Platform Check

At our recent Christian Writers’ group meeting, Angela D. Meyer spoke with the group about building a platform.

If you’re not familiar, the “platform” is the collection of people whose eyes are going to see and engage with a given person’s social media and marketing presence. It’s not merely how many followers you have on your blog, or how many Likes you have on Facebook. It’s about how many people will probably take the time to pay attention to what you have to say, through whatever avenues you communicate.

Your platform is what gets you heard in the sea of shouting voices.

This little book you've likely never heard of

This little book you’ve likely never heard of

Michael Hyatt has a fantastic book all about it. If you’re blogging, you probably already knew about that.

Yesterday, I was reading some posts online and reflecting on what I understand about building a platform. I took some time to start up an account on Google Plus. I also engaged in a limited discussion on Twitter. And in the middle of that, a question came to mind:

How effective is my Christian platform?

Am I thinking about how many people I can reach with the Gospel? Not exactly. I’m not counting Facebook friends and associations on LinkedIn. Nor am I getting ready to up my social media Bible-thumping with posts you should “Share unless you’re ashamed of Jesus” or pictures of Scripture verses superimposed on sunsets. And I am not thinking of how many people pack into the church on Sunday, nor am I looking at all of them as potential targets of my marketing campaign.

I’m thinking that the principles of building an online platform can in many ways apply to how I live my life as a follower of Christ with a message I want to share and a world that generally isn’t interested.

With that in mind, I’m going to post about platform for a while, both how it works in the world of social media, and how I believe it applies to my faith.

For example, a friend started a blog recently, and his first post discussed changing his business model from trying to attract interest in his product to showing interest in the lives of others. Instead of hocking his wares and chasing down disinterested customers, he started spending a little effort to chat with folks, one person to another, simply showing interest in them as valuable people.

Once he got to know them a bit, and more importantly, they got to know him, he was able to adjust his pitch to their individual needs to find out whether they would be interested in his product.

It’s the old saw that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

As a blogger, I can rant and rave and become one of the spamming hordes that comment on random posts with “Hey good blog check out mine here’s the link.” No one wants that. That doesn’t build a platform, because it doesn’t build relationships. It’s the door-to-door method, the street-corner preacher yelling at anyone in earshot.

I would much rather find some people with similar interests, people who have a unique voice, plain folk with whom I can relate as plain folk. Often, they have things to say that I need to hear. I have to hope that sometimes what I say benefits them. If nothing else, we interact with each other and share life as much as one can over a blog.

I think of one of the blogs I follow, that of “an Opinionated Man.” He has a horde of followers, in part because I think he lives online, given how much he interacts with all of them. He certainly speaks his mind and communicates his message. But he also makes effort to listen to others, and that wins people over. That connection, for me, is part of how a platform is built.

Now, as I type all this, I can almost hear some say, “Christ is the Foundation, the Gospel is the message, nothing else is needed.”

That’s where they’re wrong. But that will be the next post.

Let me know in a comment what you think about the importance of relationships to building a platform – social or spiritual.

Who Is My Neighbor?

A friend of mine who is an evangelistic atheist posted a video of Christians spewing hate (or “sharing the Gospel” as they would say) about homosexuality. Some folk showed up to protest Pastor Charles Worley, he of the electric fence concentration camp solution to the presence of homosexuals in our society. A batch of vocal protestors showed up to protest the protest. Then another organization showed up to protest the protest of the protest.

Maybe it’s best if you just watch the video.

Then again, maybe not.

20130910-100502.jpg

My friend said this is the kind of thing that supporting Christian thought will encourage. This, he claimed, is what Christianity is about. I argued with my friend that the folks captured on video spitting venom are poor examples of Christianity, based on Christ’s statement that there are two greatest commandments on which everything else depends:

Love God fully.
Love others like you love yourself.

We went back and forth about what counts as “basic tenets” of religion. My point was Christ gets to declare what should be emphasized in the faith that bears His name.

That’s the backstory. Then my friend posted this linkabout military chaplains.

What is the purpose of a chaplain? How, in this arm of government called the military, do we justify mingling church and state? We allow it because, while chaplains are endorsed by a specific religious organization, they are trained to serve all members of the military regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. They’re there to serve all.

They have one job. Meet the spiritual needs of members of the armed forces.

