Whether you are a mommy-blogger building a larger presence on social media, a pastor seeking to replicate yourself via satellite streaming, a youth leader wishing to draw large crowds through games and events, or an author desiring to land a book contract, it’s worth asking the question, “Is my platform worth my life?” If your platform represents the way in which God has uniquely called and gifted you to take the gospel to the nations, then no cost is too great to engage in your work. … If, however, your platform is primarily about self-promotion under the guise of gospel ministry, beware that “success” in your personal ministry does not come at the cost of your faithfulness to Christ.
Pastors and ministry leaders are constantly under pressure to “build a platform” for themselves. Granted, within the life of the local church, we typically don’t refer to this trend in such self-promoting terms. We instead speak in terms of increasing our ministry influence, having an online presence, and reaching new people in new ways.
None of these Christianese code words are bad in and of themselves. Indeed, anytime the gospel gains a greater influence upon culture, we should celebrate as Paul did in Philippians 1:18: “In every way…Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Still, as we consider the current landscape of prosperity theology and the blossoming “celebrity pastor” trend, it is clear that our world is not entirely different from the culture in which Paul wrote to the Philippians. There are many who proclaim Christ in truth. Many others proclaim him out of pretense and selfish ambition.
Christians, how can we be vigilant to guard against selfish ambition in our lives and ministries? How can we be sure that the priority of our platform is to champion the gospel, not ourselves? A comprehensive solution to the issue of self-promotion within the church is beyond the scope of this article. That being said, our answer to a single question goes a long way to illumine the true motivation which drives our platforms.
“Is this platform worth my life?”
A Perspective from Church History
Platforms are not a new concept within the church. On the contrary, Scripture records that prominent church leaders built platforms of influence only a short time after the ascension of Jesus. By the time of Acts 5:15, Peter’s reputation as a leader of the church warranted the people of Jerusalem to bring the sick into the streets so that “at least his shadow might fall on some of them.” Similarly, we can assume that the platform Paul developed through church planting enabled his writings to be regarded with authority throughout the churches of the first century.
That the Bible overwhelmingly affirms the leadership of both Peter and Paul illustrates that God does not view platforms as evil in and of themselves. At the same time, when we consider the ways in which both men were persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured on account of their platforms, we cannot conclude that God gives a Christian a platform primarily for his or her personal benefit. Instead, God gives platforms to Christians for the explicit purpose of spreading the gospel message, even if (or especially if) doing so brings about a personal loss on account of Christ.
Church history reveals that such a trend continued even after the death of the apostles.