Presence Over Platform- Christian Writing As An Act of Stewardship

If, fifteen years ago, you had told me that I’d make a career in the writing sphere, I’d have laughed in your face. From grade school through high school, math was always my strongest subject. I was a marketing major in college. And yet, for almost a decade, I’ve been working as an editor or writer for various Christian organizations. My plans were not the Lord’s plans, and I’m grateful for it.

A few months ago, I led a breakout session for a small writing conference, which I’m turning into a series of articles for this website. As I considered what I might speak about in that session, one theme kept coming up: Christian writing as an act of stewardship. The dawn of the online presence (blogging, social media, and the like), created increasing pressure for aspiring writers and authors to build a platform for themselves.

Consequently, self-promotion and (at times) navel-gazing became an acceptable practice for those seeking to write—at least for those who want other people to read their writing! While this practice is a necessary evil, it still doesn’t sit well for those writers who claim a faith that decries self-centeredness.

That’s not to say that Christian writers should not promote their own writing—I certainly do it. But, we can do so in a way that either honors God or dishonors Him. This is why I believe that approaching writing as an act of stewardship is a vital perspective. I hope to demonstrate as much over this series.

The Impetus for this Series

In preparation for my breakout session, I read an article that changed the way I view all of my writing—from grants to blog articles to my children’s book. It’s where I got the language for the title of the breakout session, and now this series. Mary DeMuth, a Christian author and literary agent, wrote an article entitled “Why Author Platform is Broken and What to Do About It.” In it, she argues for a shift in perspective on Christian writing.

I alluded to this above, but for years, there has been pressure on aspiring writers to create a “brand” or build a platform for themselves. This occurs in both secular and Christian writing, particularly for those who desire to write books. It makes sense—aspiring authors with a large following are more likely (though not always) to sell more books. However, this is not just a thing in the publishing world—it also happens in digital content, as I saw when I was working as a digital content editor. I imagine influencer culture has only made this worse.

The problem is this: when we take content creation (including writing) and turn it into a way to gain notoriety, an income stream, or both, then we begin to view the audience as a means to an end. Whether we mean to or not, when we seek a platform for ourselves, we dehumanize our audience because, as Demuth says, “We are viewing audiences as a commodity rather than a blessing. We trip over the gods of commerce in order to be seen and recognized.” She goes on to bemoan this approach to writing, describing how, when we take this approach, form matters over substance and platform matters more than simple, daily ministry.

From Platform to Presence, From Mismanagement to Stewardship

This is where DeMuth advocates for a change in terminology, from “platform” to “presence.”

At its core, the pursuit of a platform is a self-centered approach to writing. I think of it like this: when you pursue platform, you write to an audience—to nameless, faceless people behind a screen who merely build up your analytics and, even better, bring in a bit of affiliate marketing income. At it’s worst, the pursuit of platform causes us to exploit our God-given knowledge, experiences, and circumstances, and use our audience for personal gain. We may not do this maliciously. We may not even be aware that we’re doing it. However, a self-centered approach to anything often results in mismanagement.

Conversely, pursuing presence in Christian writing results in stewarding what God has given us for the good of our audience. When you pursue presence, you write for an audience—to people you know and love, whom you desire to build up in Christ through your writing. And, coincidentally, these are the people who actually want to read your writing. Pursuing presence allows us to shift our focus away from ourselves onto our audience. It helps us steward through the written word what God has given us through our education, experiences, and circumstances.

This dual notion of presence and stewardship is the essence of Christian writing and what differentiates it from other writing.

So then, how do we pursue presence over platform?

Starting the shift from platform to presence leads us to the main idea of this series:

Christians should promote our word-centric faith by stewarding what God has shown us in His word through content that edifies and encourages the church.

Over the next few articles, I will seek to answer four questions related to Christian writing and how we might steward what God has given us by pursuing presence over platform:

  • What is Christian writing?
  • Why should Christians write?
  • What should Christians write?
  • How, then, should Christians write? (Practical Application)

I’m thankful for the many Christian writers who, along with my family, church, and other “real-life” friends, have helped me understand my Bible better, encouraged me in the faith, and spurred me on to good works. I believe Christian writing should persist, and hope to encourage you with a perspective on Christian writing that has convicted me for a while.

Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash