When I recently I hit 20,000 Twitter followers @BestBibleTweets, I started having eerie flashbacks of a conversation last year with a pastor friend named Steve. He had spent a considerable amount of time trying to build a social media “platform” to promote a book he had written. Some marketing guru apparently had told him that if he could gain 20,000 followers on Twitter, it would be a breeze to sell his book.
It took several years, but finally Steve achieved his Twitter goal and was ready to launch the book. He was so excited. Steve was convinced his book would sweep the country, if not the world.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well. He had invested most of his life savings to design and print 10,000 books, figuring he could easily recoup his investment when the books sold.
But within four or five months of launching the book, reality was beginning to set in. Instead of selling thousands of books, he had sold only hundreds. And he found himself giving away many copies of the book for free to friends and relatives.
Steve was bewildered. He thought he had built a pretty impressive platform. But somehow the response from his Twitter followers and Facebook friends was lukewarm, at best.
Meanwhile, Steve had withdrawn from most of his pastoral responsibilities so he could go on the road and promote the book. He spoke at some churches, did some book signings, and even was interviewed on a few local radio programs. But despite these noble efforts, he still had over 9,000 books stored in his garage.
If you are looking for an easy moral to this story, I’m not sure I have one.
I’ve seen lots of disillusionment over the years from those who sought a higher platform. Some of these people seemed very well-intentioned, with a sincere passion to impact the world with their message. But in other cases, the message seemed to get buried amid narcissism and self-promotion.
I’m not against platforms. I’m glad to have an ever-growing tribe of followers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I want to get my messages to an ever-wider audience.
But I’m still wary of all of the social media hoopla. The Bible is clear that true promotion must come from the Lord, and nowhere else (Psalm 75:6-7). If you are trusting in something else or someone else to give you a platform, you’re likely to be greatly disappointed.
The more I walk with the Lord, the more it seems like the safest “platform” is the one closest to the ground—where we humble ourselves before others to serve them and wash their feet (John 13). And doesn’t this kind of face-to-face, hands-on, behind-the-scenes ministry bear greater fruit in the long run than any lofty type of platform?
When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, will He really ask us how big our platform was? Or will He simply want to know whether we faithfully loved and served people with whatever platform we were given?
Despite the clear words of Jesus, it seems we’re still prone to seek the place of honor at the banqueting table instead of the place of service (Luke 14:7-11). Meanwhile, Jesus’ model of leadership was to build a platform to lift others higher, not ourselves.