As Christian writers, we’re sensitive to the pitfalls of pride and self-promotion, yet we understand the value of building a platform. How can we faithfully glorify God without caving under the pressure of platform-building?
Early in my writing journey, I contacted an established Christian blogger for some wise counsel regarding my internal conflict about platform-building. Here’s what I wrote to her:
“I have a Christ-exalting, God-honoring, gospel-centered message to share. I believe God has called me to write for his glory. I don’t want fame and fortune, but I desire to know my efforts are having an effect. Is this selfish? Is it prideful? Is it wrong to seek out an audience?”
These are common questions in the Christian writing community and for good reason. Let’s see how the Bible addresses the issue of building a platform for God’s glory.
Should a Christian writer build a platform?
We rightly resist prideful platform-building that glorifies ourselves because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). We also know that “[p]ride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NKJV). We’ve all seen—and many of us have experienced—the devastating effects of celebrity culture in the Church when Christian leaders or influencers fall from a high platform. The higher the pedestal, the farther the fall.
But the Bible provides plenty of examples of people who rose to celebrity status yet remained faithful and glorified God. For example, if social media was a thing in his day, John the Baptist’s platform would have gone viral. Eccentric and controversial, everyone knew who he was whether they believed in his message or not (Matthew 3:1–7). Even before he became king, David attracted an army of devoted followers willing to give their lives for him. Though he sinned grievously, the Lord increased his influence and honored him as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 22:1–2). Jesus remains the only sinless example. During the three short years of his earthly ministry, he grew a following that continues to this day. He literally changed the world.
None of these men set out with the goal of building a platform. They intended to glorify God. The Apostle John expressed this goal when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 NKJV). These influential communicators pursued opportunities to make Jesus Christ known so that their audience could know him more. They had a message worth sharing.
Longtime blogger and award-winning author Tim Challies recently addressed this issue in an article for Gospel-Centered Discipleship. “The reason we write is because we believe our writing may benefit other people. That being the case, it’s not necessarily prideful to make attempts to get others to read it. You should believe in your writing enough to be willing to make it available to others and even to tell them about it.”
If our ultimate goal is not for our own glory or reputation but for God’s glory and the benefit of others, then we build a platform to steward our gift of writing and the message God gave us.
An Alternative Approach to Platform-Building for the Christian Writer
A simple perspective shift can help us overcome our hesitation to build a platform. God gifts each of us uniquely for the purpose of building up the body of Christ (Romans 12:4–6, 1 Peter 4:10–11, Ephesians 4:11–12, 16). If God gave us the gift of writing, we must write—not just for our own personal enjoyment or benefit, but for the good of others and the glory of God. Instead of focusing on platform-building, we can pursue “body-building”—building up the body of Christ by serving them through our writing.
Consider the purpose of a physical platform—a stage in your church sanctuary, for example. Pastors and worship leaders use the platform as a tool to better serve their church body so that more people can more easily see and hear the message and music that come from the platform.
As Christian writers, we must ask, ”How can I best serve my audience?” We need a certain level of platform to better serve our audiences. When we identify the best platform from which to serve them, we are right to build that platform for their good and God’s glory.
During a meal with his disciples, Jesus addressed the issue of self-serving promotion and suggested a countercultural approach. He said, “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27 NKJV). Contrary to the popular belief that the person being served is better or more honorable than the one serving, he said that “those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42–45 NKJV).
Jesus set the perfect example of servant leadership, and Paul encouraged us to follow his example (Philippians 2:5–11). As writers who desire to glorify God, we could say with Paul, “…we don’t go around [writing] about ourselves. We [write] that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT).
Practical Platform-Building Tips for Christian Writers
Jesus gave us a Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (emphasis mine). The blogger I wrote to about my internal struggle over platform-building responded to my concerns with this verse and said, “Many of us need to go find the people who need the message we’re sharing. Not so we can gain followers, but so that they can be changed by the power of God’s Word. Yes, God will bring people to your writing who he wants to read your message, but you may need to meet some people on the road halfway.”
How do we do that? How do we find our audience, meet them where they are, and share our words effectively? Here are some practical ways I build my own platform and guard my heart against prideful self-promotion.
God-glorifying platform-building as a Christian writer starts with knowing your audience. Where are your readers? Where do they need to see you or hear you? Resist the temptation to follow someone else’s formula or method for effective platform-building. Your voice, message, and audience are unique, so your platform will naturally look different from that of others. For example, I used to spend time building a social media platform because that’s what the experts emphasize, but I’ve learned it’s not the platform that best serves my audience. Instead, I focus on connecting with my readers through mentorship, Bible teaching, involvement in writing communities like The Writers’ Bloc (get a one-week free trial) and the GCD Writers’ Guild, and creating content here on my own website.
Another way to guard ourselves against pride is to stay teachable. If we stay on level ground with our audience by writing as a learner instead of from the lofty perspective of an expert, we have the freedom to make mistakes. We experience less pressure because it’s okay to change our minds as we grow. We connect with our audience easier when we don’t come across as superior and write as if we’ve “arrived”. We’re human, just as they are.
Two more tools for God-glorifying platform-building are SEO (search engine optimization) and community. I’ll talk more about those in upcoming posts.
As Christian writers, we absolutely want to avoid prideful platform-building, but we absolutely must pursue humble service for the good of others and the glory of God. Thankfully, we don’t have to follow worldly—and often exhausting—methods of self-promotion. Instead, we can learn from Jesus’ humble example and direct our attention to “body-building” by serving others in ways that make the most sense for them and for us. For me, this approach relieves the burden of platform-building and restores the joy of writing for God’s glory.