A few weeks ago, I wrote this article for the British youth ministry magazine Youthwork. Lots of people said lots of nice things about it, and then I felt warm and fuzzy, and then immediately guilty (which will make sense if you read the piece). The précis, if you can’t be bothered:
– As a result lots of us (in youth ministry and in leadership generally) tend to build little platforms for ourselves, consciously or otherwise
– If we’re building a little platform, it’s hard to build up /submit to others, and arguably it’s harder to build the Kingdom (two masters and all that)
– If we became aware of the issue, and took conscious steps to dismantle our little platforms and practice submission to one another, then wonderful glorious things might start to happen in and through and around us.
Now, an article is all well and good; liking and sharing that article is great (especially for my platform *wink*) – but I want to challenge myself, and anyone else who’s with me on this, to take things a bit further.
I’m going to take some active steps to dismantle my little platform. That is to say – I’m going to look for ways in which I consciously or subconsciously self-promote, as opposed to genuinely promoting the Kingdom.
I’m not deleting this blog (yet, although to be honest, it’s like a ghost town around here), but I have made some changes. To my shame, this site has long included links to me speaking and presenting, with ‘subjects I can speak on’ messages and an offer to appear at your event. Seriously, I’m cringing even writing that. Anyway, that’s all gone, as has the page full of links to the articles and publications I’ve written for, and some other hideously self-congratulatory nonsense. None of it was building the Kingdom; all of it was very gently promoting me. Hitting the delete button was gloriously liberating.
The other thing I’ve decided is not to talk about some of the media stuff I’m doing. Not because I’m appearing on Adult TV or anything; but because actually, I don’t need to promote it for it to find the audience that I hope for – faith-seeking non-Christians who almost certainly never find their way to my blog, facebook profile or twitter feed.
Again, I’m not setting myself up as any kind of hero – just as a worst-of-sinners who is trying to practice a bit of repentance. There’s loads of things I’m not dismantling – I’ve kept my book and film pages up because they have to exist somewhere, and this seems to be the right place for them.
So if this stuff is resonating with you, why not join me today in a bit of platform dismantling. You might consider:
– How (and why) you use social media
– Any personal blog / website, and whether it subtly (or not so subtly promotes you)
– The ways that your work excludes (or fails to intentionally include) others
– Any aims or objectives you’ve set for yourself which might not have wholly holy motives
…And if you have a copy of this book, throw it out. THROW IT OUT NOW.
And let’s not even leave it there. Because there’s a positive flip-side to all this stuff. When we dismantle our own platforms, we’re freed up to practice the ancient Christian discipline of submission: putting others first. Jesus tells his disciples that if anyone would be first, they must become the very last, and the servant to all (Mark 9: 35). When we practice submission, we get ourselves free from the chains of what our culture calls success. So today I’m going to ask myself – how can I prefer others? How can I become ‘the very last’? Some things to consider:
– How often do I share/retweet other people’s projects and ideas on social media?
– How am I empowering, giving opportunities to, and encouraging others?
– What am I doing today to help other people to achieve their goals?
Friends: it is vital that we get this issue right. If the Christian life is really about recognition and self-promotion, then we’re truly wasting our time. An evangelist friend recently described his mission statement as ‘Preach the gospel, die relatively unknown.’ Whatever your practical application of the first half of that sentence, the second is the kind of gloriously counter-cultural subversion that we can all get on board with.
It’s not about us. But just watch how he’ll use us if we really make it about Him.