then suggesting the way to avoid the sin is to avoid the “thing,” and then to get upset when culture doesn’t just change because you say so, is legalism at its finest.

As Jesus pointed out, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Legalism says, “here’s the solution, cover a woman up head to toe so that a man can’t actually see her. That’ll avoid the sin.” Which misses Jesus’ point entirely. The problem isn’t with the woman, it’s with the man’s heart.

And with platforms, the problem isn’t with the platform, it is with the person’s heart.

What About Personal Branding?

Isn’t personal branding “self-promotional”? Doesn’t the Bible say “To live is Christ, and to die is gain?”

Look, “personal branding” is simply another way of saying, “when people see you, they trust (or don’t trust) the message that you deliver.” That’s it.

Sometimes we get so hung up on these terms that we forget what they actually mean.

We all have a personal brand. Yes, even Martin Saunders. Your brand is you. It’s your personality. Your appearance. Your mannerisms. Your tone. Your attitude. You are your personal brand.

People who have read Saunders in the past and like his stuff, his tone and his style will read him again simply because they liked what they got the first time. In other words, they like and trust his “personal brand.”

We read authors and follow preachers that we trust. We trust them because they’ve given us a reason to trust them. When we see them, we instantly trust them. And how do we know? Because when we see them, we recognize their personal brand.

That’s why reviews and endorsements matter. Because if they come from someone we’ve grown to trust, someone who has proven themselves to be trustworthy (i.e. they’ve proven themselves by modelling a consistent personal brand), then we’re more than happy to take their word for it.

And when Paul says “To live is Christ…” he’s not calling all Christians everywhere to be uniform drones without unique personalities, appearances, mannerisms, tones, and attitudes (see what I did there?). What he is saying is when we live this life, in all of our personal uniqueness, we are to live it hidden in Christ. In other words, when people look at us they should see Christ all over us.

Or, to put it another way, when they see our “personal brand,” they should see Christ all over it.

“To live is Christ” cannot be juxtaposed with “personal brand” for true believers. Our personal brand should reveal the Christ we serve.

Why Christians Must Be Platform Builders

I’m so glad that platform building is seeping its way into the church.

Why?

Because we have a message. And we’ve been commissioned to take it to the ends of the earth. In today’s world the best way to do that is through social media and the internet. Opportunities exist like never before. I can’t imagine the Apostle Paul squandering such a ministry tool!

As Michael said,

“If you believe in your message, you should believe in it enough to share it.”

But with literally billions of posts being shared on Facebook alone every day, how can the message I share rise above the crowd and get noticed in this noisy space?

I’ve got a great idea! It’s not original to me. People in the Bible used this approach thousands of years ago. But here it goes: I’ll leverage a platform!

When Jesus was speaking to a crowd one day he noticed a boat in the water. He decided to take advantage of the acoustics of the lake, separate himself from the crowd, climb into the boat, and teach. He leveraged a platform to be heard throughout the crowd. (Matthew 5)

On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit hit, and the huge thronging crowds where wondering what was going on, Peter didn’t just stay low and talk to the few people who could hear him in his immediate vicinity. Rather he “stood up” with the eleven and “raised his voice” to address the crowd. Peter leveraged a platform. (Acts 2)

When Ezra, the teacher of the Law wanted to address the people, he literally “stood on a high wooden platform built specifically for the occasion.” Ezra leveraged a platform. (Nehemiah 8)

When Paul was in Athens he discussed the gospel with people in the Synagogue and in the marketplace. But soon he found himself on the Areopagus, where the philosophers would meet to debate. There Paul took the stage in the meeting of the Areopagus and shared the good news of Jesus. Paul leveraged a platform. (Acts 13)

The prophet Jeremiah lamented that a part of him didn’t want to share God’s word any more because of the trouble it caused him. But then he confessed that ultimately “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” It’s hard to imagine that Jeremiah would face consequences for sharing God’s word if he wasn’t leveraging a platform to get that word out. (Jeremiah 20)

I could go on, but my bigger point is that in Bible days when people wanted to get out the message that God placed on their hearts, they leveraged platforms.

That may look different today. But the principles are the same. And the opportunities are greater than ever!

I can’t imagine why any Christian would say, “Jesus, get off that boat. You’re being prideful. Peter, sit down, speak quietly to the people around you. It’s arrogate to want to be heard by the entire crowd. Paul, you’re making a ruckus. Go back to the quiet little synagogue or your pride will get the best of you!”

But that is exactly what Saunders is telling Christian leaders and ministers to do today:

“Stop! This is ludicrous!”

No. It’s not. What is ludicrous is when one Christian leader tells other Christian leaders to stop leveraging today’s platforms for God’s Kingdom.

That is ludicrous!

So keep platform building. Keep leveraging today’s tools and technology to reach more lives for God’s Kingdom.

And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Thanks for helping to keep the conversation focused and for being courteous.

  • Joe Neff

    Great article! I started a new ministry this summer to serve Chrisrian schools broadly with God’s word. I studied Acts and other scripture to make sure my approach was right and not prideful. I saw godly people using platforms of the day to spread the good news. It is a matter of heart, not platform use, that is the problem if there is one. I will use what platform I can to reach the scattered folks I am trying to help. It is biblical. Good work here.

