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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In All Things Charity

I am amazed when I consider how some Christians handle conflict.

Some people seem content to throw the figurative grenade into the room, then pick up the pieces and see what’s left. No really, that’s pretty much a quote I was given as one person’s method of conflict resolution.

There are those who feel compelled to fire their Scripture-shotgun into the face of any opposition, no matter how tame. “I know what God says on this matter. I asked Him.” Or perhaps “I have a degree in Christian Ministry, so I don’t need your input on Christianity, kthxbai.”

Not exact quotes but close enough.

I attend a church whose stated vision is to “Saturate our city and our world with the heart of God.” My wife and I have been playing for the music ministry for about a year and a half now. When they announced a new members class, we realized “Oh hey, we should probably become members if we’re going to be up front leading worship.”

During the class, we covered the 16 tenets of faith held by the Assemblies of God (the denomination or association that this church belongs to). The pastor teaching the class made it clear that there’s a bit of room for disagreement, room for skepticism and other opinions. In making his point, he quoted an old phrase:

In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

There are certainly some core beliefs that we as Christians have to agree upon. “I’m a Christian, but the Bible is rubbish.” Well, good luck with that. “I’m a Christian, but I’m not sure about this Jesus is the Son of God business… he was a nice teacher but he didn’t rise from the dead or anything…” Yeah, good job, welcome to heresy, your religion is pointless according to a relatively unknown Christian named Paul who wrote half the New Testament. We have to have unity in some essentials or else there’s no point in us gathering together.

Non-essentials, to me, are those things that aren’t going to seriously change my behavior. All the debate about speaking in tongues, or what sort of music is “right” for church, or whether there’s going to be a Rapture or will it be Post-Trib or Pre-Trib or so on… does any of that change how I pursue God in my personal life? Not that much. Even “Once saved Always saved” versus “We can lose salvation” is a silly debate to me, because our focus should never be looking backwards to see how close we can get to walking away from Christ without actually losing salvation. Our focus should be on following after Him. Looking backward to whether there’s a line, or at what point we cross that line–that’s a mistake. So in those non-essentials, when I disagree with a fellow believer, I get over it and do my best to get along with them in spite of our differences. There’s some liberty, some room for differing views.

Because in all things, we are called to practice charity. You are more important to me than your particular theological persuasion. When we discuss theology, my goal is not to crush your misguided view and show you how much more correct I am. My goal is to see another perspective on God, and refine my understanding to better match Truth. And I hope you get the same result out of the dialogue.

I don’t have a degree in Christian ministry. But I do have some guidance from that little known leader in the early church:

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition… (2 Tim 2:24-25 NASB)

Scripture shotguns and Gospel grenades just don’t make a lot of sense to me. “In all things, charity.”

Not casualties.