Is Building Your Social Platform in Conflict with Building Christ’s Kingdom?

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

This is a guest post from Stephanie S. Smith. Stephanie is a twentysomething writer, editor, blogger and independent book publicist. She runs her business, (In)dialogue Communications and is a blogger  at www.stephindialogue.com where she blogs about embodied faith, creative life, and millennial culture. Give her a follow on Twitter @stephindialogue. 

In high school I had a journal with a verse quoting John the Baptist emblazoned across the front, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” During my teen years, this was my creed: serving on the sidelines, pointing to Christ.

But this was before the advent of social media. Before I became a book publicist and promotion became my profession. Before I got wired to my laptop and began internally cheering at every blog hit, Facebook “like,” and new Twitter follower. It seems everyone is clambering in some way or another for influence, and I, like many writers and bloggers, began to develop a love/hate relationship with social media. To me it seemed like the two causes are held in tension:
How do we reconcile building our own platform and building Christ’s Kingdom? Are the two mutually exclusive or can they work in harmony?

As much as people might like to champion social media or blame it as the scapegoat for our culture’s vices, I’ve learned that social media is what you choose to make it. Like all things on God’s green earth, we can either use it as an instrument to further God’s Kingdom, or we can fashion it into an idol for our own self-worship. And the deciding factor is often a posture of the heart.
Back to John the Baptist, his life is a primary example of this. In John 1, the religious leaders insist on finding out who exactly this prophet is, and John replies by defining himself as the voice merely introducing another: “John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23). Like many authors, pastors, and bloggers today, John the Baptist was building a “platform” of sorts; Scripture tells us that when he preached, whole cities went to listen (Mark 1:5)! But John’s purpose was not to draw attention to Himself. He was preparing the way for a greater Word, a Word from heaven. John knew that he had a voice of influence, and he used it to usher people into the presence of the Savior.

The same choice is ours today in the digital realm: we can either use our voices of influence for our own self-promotion, or for a sacramental purpose: as an avenue of grace extending beyond ourselves. I know that I have been guilty in the past of using my voice simply because I had been handed a loudspeaker, but my online interactions were not ministering to anyone, they were simply adding to the noise (to borrow from a Switchfoot lyric).

I’ve learned that when it comes to social media and ministry, the medium is NOT the message. If we’re ever blogging just to fill the empty space, or speaking into cyberspace just to tally up our influence, we have forgotten the life-saving message of redemption. But there is a third way. Let’s use our voice to usher others into love, to speak truth and meaning, and to prepare the way for a greater Word.

Stephanie S. Smith is a twentysomething writer, editor, blogger and independent book publicist addicted to print and pixels. After graduating from Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Communications and Women’s Ministry, she now runs her business, (In)dialogue Communications, from her home in Upstate New York where she lives with her husband. She blogs at www.stephindialogue.com about embodied faith, creative life, and millennial culture, and you can follow her on Twitter @stephindialogue.

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • http://davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    Excellent topic, Stephanie. I actually have a post in the works on par with this. We all want to be great. Is wanting to be great and wanting to make God great with our lives in competition? I agree with you, it’s what we make it. We can use social media to exclusively promote ourselves or to promote something greater than ourselves.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      I’ll look forward to your post! I think this is an issue many people struggle with on some level…how do we use our God-given gifts, influence, voice to the best of our abilities for Him and not just for ourselves? It’s an age-old dilemma. But we can make a way. 

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      I think what is interesting about that is people can see through your actions. Maybe not immediately but it is always revealed down the road. 

  • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

    I don’t know why we gravitate towards this idea that our social media lives have no reflection on who we are. The world is plugged in and watching. If we are to be salt and light, if we are to live with authentic faith in a superficial world, then we have to take advantage of every opportunity that we have. If I can simply something I read in quiet time on Twitter and that’s all it takes for 1 person, just 1, to ask a question and start a conversation about how Christ can change their life forever, then sign me up!

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      There does often seem to be a disconnect between our online lives and our “real” lives. But the way we conduct ourselves in both can be a powerful witness for–or against–Christ. The passage you’re quoting from Matthew also includes Jesus saying, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” I’ve learned that hiding your own voice and giftedness is false humility and a missed opportunity. Maybe we’re supposed to be “on a hill” and shine our lights online…pointing to the Source of our life. 

      • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

        You make an excellent point. No voice at all is just as bad as anything.

