Why Every Pastor Doesn’t Need a Platform
A few years ago I started getting a particular question lobbed my way again and again. It’s usually, but not exclusively, from young leaders.
The question goes something like this:
I’m a full-time pastor at X church. I’m wondering whether I need a platform. Almost everyone seems to have a blog, podcast, book or platform going. Or even a large social media following. Do you think I need one?
At first, I was actually a little surprised by the question. I didn’t really think of building a platform as something that you would specifically set out to build.
I’m not sure you can really build a platform, at least not a lasting one. So why do some leaders end up with platforms?
Here’s my theory. It just kind of gets built for you as you go about doing other things.
Leaders will often ask me what my platform looked like when I was 30.
The truth is, I didn’t have one and I had no idea what a platform was. I was working hard to turn around three old, dying churches so that we could see a new generation come to faith.
As we started to grow, people started to ask me to come talk to their church. In the ’90s, that meant getting into my car and driving to the next town to talk to 10 leaders in a meeting room. That was about the size of my platform. And often the people I was talking to would tell me I was wrong, that what I was saying wouldn’t work in their context. So I’d finish up, drive home and head back to work.
I kept focusing on what I was called to do: build a local church. As we grew, the inquiries became more frequent and persistent.
It’s only in the last decade I’ve written and spoken about leadership more widely.
Which leads me back to my advice for young leaders. What do I think young leaders should do?
Focus on doing the work God has called you to do. Pursue it wholeheartedly, passionately and with abandon.
Great platforms arise out of great stories. So focus on the story God is writing.
Sometimes people want platforms more than they want stories. With no story, there’s no sustainable platform. Go write a great story and let the platform take care of itself.
The Apostle Paul didn’t set out to become the greatest church leader of the first century. He became the greatest church leader of the first century because he set out to build churches.
So does every pastor need a platform? My answer? Every leader should have an online presence, but not every leader needs a platform.
Let me explain.
Presence V. Platform
First, there’s a difference between having an online platform and having an online presence.
I think unless there’s a good reason not to, it’s a best practice for ministry leaders to have an online presence. This is 2017 after all.
Your presence online allows people to get to know you, see behind the scenes and connect with you in a way that they just can’t on a Sunday or mid-week, and allows you to encourage and help people. I shared a few guidelines to a developing a leader’s online presence here. Bottom line? Let people connect with you, see your heart, see your family. Be playful, be honest, be yourself.
Presence is one thing, and it’s almost always a good thing unless you’re creating a bully pulpit.
But what if you feel like you should build a platform?
1. Check Your Motives
Of all the things you will want to check when if you launch a platform, your motives should be first on your list.
Why you do what you do matters more than what you do.
Some of you will no doubt point out that I have a platform. That’s probably why people ask me the question a lot. It’s still surprising to me (OK, shocking to me) that this blog and my podcast get read and listened to so many people.
Are my motives 100 percent pure 100 percent of the time? Absolutely not. I’m a sin-stained human.
But I try to wrestle my motives down, daily. I want to make sure I’m doing what I’m doing for the right reasons.
Ironically, my goal was never to build a platform. It was to help leaders.
After four years of serious blogging and almost three years of podcasting, I’m increasingly convinced that when it comes to keeping your motives pure, your desire to help should always be greater than your desire to be known.
And over the long haul, I think all serious content creators create not because they want to, but because they have to.
If your desire to help is greater than your desire to be known, you’ll stay healthy.
A few other reminders also help.
First, your platform isn’t yours. It’s God’s. It’s not your church or your organization—it’s His.
You don’t have a ministry, but God does (and out of his grace he chooses to use you).
The more I remind myself of these things, the healthier I am.
Second, it’s a platform, not a pedestal. There is a world of difference between a platform and a pedestal.
Pedestals are about ego and adulation.
Platforms are designed to be shared and used for the benefit of others.
I try to keep that in front of me, daily.
2. Practice Being Secure
Platforms can bring out the best in you, and they can bring out the beast in you.
If you struggle with insecurity, platforms can easily plunge you into the quicksand of comparison.
As you find your voice as a writer, speaker or podcaster, you also realize what you’re not. I had to come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be funny like Jon Acuff. I’m not ingeniously creative like Reggie Joiner. And I know I’ll simply fail if I try to mimic Andy Stanley or Jud Wilhite.
A platform eventually reveals who you are.
If you stick with it long enough, go at it regularly enough, you have to push past the spin…and you end up putting the most vulnerable thing you can put out there—you, with all your flaws. People will see you on your good days, on your bad days. They’ll see you every day.
Which means you have to get comfortable with yourself and honest with God and others.
That is the ultimate journey of all leaders anyway, isn’t it?
I love this conversation Josh Gagnon and I had on struggling with insecurity as a leader.
3. Give Your Platform Over to God (Continually)
If you have a platform and find it growing, give it over to God…continually.
You prayed a lot when you were struggling. You need to pray even more when you are successful.
I know in those moments where I experience any level of success, I need to pray. Remember: It came from God, and its deepest purpose is only revealed when it’s used to glorify him.