Ignoring the Warning Signs

To build my team with this new product, I began to run recruiting ads on a local Christian radio station. We had been interviewed many times on local stations as well as The 700 Club and other national shows. I figured that my credibility in ministry would help open the door to attract honest, hardworking Christians into my business. I had the best of intentions and even believed in my heart that the company I represented had a great product and a wonderful opportunity to offer. My advertisements would plant the idea that working in my business would afford Christians the opportunity to get out of debt, send their children to Christian school, or even fund ministry projects or missionaries, and I believed that it would!

“Hi, this is Athena Dean,” I’d say in my radio ads. “In all my years of business, I’ve looked for a way to build a business where I could help others achieve their dreams. After five years in full time ministry, I realized that most Christians need extra money every month just to get by. But there are other important goals to meet as well. How about getting out of debt or being able to give to ministries and other important missionary efforts? If that is your heart, not buying a “Street of Dreams” home or winning a pink Cadillac, then give us a call. I’m looking for honest, hardworking, like-minded people who want to make a difference with their lives. I’m building a team of people who will work together to achieve some common goals. If you’re interested in earning an extra $500 to $2,500 a month part time, give me a call! I’d love to talk with you!” I spoke encouragingly and convincingly to move listeners to respond.

Wonderful people replied to my ads, and many of them got started with me in my new business. They were people who really loved Jesus and wanted to make some extra money and still feel good about what they were doing. They came from all walks of life, men and women both, some with sales and MLM background, some with none. Three months later when the company went through the first of many crises, I was determined to keep my group going against all odds.

“Have you heard the latest?” It was a call from my upline director. “It seems the doctor ripped off the herbal formula from the manufacturer … he didn’t really discover it after all! It looks like half the company is leaving to start another company right away!” The phone lines were on fire and a large group of distributors began making serious accusations against the leaders of the company. After criticizing the management team, they went off to join companies with copycat products.

By this time I already had a lot to protect as my income was up to $2,500 per month. I deafened my ears to all the negatives, protected my group against all the “gossip,” and began to defend the founder and the company’s reputation. There were three months during the first year when we did not get paid, but I hung in there, never questioning the honesty and integrity of those running the company. Of course, since I was one of the top producers, I always seemed to get preferential treatment. During those three months without pay, I received my pay two of those months, so it was easy for me to hang in there and look past the negatives that were slapping everyone else in the face. In my mind, the crisis was just the enemy trying to destroy what God was doing. (WOW. Looking back on this now, all I can think of is the scripture that declares “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” I was blinded by greed which slowly hardened my heart, because that’s exactly what I was doing!)

When indications started to crop up that the founder was involved in New Age practices and was on his 4th marriage, I chose to look the other way. I didn’t want to believe that I could be wrong. I can even remember noticing that the doctor used Christianese when talking to me and my group but then used totally different vernacular when speaking to other groups who weren’t distinctly Christian. I didn’t want to see the red flags as I simply had too much to lose. That’s what they call “confirmation bias,” and, sadly, too many believers use that when trying to justify a decision that they’ve made and protect their position.

I thought what I believed would override what was coming from the top; that I could influence the company leadership and not be affected myself. Boy, was I ever wrong.

This is a series by Athena Dean Holtz on Multi-Level Marketing  (MLM) in the Church. Click here to start at the beginning.

Click here to read the next post in the series.

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