  • http://twitter.com/itsryangordon Ryan Gordon

    Thanks for this post, Stephanie. And thanks to Kyle for the introduction.

    This topic is something I’ve been wrestling with recently. I thought there was a battle to find balance between, as David described it so well, “wanting to be great and wanting to make God great.” Somehow in trying to wrap my head around this, I never considered John the Baptist and the role he played in being a voice for Christ — simply brilliant.

    Thanks again for such a relevant post!

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      Stephanie killed it with this post. very good stuff. 

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony Alicea

    Me or the message?

    That’s what I constantly ask myself. Am I promoting myself or the message that God has given me. If I can answer that rightly, I can navigate these freedoms with joy and passion. I know it’s bigger than me. I know that if no one ever knows my name, I can be happy if just ONE person is encouraged, edified or set free to be who God has called them to be.

    I never want it to be about me. I never want His glory. 

    Great piece, Stephanie.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Love your perspective! “I know it’s bigger than me”–and it is. 

    • http://www.betachristian.net Moe

      But the message comes through you. I would not pay a cent of attention to you if all you throw out there is “bible verses” or preaching words and don’t take the time to “know me”. The only way I’ll listen to you (and I have and do) is by building a relationship with you. Now I listen. I listen to you blog, tweet, and honestly… if necessary… fart. (Ok, maybe that last one is an extreme, but you get my point).

  • http://jxcreative.com John Yates

    Wow.  Really cool message.  This is a tough subject that a lot of people don’t want to touch. 

    For me it comes down to examining motivation behind actions.  Reading this is a really good reminder to examine my own motivations.  Thanks!

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Thanks John, yes it’s difficult to remember to continuously “check” ourselves and our motivations, but it can keep our hearts in the right place, and in the end, I think, help us be even more effective in reaching others for Christ.

  • http://jonathanpearson.net/ Jonathan Pearson

    “but my online interactions were not ministering to anyone, they were simply adding to the noise” Thinking about if this is me right now. Great thoughts here. I really think this is something we have to evaluate constantly. He or me? We need a plan to make sure it’s about Him. 

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      so what is the plan :)

  • http://agodthatmovesmountains.com/ Lexi MacKinnon

    Really great message! I often struggle  with the tension here. I go back and forth over wanting to have greater influence because of my own pride and wanting it to further the ministry that God has given me. 

    It’s so true… most things in life truly do come down to the posture of our hearts! 

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      and with the right attitude things truly start to change

  • http://fromrooftops.blogspot.com Angie Battle

    This post made my heart so happy, Stephanie!  I read some “Christian” blogs that make me cringe because they are self-absorbed, self-promoting, and/or condescending.  It’s a  joy to read a blog post that draws us closer to Jesus! I appreciate this reminder to keep our hearts calibrated to His glory alone.  

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      me too, I was glad to read this and the tone that it was presented in. Very refreshing

  • http://fromrooftops.blogspot.com Angie Battle

    This post made my heart so happy, Stephanie!  I read some “Christian” blogs that make me cringe because they are self-absorbed, self-promoting, and/or condescending.  It’s a  joy to read a blog post that draws us closer to Jesus! I appreciate this reminder to keep our hearts calibrated to His glory alone.  

  • http://redeemedstory.com Ernie

    Wow…these are some great thoughts. I completely agree that we should “use our voice to usher others into love, to speak truth and meaning, and to prepare the way for a greater Word;” however, I think as Christian bloggers we also need to ask – Is God inviting me to blog?  I believe that just because we have something to say doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re being ask to share it on a blog. 

    I’m living this right now. I started my blog in February, and I was set on ushering others into truth and freedom. Five months later it was heavy on my heart that I needed to step away from blogging so that God could do in me what He wanted to do. So I did. Yes, I could have blogged my way through it, but I knew my words would have held no power and I would have been wasting everyone’s time. I would be serving my will and not His.

    So my two cents is to, yes, let’s definitely use our voices for His Kingdom, but let’s also not lose sight of what God is and is not inviting us into.

    Thanks for the words, Stephanie.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Thanks Ernie! Your story encourages me that you were willing to yield to God’s direction for you. I have a different story, I resisted blogging for a loong time before finally beginning, and so far I’ve been blessed to bless others. But who knows what God wants to do with it in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://redeemedstory.com Ernie

    Wow…these are some great thoughts. I completely agree that we should “use our voice to usher others into love, to speak truth and meaning, and to prepare the way for a greater Word;” however, I think as Christian bloggers we also need to ask – Is God inviting me to blog?  I believe that just because we have something to say doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re being ask to share it on a blog. 