The Southern Baptist Convention issued guidelines stating their chaplains cannot serve openly gay members except for telling them to repent. They cannot work with openly gay chaplains or those who approve of homosexuality – and I imagine that means anyone who doesn’t condemn homosexuality enough. They cannot counsel same-sex married couples.

What does this achieve? Okay, the SBC is opposed to homosexuality and strongly affirms what the Bible says about it. Did everyone not get the memo? I’m pretty sure there was no doubt.

But why this one thing? If you’re going to instruct your chaplains to abdicate their responsibilities towards all servicemembers, why choose this?
Are SBC chaplains not permitted to work with other faiths? If a Buddhist approaches a chaplain, needing to talk, does the SBC chaplain say, “Well, can’t help you with your difficulties. All I can say is repent.” Do they not provide marital counseling to atheist couples? What about couples with marital infidelity going on? If they believe what the Bible says, do they get to choose which form of sexual immorality is the really bad one, and which we can overlook?

Is there a pride test chaplains can give all customers before providing services? Because God is pretty adamant about pride being a sin, one that Scripture says God directly opposes instead of merely condemns.

The comments on the video my friend posted also point out that some of those vocal protesters are on the chunky side. “Gluttony is a sin too,” they say. “Why don’t you protest that?”

People see this behavior from Christians, both individuals and organizations. And they walk away further convinced that Christians are judgmental hypocrites.

“Love God. Love others.” When Jesus said that, no one caught Him in hypocrisy. His actions measured up to His words, and vice versa. Those of us who bear His name should reconsider what He set as our priorities.

SBC, take note. Jesus already issued guidance. He said, “You have one job: Love.”

Under a Blanket

Quick break from my posts on building a “fire” of worship in ministry…

There’s an indie publisher game coming out soon called Pinstripe, and an interview with its creator caught my eye.

His comments about the story he wants to tell in gaming sound very much like my intended description of spirituality and faith in God on this page. It combines my interest in videogames with a discussion of spiritual matters, so I thought I’d post it here.

From the Penny Arcade Report:

“I’m not trying to be cool,” Brush prefaced his comment, “but everytime I’m making a game I want people to feel the way they feel when there’s a massive thunderstorm outside, but they’re inside underneath a blanket.”

“It’s that sublime feeling of ‘there’s terror and craziness outside, but I’m cozy inside and I’m safe.”

That comment sums up my time playing Pinstripe and talking with Brush. He’s part of a new generation that wants to be more gentle and welcoming with Christian messages and themes, but the message is still there, like that thunderstorm raging just beyond the walls of safety.

Ich “Liebster” Dich

Recently, I received a nomination from a sharp guy named Nick on this blog for the Liebster Award.

Liebster Award for being "not rubbish"

Liebster Award for being “not rubbish”

I had no idea what that is, so I just kind of sat on it, grateful, awaiting whatever would come of it. Then I looked it up.

We use the term “nomination” as though there are authorities out there on the Interwebz who are going to come look and make a solemn gesture of approval, thereby formally blessing us with the award.

Nah, it’s just one blogger to another, saying, “hey, I like what you’re doing over there, and I wanted to call attention to your blog. How about you do the same, but for other people? Pay it forward, and all that.”

Ah, yes, there is the matter of some Q&A first. The way this particular Liebster goes is that I must post random facts about me, answer Nick’s questions, and then post blogs that I deem worthy:

First, the facts about me.

  1. I play piano really well, but I can barely read music. I can pick out the notes, but not the tempo. I have to hear a song to know how it is meant to be played, and I’m secretly jealous of those virtuosos who can take a piece of sheet music and start playing it with ease.
  2. My wife is one of those virtuosos, and she plays the violin.
  3. Before joining the military and going to Air Force basic training a “few” years ago, I had mostly gone no further than about 3 hours drive time from my home in Chicago, Illinois.
  4. I once was almost two hours late to a date with my then-girlfriend-now-wife because of a video game.
  5. My wife once held my video games for ransom.
  6. When we knew we were having a son, I immediately thought about the name Jonathan, because my parents had named me after David in the Bible. I thought the name might symbolize a desire for a close-knit relationship with my son like David and Jonathan had in Scripture.
  7. I am ridiculously picky. I hate trying new things. I’m probably the kid who said, “I’ve never tasted that, but I know I hate it, because I looked at it and it’s gross.”
  8. Though I am still a coffee fiend, I was once so addicted that I would fall asleep if I did not make a pot of coffee after work.
  9. My gravatar picture was taken at a hotel balcony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when I was arranging surgery while stationed on Okinawa.
  10. Other than Illinois and Indiana, I’ve never been in any states east of the Mississippi River. On the other hand, I’m 99% sure I’ve driven through or lived in every state west of the Mississippi.
  11. I used to memorize Garfield jokes and tell them every day to my 5th grade teacher.

