“Let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4).
This is my confession. I’ve dabbled and stumbled into the sin of self-importance, ego, vain glory, and tooting my own rusty horn. I’ve wished for a platform—not a soapbox on my corner of the web. Who doesn’t want to be noticed? Who doesn’t want their peers to think you’re a go-to kinda person, a savant who’s able to smash words and ideas together—tastefully—like a veteran Marble Slab manager?
So, who? Well, off the top of my head: John the Baptist. He’s such a rascal isn’t he? He really gets under the skin, irritating what our flesh wants. We must decrease. Christ must increase.
Babel Versus The Baptist
Babel and the Baptist are at odds. Let’s make a name for ourselves. Let’s not. Let’s increase our following. Let’s decrease, dwindle to peanuts, and baton everything toward Christ. How can we increase our social media buzz? How can people see more of Christ by what I do?
There’s a fuzzy tension here. It’s possible to want to help others think biblically, to look to Christ, to learn God’s word, and also “market” or strategize or share online. Martin Luther and George Whitefield utilized the technology of their day to spread the gospel and God blessed their ingenuity. It is possible.
Maybe the only way to navigate this area is to proceed with caution. Warning: Live Minefield. Go slow. Be mindful. Consider every step. Listen to counsel.
The challenging part here, at least for me, is the writing and publishing industry makes this super-duper tough.
The Platform at Babel
As a young and unknown writer, I’m presented with challenges in publishing. My first book was published a couple of years back with Kregel. As time passed, and my agent sent out new book proposals, we kept hearing the same thing. “We love Jeff’s writing. He’s a great communicator. Clearly, Jeff has a bright future in writing. However, we have to pass on this proposal since his platform isn’t where it needs to be.”
I’d rather learn, “Hey, you aren’t a good writer. Work on that, mkay?” Amiright? Growing as a writer, I can work on that. But increasing my platform without losing my soul—when God hasn’t given it—is a mistake. Forced popularity is the lamest of all.
After hearing this statement from some of the most respected publishers in Christianity, I grew discouraged, jaded, bitter. My pride was shattered. And for that, I praise God. Hitching my joy to a collection of glued papers with my name on the front is a destination of disappointment. Especially when the horses don’t show up for work.
In the midst of the discouraging rejections—encouraging rejections do exist in this universe—I felt my flesh scheming. My heart hatched plans to artificially build a platform, increase my influence, and widen my readership. The blueprints for the tower were coming together. And then, conviction came right on time. Freedom rang too. God exposed the slimy residue of my heart. It wasn’t fun. It was quite embarrassing to admit—to tell my wife, my elders, and my agent—and now you. A blessed embarrassment.
I believed the lie I could make a name for myself for the sake of Christ. Baloney. That’s not how the Kingdom works. Sure, it might be how some Christian publishers work, but it’s not the way of Christ. During his earthly ministry, Jesus constantly sought the background, never parading his importance. The meek may not get a book deal, but they will get the earth. God has raised up some of his servants, bestowing influence, leadership, and a wide megaphone for the gospel. God did it.
I’m so happy for my friends who publish helpful, gospel-rich, joy-igniting books. Godly people publishing wonderful books. The book world isn’t all gloom and doom. New authors are rising and established authors still churning out solid work. Publishing is a business and a ministry. I understand publishers can’t go out and lose money. Consumers want what they want too. I’m not saying who all is to blame, except for the brick layers, for the widespread Babel’ing of our day.
I’ve found freedom in rejection. The silence revealed the chains. I hadn’t heard the clanging while I’ve been typing. Now, even as I write this article, there’s a swiftness in my heart and soul and mind.
Don’t read this as a jealous, petty, embittered, wannabe or wish-I-was-something writer. This is a tale of deliverance. And with every deliverance narrative, there are shrieks and goosebumps. It ain’t all pretty.
I’m content where God has me. My identity is in the crucified and risen Christ. I’m crucified with him. Crucified to this world. Crucified to a book contract. Raised to be a coheir of the cosmos.
I’m not a great writer. Okay. Writing the occasional article for other sites, writing on my own blog, if it encourages others, praise God. This is good. Clearly, I shouldn’t haven’t published another book yet. God is sovereign. All’s good. If I never sign another contract, never see my name on another cover, and never find myself on a platform—sounds good. The Lord knows. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Eph. 2:10 CSB). God has my good works scheduled. Whatever they are, and whatever they aren’t, I’m ready to walk in them. Are you?