"So his fame spread even to distant places, for he was wondrously helped until he became strong."
-- 2 Chronicles 26:15b
In the age of millionaire YouTubers and Instagram "influencers," it seems like everybody's pursuing a platform of some kind. Some chase the spotlight unabashedly. Others have it cast upon them. But Andy Warhol's speculation that in the future every person will be famous for 15 minutes did not seem to account for the ubiquity of fame in the 21st century. "Fifteen minutes is for chumps. Click on my Patreon and keep me going for fifteen months!"
Is the pursuit of platform always bad? No. But it frequently is, as any good or neutral thing can be when pursued out of the wrong motives. And even if pursued innocently, public platform -- whether you're an author, musician, or speaker or just a guy or gal growing your social media audience -- comes with inherent dangers. Like money, platform can be spent wisely or poorly. Here are four temptations anyone seeking or using a public platform should be aware of:
1. Platform as heaven.
When I was an aspiring author I frequently thought of how great it was going to feel when I was finally published. I imagined the satisfaction it would give me, finally fulfilling my dream. I worked long and hard in my pursuit of a writing career, toiling away writing local magazine pieces for pennies (or for free), and tried for ten years to get a book published. And then I finally did! And it was great. It really was. But it didn't actually do for me what I thought it might do.
The truth is -- whether in writing or ministry or anything else -- when we put the weight of glory that only God can carry on anything other than him, the goods simply can't be delivered. Whatever kind of platform you may be praying about or actively pursuing, please remind yourself constantly that even if you reach it, it will not deliver on the promise of solving your problems, healing your wounds, or completing your joy. Only God can do that. Don't look at a public platform as "finally making it."
The struggle to become and belong has nothing to do with public recognition or validation and everything to do with being reconciled to God and enjoying union with his Son. And on that note:
2. Platform as validation.
The problem with looking to anything external, whether granted or achieved, for our justification is that it can so easily be revoked or eroded. Platforms aren't forever, so basing your sense of security or self-esteem in how successful you are is really just another form of legalism. You aren't worth more or less based on your views, sales, or "clout."
Neither does a rising trend in these areas mean you are doing something right. Any jerk or idiot can attract attention. To equate a growing audience with a virtuous platform is just one of the many ways the church today has imbibed the spirit of the age.
Your validation must come from God and his gospel. That way, when your platform is threatened by critics or simply the waning interest of your audience, your heart will be tuned to the validation that never wavers.
3. Platform as justification.
Some see platform as a validation of their self-worth. That's one way of looking at platform as justification. The other kind results in even more abuse -- the use of platform as an excuse for sin. It's the "too big to fail" mentality, where one is so drunk on the power of their platform, they insulate themselves from loving and prophetic voices who once held them accountable. This is the sin of every megachurch pastor who's used the bigness of the church as his apologetic for aggressiveness and short-tempered leadership. It's also the sin of every normative sized church pastor who's used his position as a means of lording over his flock or fellow leaders.
In the last few years we've seen the exposure of numerous public Christian leaders who were allowed to continue in unrepentance for longer than they should have been simply because the ministries they led were growing and "successful." Their underlings and audiences put up with a lot because the results seemed to be worth it. Some are still working in ministry, their indiscretions excused or covered up. But no amount of success or renown can absolve unrepentant sin.
Your platform is not more important than your integrity. Your public platform is no justification for your private transgressions.
4. Platform as currency.
This may be the most insidious for those who've already achieved some level of platform. It is the reason why back in my Christian bookstore days, the worst customers I encountered tended to be pastors. With platform can come a sense of entitlement. You get so accustomed to being listened to, to being followed or lauded, that it becomes your expectation. You "use it" in your daily life as if it has enriched you beyond the common folk.
When platform becomes your currency, you value the haves more than the have-nots. You listen only to those who have achieved some level of success. You look down on those who haven't. You begin to see people as either of value to your platform or not. Can they contribute to the construction of the monument you're building to yourself or can they not?
People who treat platform as currency treat people only on the basis of what they can provide, not on the basis of their needs. They are susceptible to jealousy or gossip or bitterness about successful people because they see them as threats to their own success. If your platform is growing, mine must be decreasing. "Platform as currency" is a zero sum game.
There are so many other spiritual dangers that face the one in the spotlight. These are just four. But I'm convinced they are some of the reasons why James says not many people should be teachers (James 3:1). He mentions being judged more strictly, and I don't think he necessarily means only by God. In any event, with greater responsibility comes stricter judgment. If the Lord is opening doors of public ministry or other means of wider audience to you, there is no sin in walking through them, but beware of what may be crouching just inside seeking your soul.