In my blog last week I talked about my struggle to embrace the idea of platform because I held the limiting misconception that platform was a means to fame or financial success. Neither of those are reasons why I write.
I write to glorify God because it is what He has given me to do in this season of my life.
I had to acknowledge that I doubted God could or would use me in a powerful way, so I avoided the question of platform by hiding myself behind the fig leaf I named humility. As in “I’m just a humble Christian unworthy of your notice.”
It was a painful lesson to learn that wasn’t really humility at all but doubt--and not just doubt, but unbelief that God is able.
And it was freeing.
I now understand that having a platform—a group of people I connect with in order to know and make God known—is not a bad thing.
A platform is nothing more than a mission field, and our mission field is always the ground between our feet. Or in this case the cyber space beneath my fingers.
On the surface we may think it’s just a place to get people to listen to what we have to say. But the truth is, people only listen to what we have to say if it adds value to their lives in some way. As the saying goes, people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care... about them.
The better way to view platform is as a tool to be used for adding value to someone else’s life. This value may take the form of knowledge, entertainment, enlightenment, or encouragement, but in the end if it is to be seen as successful then it has to add value to their life.
In order to keep the platform from becoming a thief of joy, time, and talent there are three important points to remember. The beauty of these things is they are the same things we should be putting into practice in our everyday lives as we walk out our Christian faith.
The first is focus. There a million places I could look to for a presence. For example, in the writing world there are Facebook groups, blogs and websites to follow, chat rooms for writers and for readers. I could try to be a part of as many of these groups as I could find. But I’d end up spreading myself so thin no one would know I was there.
Consider spray paint. The closer the nozzle is to the surface it is aimed at, the tighter the paint pattern—the bolder and more noticeable the presence of the paint. Move the nozzle farther from the surface and the broader the surface area it can touch, but its mark is much lighter and harder to detect. Spread too thin it will finally reach a point where its presence can no longer be seen at all.
In life, there are an infinite number of places—mission fields—in desperate need of the Gospel. As one individual I can be somewhere, but I can’t be everywhere. The internet can give us the illusion of being everywhere, but when we spread ourselves too thin, we make no impression at all. And unlike hiking in the forest, where we are encouraged to "leave no trace," we want our presence here to be noticed.
Whether we are talking about platform or where we volunteer, we are most successful when we choose to focus our attention, spending more time in fewer places, getting to know the people and forming meaningful connections. I’ll leave a much more distinct mark.
We are made to do something, but not designed to do everything.
Proverbs 12:11 tells us “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”
The person who works his land—the space, task, ministry, mission field—God has given him will have plenty. And I believe that he who tries to work all the land, while maybe not the same as a worthless pursuit, will be engaging in a fruitless pursuit. Every good farmer knows his limits.
Yes there are other fields that need attention, that need to be tended, but perhaps that is someone else’s field to tend. We are not going to produce any crop of significance by trying to tend all the fields.
Stop trying to do it all. Stop trying to be everywhere. Stop trying to reach everyone.
“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23)
I seriously wonder if Solomon was thinking of us—writers trying to build their platforms—when he wrote these words. Days full of sorrow, work is a vexation, and even at night our hearts don’t rest. Should I have posted one more Instagram meme, responded to one more Facebook post, or tweeted one more pithy observation? Why won't the people respond?
Where does the madness end?
The opportunities for connecting with people, building our tribe or platform, are as vast as the horizon.
But the horizon isn’t a road to follow, just a destination to aim for.
No matter what our profession or calling or mission field—because sometimes our most needed mission field is in our own homes—the surest way to reach our goal is to order our steps in a straight and narrow line.
To build a platform of value, first we focus.
How about you? Do you find it difficult to choose where to spend your time on social media? Does this verse from Ecclesiastes resonate with how you have experienced the concept of platform growth or ministry, or mission work?