It is in books and in sermons. It is in small group discussions and studies.
It is the new buzzword in church lingo.
I’m talking about the concept of a “Platform.”
The dictionary defines “Platform” as:
“A raised level surface on which people or things can stand.”
“A flat surface that is raised higher than the floor or ground and that people stand on when performing or speaking.”
Some synonyms are:
“Podium, rostrum, stage, stand, riser, altar.”
In Christianize it often refers to the place we create from where to spread the Gospel or the message we believe we have, while using our unique gifts and talents. It is often proposed that once our platform is established we are living out the exact purpose God has called us to and created us for. Our platform is a place where He can use us and where we can have maximum influence. It is the birthplace of our ministries. The fertile soil of new life and growth. It is our special place in this big wide world where we are supposed to be shining for Jesus. We dress it up so it sounds like a necessity if we want to live up to our full potential. The bigger the platform the further reaching our ability to work for God and help to others. How can we help people if we have no platform or pull?
Or that is the reasoning.
If you don’t have a platform you better start looking because it is the thing to have.
Or so we are told.
A place to be heard.
A place to be seen.
Go big or go home.
“As He taught, he said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in long robes. They like to be greeted with respect in the market. They love to have the most important seats in the synagogues. They also love to have the places of honor at dinners. They take over the houses of widows. They say long prayers to show off.” Mark 12:38-40.
The shift can be gradual. It all starts with the wonderful notion of finding our unique gifts and talents so we can know where we fit in so we can get busy making a difference in the world.
But if we are not careful this sought-after platform is nothing more than the Christian version of a worldly stage and the saints on the platforms nothing more than Christian celebrities. And in a whirlwind of self-deception we can sugarcoat our deepest desire since the break of time; to have power and our share of His glory.
Of course God has a plan for our lives. But I fear that we have allowed the individualistic culture to cloud our perception and without even realizing it pop-psychology has infiltrated our mindsets till we see a platform as our sweet spot for self-actualization. Yes. God has equipped us with gifts and talents. Yes, He will hold us accountable for what we did with those gifts and talents. But He never intended for them to become the lovers of our souls.
God’s basic tasks to us are,
“Love Me. Love people. Tell them about Me. Work and do what your hand finds to do.”
I see a growing discontent in the church and a paralysis of analysis because we are so desperately trying to find the platform, build the platform, find the exact task God has ordained before the beginning of time that we sometimes waste decades terrified of missing the amazing plan God has carved out JUST FOR us. We sacrifice time looking for just the right moment or time. We often seek “the what” and the “how” more than we are seeking Him.
In the meantime children are dying in poverty, people are filling the voids in their hearts with stuff and substances, the world is groaning and crying out for hope; all while the church is feverishly building platforms that often only focus on the crowd that is already shadowing the church doors.
The world cheers “Self-actualization!”
Jesus whispers, “Deny yourSELF.”
This is truly not about us.
We do not like to hear it.
We are the crown of creation for goodness sake!
Everything in us resists even the concept of self-denial.
The build-a-wonderful- self-esteem industry skyrockets.
We so desperately want this to be all about us.
We long to have meaningful lives and to leave legacies. None of these things are in and of itself bad. It becomes self-worship when the platform we think we need becomes an idol. A little g-god on a throne we can see and touch. It becomes sin when we want His glory for our faltering self-worth. We seek self-worth so franticly in so many ways. Some look for it in stuff and all that glitters, some in accomplishments, others in relationships, some in appearance and designer jeans. Some try to find it in shocking the world by getting lost in a subculture.
We are desperate for identity, to belong, to be wanted and loved.
But in our blind spots we might be tempted to think a “platform” is the answer to the emptiness inside. Especially when we group it in our mind with good intentions.
I have the honor to be part of a book launch for a book called The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton (One of the reasons I have so much respect for this ministry is because their hearts' desire is to place God first and not to create just another manmade platform) and right from the get go in this book I am challenged to go after and ask God to help me demolish the idols I have erected in my heart. Because as I’m learning through this experience that it almost always is a heart-issue. I’m dared to get "comfortable being uncomfortable" and that I have to be brave enough to question the motives of my heart and that means being honest about the little g-gods I’ve allowed myself to build my identity around.
One of these is our need for approval from others and the question is how far we are willing to go to get that? Even to the point of losing our freedom for a drop of approval in the form of a string of likes on our posts that fades as quickly as they were clicked on, and somehow leaves us emptier still?
Our flesh kicks up dirt at the thought that it is in losing our lives that we find it. In Jesus’ economy what is first will be last and what is last will be first.
We were created by Him, and for Him, and through Him.
We are His.
That is our identity.
This is about His glory.
Many of the people He gave the biggest platforms in history never set out finding one. They simply obeyed where they were and they loved Him wholeheartedly. Not perfectly. Wholeheartedly. They often did not have many obvious talents for what they were called to; He simply equipped them. They were very often in the eyes of their culture the least likely for the task at hand.
Credit to Illustrator Leah German for this illustration from our book Little Hands Helping.
I fear we make this so complicated because we are afraid that we will we hear “wrong”. What if we miss the PERFECT plan? What if? What if? Do we really think God is so small that a wrong turn will forever thwart His purpose for His creation?
OR we look at the amazing accomplishments and influence others have and shrink inwardly thinking our lives must be meaningless and we hide the light under a bushel. Or we get competitive and driven, hungry for our own piece of the "success." Often we’re too afraid to admit that both these extremes are born from our deeply rooted need for approval and identity. And before we know it we play in the Enemy’s hand where we no longer have compassion and encouragement for our fellow believers. We perceive ourselves in competition and comparison and instead of working toward the common goal of building His kingdom we become opponents, desperate for the biggest and best platform or crippled in thinking we have nothing to contribute.
“We want to be greatly used, Lord! GREATLY. No small behind the scenes service oh, God! GREATLY.”
“If You only give me more influence I could reach so many more!”
“A platform, Lord? The bigger the better, there is power in numbers, You know!”
“That is the solution. Just give me the platform and I promise to say whatever You want me to say….”
The world applauds the bigger and better. 2000 likes are so much better than 23.
Have we learned nothing from the Baby born in a stable, the Feet-washing Friend of fishermen and sinners, Who was buried in a borrowed grave?
The platform we crave might be light years away from the behind the scenes service that moves His heart. In fact, in Scripture, serving behind the scenes is encouraged. It was the coin of the widow, the quiet prayer of the sinner, the prayer behind the bedroom door, the giving to the poor without proclaiming it that are held as examples for us to follow. Like that of a mother going through the motions of daily life, praying over her husband and kids as she does laundry. It might be in the meal that was delivered to a sick neighbor and not tagged on Facebook. It might be in the encouraging word to a stranger. Forgiveness to a spouse. A dad going to work to provide faithfully for his family. Faith in the darkest moment.
The lingered moment at His feet instead of another brick built into the self-actualizing altar we have appropriately coined a platform.
Does this mean we shouldn’t expect Him to do great things? Of course not!
Does this mean He does not call us to special tasks? Of course He can and He does.
Did He give His followers special favor when needed? Without a doubt.
But the focus was never on “THE platform” or who was standing on the “platform”.
The platform had only one purpose.
“God, please help us that our good intentions to make a difference in this world do not change into a camouflaged form of self-worship. Let the only Name we long to see in bold print and flashing lights be Your Great Name.”