Have you ever happened to run across some clips from the Air Guitar World Championship? Trust me, if you have not yet had the opportunity, it is a great way to waste 15-minutes of your next free evening. These guys jump on stage, in front of a huge crowd, and shred for 2-minutes on invisible guitars. That’s right folks, these guys practice, train, and fly to a different city, to play invisible guitars in front of thousands of people.
Yet, while the Air Guitar phenomenon is intentionally silly, there is a far less “silly” reality that is present in the culture of some parts of evangelical masculinity-the pursuit of the coveted “platform.” Although this idea has received some indirect criticism by way of conversations regarding “celebrity” status and plagiarism, the idol of platform is not going away anytime soon. Why? Like all idols, the pursuit of “platform” is rooted in man’s quest for autonomy, glory, and sovereignty apart from God.
What is “platform?”
A platform, in contemporary discussion, consists of an audience in which you exercise some level of influence over. This influence may be rooted in your story, your success, your work, or your message. While no man is given a platform apart from the sovereign work of God, many men use the platform for foolish and sinful purposes that center on self-exaltation. Reckless ambition drives them to worship at the altar of self, and upon arriving, they find out that the altar would be a better fit for them to stand upon and receive the adoration, of which they believe themselves to be worthy.
We see this pursuit of “platform” creep into blogs, books, pulpits, conferences, cubicles, bank accounts, mansions, and Twitter accounts. This problem is not relegated to those who have “made it,” although surely it must be a struggle for some of them, but is contained in the heart of every man who allows the “it is finished” declaration to become a stepping stone instead of a refuge.
So, let us consider the privilege, purpose, and poison of platform.
The Privilege of Platform
No leader has ever gathered and addressed those who follow him, without the LORD being at work in drawing that crowd. The LORD gives a platform to leaders so that they may “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with [their] God.” (Mic. 6:8) When we believe there are certain hoops to jump through which will inevitably yield to the kind of platform we desire, then we miss entirely the purpose of having a position of leadership, which is to serve people by pointing them to He who is far above our loftiest post.
Like all things, leadership and platform are given. They are bestowed. They are gifts and privileges. You-no matter what you believe you have to say-would run silent, if not for the kindness of God.
Like all things, God gives platforms and he takes them away. Don’t believe me? What about Saul? He was the Lord’s anointed, but sowed separation from God in his sin and the LORD stripped him of his kingship and set David upon the throne. What about Nebuchadnezzar? Good Ol’ Neb was surveying his empire and standing on the roof of his royal palace looked out and exclaimed, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty” (Dan. 4:30).
Sadly, Nebuchadnezzar’s words would be a more accurate Twitter bio then most of the fluff we post about ourselves. God alone sets men upon a platform, God alone provides them with the words to say, and He does so for His own purposes. What is the purpose of platform?
The Purpose of Platform
Stephen, the first martyr, was a deacon who faithfully preached the gospel on top of his “table duties.” Stephen was a man “full of faith and of the holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) and he “was doing great wonders and signs among the people”(Acts 6:8) He was not one of the Apostles; he was one of the servants-a deacon. Yet, Stephen was thrust upon a platform. He did not pursue platform, but it was given to him for a purpose.
Stephen’s platform didn’t include a book deal. Stephen couldn’t monetize his platform. The people waiting at the bottom of Stephen’s platform were not hoping for an autograph. Their hands were carrying stones. His platform was covered in blood, but the purpose of his platform was saturated with glory.
What’s the purpose of platform? It’s simple.
The purpose of platform is to shout out the name and glory of God. The purpose of platform is to get to the highest point around you and to exclaim with the Psalmist, “My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Ps. 34:2-3)!
The Poison of Platform
She approached the tree. He stood in silence next to her. They listened to a talking snake. He lied, and they believed him. They “saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband…and he ate” (Gen. 3:6).
They were fooled. What they thought would bring them power and glory, stole life away. Yet, even in the foolishness of mankind giving up life for death, a King was coming and His victory was assured.
The ring falls, cut from Sauron’s hand. It weighs heavy in the hands of a man, and mighty though he is, he bends beneath its crushing weight. Soon, he is kneeling under the burden of the ring. After the ring leads him to destruction, it is secured by the treacherous touch of a Halfling. The ring is held in the hand of one who has become so hollow that the light burns him and his real name is forgotten, replaced with a guttural-Gollum.
They were fooled. What they thought would bring them power and glory, stole their personhood away. Yet, even in the foolishness of kneeling to a ring, a King was coming and His victory was assured.
He writes out a tweet. He thinks to himself, “this is going to get some retweets.” The tweet is true, but it is not said truthfully. His head is big, but his heart is hollow. He wants to be known, but is not wooed by being “adopted.” He wants the platform, but when he gets upon it, he wants to shout his own name. He wants the glory without the cross. He has forgotten the purpose of the platform he desires and he drinks this deception down like poison. The deception distorts who he is, blood-bought and resurrected.
He is foolish. What he thinks will bring him freedom and glory has stolen his personhood away. Yet, even in the midst of his pride, a faithful Father is pursuing him and will crush his efforts and be crushed for Him.
Are you drinking down the poison of the pursuit of platform? Or, has a platform been thrust upon you and you are now deciding what you will shout from your place of leadership? Whatever your position, remember that God “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” May that be the theme of our heart.
Lord, may we be men who whisper our own names, but shout loud the name of Jesus.
Kyle Worley is Connections Minister at the Village Church in Dallas, TX. He is the author of Pitfalls: Along the Path to Young and Reformed and blogs regularly at The Strife. He holds a double B.A. in Biblical Studies and Philosophy from Dallas Baptist University and an M.A. in Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is pursuing a M.A. in Religion at Redeemer Seminary. You can find Kyle on Twitter @kyleworley.
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