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.

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Running Toward Need

Today is ‘N’ in the A to Z blogging challenge.

I thought for a while about new songs, but it didn’t feel like the right topic. My concern isn’t just for those of us who are on worship teams or who have a passion for worship music. My point from the beginning of this is that worship is not merely the musical part of the Sunday service, but the way we live out our faith in the day-to-day mundane details of the world around us.

I was going to write something special about the Boston Marathon event, because in my mind the response of the many to the injured and suffering was a beautiful example of how God calls us to live as worshipers.

After the explosions, it has been oft remarked, you see people running not from but TO the need. They’re not concerned for their own safety, they’re running to help others. It’s been reported that many runners finished the race and continued on to the nearby hospital to give blood for those wounded. We saw first responders and average citizens rushing into the smoke to help strangers.

And I thought about what I write, about this focus on God’s presence and how precious that is to many of us. We seek to draw nearer to Him, to find Him in the midst of chaos in our lives, to get close in spite of knowing how it will change our lives.

But what do we know of this God we pursue?

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalms 34:18 NASB)

Brokenness and humility attract God’s attention.

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:14,18 NIV)

Consider who God declared righteous: not the religious man who praised his own holiness, but the sinner who beat his chest and cried for mercy… not the religious leaders who sought flaws in Jesus’ teachings, but the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears.

Consider on whom God has fixed His attention, to whose treatment He has tied His judgment. He declares to the people of Israel and to the church that we must look to the fatherless, the destitute, the weak and needy.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17 NIV)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

If we are worshipers, we must not only be attracted to the presence of God. We must be driven toward need. What concerns God must concern us. What He loves must become what we love, and where His gaze goes, so ours should follow.

I’m proud to know brothers and sisters in Christ who pour out their lives to provide for the practical needs of the destitute in other nations. I’ve met people who serve in China, India, the Philippines, Cambodia, various countries in Africa, and so on. I’ve heard men and women speak about discovering the slave trade in the communities where they serve, and how they have been used to pull thousands of young women and small children away from that life. I’ve seen medical care offered free of charge, food provided with no strings attached, homes built or repaired as an expression of love and concern.

There are worshipers who not only see God but also see where His eyes are fixed, and they charge in, often at great personal expense, sometimes at great personal risk, in order to extend a hand to the broken, the needy, the orphan, the widow, the wounded.

The selfless runners and responders in Boston display humanity’s best intentions, and rightly move our hearts.

How much more should those who chase God also be reaching into the chaotic world around us? God calls His people to exemplify Him, to represent Him. And He is close to those in need.

May He find us running to their aid.

O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, So that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror. (Psalms 10:17, 18 NASB)