Monday, November 21, 2016

What's Your Platform?

I believe in honesty.  I believe we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, should be open about our struggles, our fears, our doubts...about things that trouble us.  We're all in this life - this Faith - together, and we in the universal Church of Christ are our own support system.  So, I'm just going to share some thoughts and emotions that got shaken loose over the past couple days, in hopes that you all can take something I'm tossing out there and learn or grow from it.

Recently, in my weekly devotions I write for the worship ministry at my church, I encouraged all of us worship ministry people to look at the reality of our individual scopes of influence, and how small they truly are in the grand scheme of things.  It was all about how BIG God is...

But now I want to flip that around.  I want each of us to look at our social, professional, and faith circles, and do a quick evaluation of roughly how many people we have the ability to affect in some meaningful way.  It may be hard to guesstimate, but give it a try.  I'll go first to give you an example.
  • There are somewhere between 200 and 400 people (I think) who attend my church. (edit: my former church)
  •  I have 555 friends on Facebook. (edit: I quit Facebook)
  • I have 484 followers on my personal Twitter account. (edit: I deleted my personal Twitter account)
  • I have 1601 followers on my creator Twitter account.
Understanding that there is almost certainly a large amount of overlap between social media venues, and that we rarely make it toward that top guess on church attendance, I think it's safe to say I have the potential to influence, in one way or another, at least 2,000 people any given week.

Now, taking into account that Facebook filters most of our shared content based on different parameters, and that most Twitter followers are going to miss most of what I tweet, I think it's safe to say the actual number is somewhat lower than 1,000 people.  Let's say around 800.

Now, you do the same.  Go ahead, I'll wait...

Great!  Now that we all have a rough idea of our own individual scope of influence, allow me to get the heck to my point.

First of all, we need to look at whatever number each of us came up with as both a blessing and a curse.  It is truly a gift from the Lord that He has seen fit to grant each of us any influence at all, but when we look at the numbers, we should start to realize what a truly sobering thing it is that so many people can be affected by our words and actions.

You see, along with volition - FREE WILL - God has given each of us a stage, a platform to use as we see fit, and it can be used to disseminate either truth or lies.  We have the ability to build or to destroy.  Others can find both joy and sorrow in what we do and say.  And while it's true that actions speak louder than words, in a day and age when we receive our news, our gossip, and far too often, our devotional material in 140 characters or less, we must not downplay the power of words.

We've seen the power of words illustrated all too well (and horrifyingly so) in the recent election season, and right up this very moment.  Just Google "Trump," "Hillary," "Pence," "Obama," "Hamilton," or any of the other buzz words or names and read the headlines.  Those headlines, and possibly the snippets beneath the headlines, are all most people will read, and guess what?  Whether they are true or false, as terrifying as this may be, it is those headlines and snippets - together with some tweets and Facebook posts - that most Americans will use to form their continually-evolving worldviews.

Scary stuff.

And then we, as churchgoers, have the pulpit.  We have a half hour or so every week where we listen to someone we respect and trust tell us either how to think or what to think as they teach from the Bible (hopefully).  This can be done with declarative statements, which is the most obvious and recognizable way - easy to spot.  It can be done with questions, both open and leading, the latter of which are engineered to guide the listener to answer a particular way - a little bit more subtle.  It can be done with anecdotes, carefully-worded and passionately-spoken for maximum effect... I'm sure there are other ways, but I don't want to belabor the point.

The point is that, whether we have a pulpit and a Bible, or a microphone and a guitar, or even just a Twitter account with twenty followers, we have an obligation to speak truth.  We must:  teach the Word faithfully; never coerce with our words, whether they be statements, questions, or anecdotes; always encourage diligent study into matters which merit such dedication, like theology and ethics; and continually evaluate not only our intentions, but also our execution.  A good heart is a good start, but if we're not careful with our delivery, we just might find ourselves guilty of misleading others in the course of trying to win them over into our way of thinking.

I'll use myself as an anecdote here.

In my early years as a worship leader, I used to have a particularly extreme view concerning lyrical content in sung worship.  I was so convinced of my rightness on the subject that I felt the need to cram my pet belief into almost everything I said from behind the microphone, or in conversations about worship around the church, small groups, etc.

Now, whether or not I was right was not, the issue was that I was on a crusade to win as many as possible over to my viewpoint, and that crusade was so holy, so right in my mind, that I would constantly use leading question and emotionally-charged anecdotes, which tactics can easily go from means of persuasion to means of coercion, to attain my ends.  The right way would have been to encourage people to study the same Scriptures and materials I had, to carefully consider song lyrics and weigh them against their own hearts to see if any personal convictions arose within others, instead of trying to make my conviction theirs.

So, can I encourage each of us to take a look at our spheres of influence, to recognize what a weighty task we have in using that influence to the glory of God, and choose to adjust our tactics so that we are properly utilizing our platforms?  So that we are encouraging study and personal internal development rather than attempting to stamp out fresh clones of ourselves from our friends, co-workers, and church families?

As always, I know I've got three fingers pointing back at me (as well as one thumb kind of pointing diagonally at your feet).  Change starts within, and make no mistake, I'm rapping with the man in the mirror as well as with you, faithful reader.

Until next time,

Peace, love, and a third thing.

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