    I’m living this right now. I started my blog in February, and I was set on ushering others into truth and freedom. Five months later it was heavy on my heart that I needed to step away from blogging so that God could do in me what He wanted to do. So I did. Yes, I could have blogged my way through it, but I knew my words would have held no power and I would have been wasting everyone’s time. I would be serving my will and not His.

    So my two cents is to, yes, let’s definitely use our voices for His Kingdom, but let’s also not lose sight of what God is and is not inviting us into.

    Thanks for the words, Stephanie.

  • http://www.robstill.com Rob Still

    Great post Stephanie and kudos to having her Kyle. I think using the tools of social media well requires an aptitude and talent, both of which, like all things, are to be stewarded for the glory of God. Super insight.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Thanks Rob! You mentioned stewardship, which is a great way to talk about social media. It’s such an antiquated-sounding word lol, but so far I haven’t found a modern synonym and it says exactly what we’re talking about here :)

      • http://www.robstill.com Rob Still

        Yes and I used that word because I too, am somewhat antiquated :) Love the conversation you started.

  • http://www.betachristian.net Moe

    I think the key way of using social media for the kingdom is by using it in a way to build relationships. I always like to say that social media should not be used as a megaphone, but it should be used as a roundtable. Conversation, relationships, openness. If someone is always putting a bible verse or saying something to “evangelize” only they are not reaching people out there. First you have to establish relationships with your followers, friends, circles (whatever they keep calling these “pockets”). Establish conversation and they will be more receptive to the gospel message. I don’t really pay attention to someone who shouts on Twitter, FB, Googlt+. I pay attention to the few folks who have gone out of their way to build an online relationship with me. Whether that’s for promotion or the gospel message.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      I like that idea…not a megaphone, but a roundtable. That most reflects the social web as an exchange of ideas, listening and conversing together. 

  • Anonymous

    We actually had a sermon on John the Baptist and using our voices to point to Christ this past Sunday, and all I thought about was how my blog and social media platform are doing that and need to do it even more. I’ve been developing strategy to that effect all week. 

    So…timely, to say the least :) 

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Sarah, that’s awesome! 

  • http://bit.ly/hWr7Cw Rob T

    so true.  tough thing is, asking this question every day: am I doing this for me or Him.  thanks for posting.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      We should make post-it notes asking this question and stick it on our desks :)

  • http://twitter.com/Phil_Larson Phil_Larson

    This is a great post. I recently wrote one similar here: http://philwrit.es/to-whom-it-may-concern … What clears it up for me is that the Kingdom of God is outwardly focused. If what I’m doing is self-focused, it is about increasing my kingdom. If it’s other’s focused, it’s God’s.

    (…sorry didn’t know I was attaching a picture of myself… don’t know how to get rid of it… ;))

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      it adds some class :)

  • http://twitter.com/JasonChatrawDCJ Jason Chatraw

    Great post, Stephanie. I sometimes feel this tension as I sit down to write — will I write about something to get hits or will I do it because I feel led to say something that challenges people to consider what the Bible says? The answer to that question keeps me in check.

    I can honestly say I have no desire to be a famous blogger but instead someone who dialogues with others about how to walk out this journey of faith. And I’ve chosen to do that with my blog — it’s how I feel like I’m being a good steward of the gift God has given me.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      I really think we all kind of feel that way. 

  • http://twitter.com/devotionaldiva Renee Johnson

    This is FANTASTIC! Thanks for sharing Stephanie :)

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

      yes it was, very glad she shared

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Thanks Renee! :D 

  • Sincere reader

    Short, savory, and intensely correct. A stark reminder and good stern chiding for me. May I post more wisely in the future.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      As it is for many of us…we need constant reminder

  • http://stephenalynch.tumblr.com Stephen Lynch

    Musicians experience the same thing. There’s a quasi-celebrity status placed on people on stage (usually undeserved), and I initially hated the attention. Then I realized where I could direct that attention.

    A reminder of what we are designed to use our voices for – thanks for sharing Stephanie!

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      That’s a good point about leading worship, and I think you’re right, the same principles apply.