  • VIVIAN CHAPMAN

    Derek, I think it may be relevant for anyone on this forum to know there are drastic changes on LinkedIn, which could have quite an impact on the many Christian groups. There is an online conference due to be arranged this weekend by people resisting the changes and I recommend anyone who uses LinkedIn groups to participate. I can provide more info if you would like:

    Hi
    Vivian-

    I
    am the administrator of the group – I posted the time/date of the virtual
    meeting in our group, which you are already a member of. I wanted to
    personally thank you for giving our group a shout-out. The PR is much
    appreciated!

    I
    will repost the details here in this email below. Thank you again for
    your continuing interest and support.

    RE: GOOGLE HANGOUTS

    As you may remember, the
    LinkedIn Q3 Investors conference call is slated for 28 October 2015 -that’s
    next Thursday. This gives us exactly seven (7) calendar days to brainstorm our
    talking points for those who plan to attend telephonically. The most efficient
    way to do that is having our own conference and so I have created a Google
    Hangout specifically for this purpose.

    I know there may be questions so
    please continue reading my mini-FAQ:

    Q. What is a Google Hangout?

    A. GH is a way for folks to communicate over the internet via streaming video.

    Q. How do I participate/what do
    I need?

    A. You will need (1) a broadband connection; (2) webcam; (3) A Google (Gmail)
    email account; (4) Your favorite internet browser. (I highly recommend either
    Firefox or Google Chrome as I have tested GH in both extensively.)

    Q. How do I get started?

    A. If you’ve confirmed you’ve got a webcam (either externally or built-in) then
    click here >> https://hangouts.google.com/call/joxtcxlzbnhyrdsy57qzwtrysqa

    You will be taken to the page
    and if you’ve never participated in a Hangout before, your browser will most
    likely prompt you to download software followed by a prompt to allow the
    session. This is painless and the time it will take to connect and download the
    updates is negligible. (It really depends on how fast/congested your broadband
    connection is. Some are faster or slower than others so be patient. It may take
    several minutes to connect.)

    Once you are connected
    successfully, you should be able to see yourself on your monitor. If you don’t,
    then something went wrong.

    WHERE DO I BEGIN?

    Start by verifying you have a
    webcam by clicking here >> https://www.onlinemictest.com/webcam-test

    You may have to authorize the
    site to your use webcam so be sure to allow it if prompted. If you are
    successful, you will be able to see yourself on your monitor.

    Now comes the most crucial part
    – How do you get to our designated hangout? Easy! Just click here>>

    https://hangouts.google.com/call/joxtcxlzbnhyrdsy57qzwtrysqa

    If you go there now, you will be
    the only one on the call.

    I’m going to add the details
    (time/date) under a separate post along with a prompt to RSVP so stay tuned. In
    the meantime, I strongly encourage you to check out your webcam b/c our Hangout
    will be set for this Saturday, 24 October 2015.

    Since the time has been set in
    Los Angeles, CA/USA/Pacific Daylight Time please click here to convert to your
    time zone >> TimeandDate

  • Pastor Jason

    You make many great points here Derek! Maybe even consider the fact that Jeremiah had to face the platforms of the false prophets that were trying to work against him to win the people to their false messages. Jeremiah refused to be silenced…when they destroyed (threw into the fire) his first set of messages he rewrote them (at God’s leading) and added more to it. When they broke the wooden yoke he re-fashioned one out of iron…again, he refused to be silenced. Keep up the good work.

    • Great thoughts Jason. The enemy is using platforms to work against the purpose and mission of God… all the most reason for saints to use them too!

  • Preach it, Derek! A “platform” is simple a tool to reach more people–like money.

  • Isabelle Ferguson

    For several years I have been writing my thoughts as the Holy Spirit prompts me. I began to e-mail them to members of my Al Anon group who have asked me to share my meditation with them. I have been a member for over 40 years, ever since my husband chose AA as his way of life and I found the 12 Steps a program for living by God’s grace.
    We were both from Christian backgrounds and for a time tried to serve the LORD in the Salvation Army, but we found our real calling was to The Fellowships of AA and Al Anon.
    Scripture is my guide. I am also encouraged by the writings of Bill Wilson, CS Lewis and recently Ron Rolheiser.
    I am 86, a widow, still willing to share the wisdom the Lord provides with others. Your idea of a platform excites me. Our Al Anon website no longer accepts personal reflections and G-mail is challenging because it must be sent to individuals. A platform like yours might be a wonderful solution to my problem.

    • Hi Isabelle, yes it would!

      • Isabelle Ferguson

        dear Derek,
        I am interested in having a platform built but yours looks too complicated for my purpose….make a suggestion.
        Isabelle

        • Hi Isabelle, it’s actually not complicated. It’s really easy, actually. I don’t know any computer code, HTML, internet programming or anything like that. The tools are really simple. You just need someone to show you how.

          I have a course where I show people how to build a site like mine, step by step. Though I market it specifically to authors, it applies to anyone who wants to build a platform. It sells for $119, but I can give you a really good price on it if you’re interested. No pressure.

  • Great article. I see the same judgement with selfies – even in sermons. “If you take a selfie you must be full of pride or self-conceit or both..”. And then they bemoan the fact that they can’t get their messages out there. It’s sad.