Nick’s questions for me are:

  1. What is your favorite candy/sweet treat?  Jelly Bellies win, hands down. Juicy Pear is the best.
  2. Where is the farthest from home you have ever traveled? I believe my trip to the Middle East with the military was about as far from home as I could get on planet Earth. Okinawa is still a good distance away from Chicago as well. 
  3. Name one book that you have read at least twice. The Lord of the Rings. 
  4. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner – which is your favorite meal?  I like all of them. I can eat dinner for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner, and pretty much mix and match. In fact, I have fond memories of Midnight Chow at the dining facility when I was single, because they had breakfast, lunch, AND dinner available. I could get a little of everything.
  5. What modern “convenience” would you gladly do without? I resisted getting a cell phone until a year ago. I hated the prospect of being available for work at any time, and I feared becoming like everyone else checking their phones all day. I admit, I am glad I gave in. That doesn’t really answer the question, so… we do without TV. We get what we want through Hulu, Netflix, and iTunes.
  6. Which is your favorite holiday? Christmas. I love a good meal, and the joy of the kids with their presents.
  7. How long has it been since you climbed a tree? Many many moons.
  8. Have you ever had an unusual or exotic pet? Our rabbit is unusual for us, but I’m not sure that really qualifies. I’ve also had a variety of sea creatures, but nothing you can’t get in the average pet store.
  9. What sports or games do you participate in? I was a Spin/indoor cycling instructor for a few years and still love that. I don’t do formal sports but I enjoy cardio exercise a lot. Shameless plug for my fitness blog here. I also love playing tabletop RPGs.
  10. What movie have you seen more than five times? Serenity because it’s amazing.
  11. What place in the world would you most like to visit? My wife really wants to go to Ireland at some point, and I’ve flown through there twice. It looks amazing, and I’d love to spend some time with her enjoying it as a vacation.

The award works by paying it forward, so I’ve made a list of 11 blogs I deemed worthy of greater attention.

If you do accept:

  • post the award on your blog
  • credit me and/or others for nominating you
  • write 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer my 11 questions
  • Post links to 11 nominees you choose, blogs with 200 followers or less*
  • Ask them 11 questions (and probably provide some of this information)

*if you have more than 200, my apologies. I may have misunderstood what was visible on your site. But you’re still worthy of awards!

My nominees, with a brief description of why:

  1. Stuff BQ Knows  – politics, history, and a generally unique point of view from a co-worker of mine.
  2. Things to Adore – A mom’s experience maturing and raising her lovely young children
  3. Jemtree – a military mom and home educator, sharing her experiences and life lessons
  4. The Encouraging Scribe – because who doesn’t need some encouragement and fiction now and then?
  5. A Writer Inspired – I’ve found this blog to be joyful and passionate about the craft of writing.
  6. Livin’ Out Loud 4 Jesus – A friend of mine from WordSowers, currently blogging about the joys of moving.
  7. Angela D. Meyer – Another published WordSowers friend who is about to publish a novel
  8. Irreverenture – probably BQ’s polar opposite, a blog with some politics, culture, and the start of a new post-apocalyptic tale
  9. Growing in a Shrinking Culture – Great insights on motherhood and spirituality
  10. Joe Seeber –  Warm and moving material that makes me want to live as the best “me” I can be
  11. Faith Laces – awesome fitness blog that challenges me to do better with my own exercise routine

If you nominees are willing to play along, then here are the questions I have for you:
(Full disclosure, they’re exactly the same on both of my Liebster posts, so you only need to answer once.)

  1. What’s your favorite meal?
  2. Have you ever broken a bone, and if so, how?
  3. What is the most interesting place (preferably a foreign country) you’ve visited?
  4. Who do you look up to as a writer?
  5. What other hobbies are you passionate about?
  6. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  7. Traveling by yourself – no rush –  do you take a road trip or air flight, and why?
  8. What’s the last good book you read?
  9. Do you play a musical instrument or sing?
  10. What “clique” did you fit into in high school? (i.e. jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, gearheads, rockers, school band)
  11. What’s your favorite motivational quote or thought?

Thanks so much for playing along!