One of my greatest delights is watching people squirm as I tell them that I know the date on which I was conceived.  Mainly because its too much information hahahaha!

It was the day (night) they landed on the moon. True pioneers going where none had…you get the picture.  I don’t think that had any relevance to my spiritual makeup of being a pioneer, but the similarities are fun to ponder.

As I wrote in my last post, referring to innovative pioneer, there is something about my place in church formation being much earlier on than I have at first ever wanted to consider.  Pioneers, as I mentioned, are often seen to be the people who can go in, form church, grow church, leaving a thriving community. But, as Paul writes, ‘I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the growth.’ Different pioneers for different seasons. I’m very much a Paul and called to new places.

Then this morning I was considering the nature of my calling as I come to the end of my work here and look for where God is calling us next.

Helping people tell their story and pioneer platform building

Over the last couple of years I have learnt that the heart of what I do is ‘to help people tell their stories.’ It started with me being a storyteller through my art, then as I reflected on this and worked out what a business would look like with that at the heart of it I realised that, when I illustrate someone’s pictures, I am helping them to tell their stories.

And it’s true. When you see a picture book in a bookshop, or even an adult book, you look first at the picture.  For the kids’ book you will choose it not so much for the stories but is it fun to look at. The picture on the front of an adult book will tell you the type of story it is about, the style it is written in. Then you read the synopsis. The picture sells the book.  Which is why some people specialise in cover art and can be paid more than internal artists!

For me the art side is the surface of something which goes more deeply. I love the whole thing of promoting other people, of helping people up, of building them a platform. I can do it for myself, and I try out ideas and approaches to see what works. Crudely, you could call it marketing. But it is so much more than that. I will point people in the direction of others, train them, find them training. Build them a platform for now and the future. Give them somewhere to speak from.

The joys and sorrows in building the platform for others

I delight when I can help someone to succeed and get heard.

As I said, I was thinking more on that this morning about the ministry I have done over the years and the same feature is there.  In each role, I have gone in, from scratch, built a platform, and then others have been able to build on it. Sometimes they have been in the work itself. Of course, there were also times when I built the platform and the following person didn’t make the best use of it…

Platform building doesn’t get much kudos value. I guess because it’s not the voice afterwards that is heard. Sometimes I would like people to recognise what I have done to build a platform for others to speak from. The first time I experienced that was when I planted a youthwork in the church my dad was placed at for his curacy training. I was 17 at the time. I just brought together the young people, we met in different homes. And then the church decided that a young person couldn’t possibly lead and so took the leadership off me, literally. Just said no, we will do it, even though they had done nothing towards it in the first place.

Boy, I was annoyed!

However, I stuck with it and with them, and it continued, and 31 years later it is still there.  That’s not bad! And it was good that I didn’t stay in charge as had I been then when I left a year later, and the work would have left with me.

Landing on the moon needed a platform from which to lift off

So what does this have to do with the whole landing on the moon? Well, you’ll probably know the name of the person who first set foot on the moon.  And a whole load of other things about the moon landing.

But do you know the names of the people who built the launchpad?

Or the people who suggested the idea of going to the moon in the first place? Probably not the president of the United States, though he got the credit for it…

Platform builders are small people

Maybe because the platform builders are seen as the small people.  Thankfully many who stand on platforms thank the small people. The Oscars were last night… But the small people are often not remembered. Does it matter? Depends who you are I suppose.

Platform builders need those who stand on platforms because what use is the platform without it? But those who stand on platforms need someone to build it for them, they often cannot do it themselves. It takes vision, and it takes a willingness to work in the dark. It can be small.

(I should add in here that the platform builder for me has been, and continues to be, my mum and dad :D)

Despise not the day of small things.

Be willing to plant the seed which is invisible, and may go into the ground and die. I have seen that before.

But be faithful, because whatever small seed it is, whatever small part you have, if you do it to the glory of God and because he has called you to do it, then it will be the platform needed for someone else. The word of God does not return to Him without first accomplishing what it set out to do (Isaiah 55.11). And in the end, it becomes the platform from which to announce the good news.

So again…

The lesson for the church:

  • Do not despise the platform builders or the building of the platform as a specialised role. Enable them, encourage them. Pay them what they are worth.
  • If they plant a seed, do not expect them to also water it to make it grow. They may not be the waterers, and God gives the growth in any case.
  • If you are a platform builder, you will have to learn to not take the limelight, but instead enjoy seeing the rocket launch into space.