This is a series by Athena Dean Holtz on Multi-Level Marketing  (MLM) in the Church. Click here to read part one in the series.

It’s Not What You Have, It’s What Has You – Part One

The envelope with its blue and gold lettering was in my hand. With my heart pounding in anticipation, I waved it around the room.

“How much do you think it is this month?” I asked the kids.

They gazed up into the air as if sighting an object far out of reach. “Hmmm…I’ll bet it’s $18,000!”

As I pulled it slowly out of the envelope, I saw the numbers spill across the check. My payment for the month was $21,000. Not for a year, but for a month!

Chuck playfully snatched the check out of my hand, “Gimme that! I’ll make a copy and keep it with the others. Hey, this really proves the dream is real!”

Now, I thought as I looked around me contentedly, we have enough to live the good life and share with others. We are finally cashing in on all our hard work!

Our entire family of six was going on a week-long cruise to the Caribbean. Choosing a glitzy resort wardrobe made me feel like a movie star. We were now able to buy the kids the clothes they wanted, and extras like snowboards and skateboards for our teenage sons. Almost completely out of debt, we had just moved into a 3,500-square-foot house with a 180-degree view of Puget Sound. For the first time in many years we had all new furniture in a brand-new house. A shiny mahogany dining room table, beveled glass in the matching china cabinet, a plush oriental rug and elegant maroon and green striped sofas gave the upstairs an exquisite feel. Floor to ceiling windows framed spectacular sunsets, snowy sharp mountain peaks and the ever-changing gray to blue waters of the inland sea. The downstairs rec room where the kids could have their friends over to “hang out” was dominated by a luxury pool table with comfortable couches. It all felt so good.

But, I was consumed! Eaten alive and I didn’t even know it. Just that morning I had read in Mark 8,

“What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

My eyes may have registered the words on the page, but they had not made it to my heart. For months my religious routine had been on automatic pilot—a quick prayer and a few minutes glancing at a Psalm. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard God’s voice, leading me to a deeper walk with Him.


This first part of chapter one of Consumed by Success: Reaching the Top and Finding God Wasn’t There was written over twenty years ago, and illustrates where I found myself after being lured back into MLM while I was in full time ministry. My first experience with MLM started in the early 1980’s with a company named A.L. Williams where I became one of the few female Senior Vice Presidents. It was in the middle of this quest for meaning and success in MLM that I found the Lord and ultimately was convicted and walked away from network marketing, only to be drawn in again years later as a believer. The enemy knows where we are vulnerable and knew well how to draw me in and lead me astray. 

Click here to read the next post in the series.


  • Hi Athena,

    Congratulations to your new found marriage to life partner Pastor Holtz.

    I was also deeply involved in MLM for 10 plus years of my life before I came across and bought all your books on the negative effects on my Christian life with the MLM business.

    I wasted many years of my life away from my family having been involved in MLM and missed seeing my kids growing up. My relationships with my wife was affected too because of MLM.

    My involvement with MLM business affected all areas of my spiritual (MLM became my god), family (always away from home 24/7 building the business instead of enjoying the freedom of time as they proclaimed), physical (believing in taking supplements without exercise) and social life (all my relatives and Christian and non Christian friends avoided me).

    I build very huge groups like you but see them disintegrated when the company changed plans and being pirated by new companies which promised better products and compensation plans. From making a hundred over thousand dollars a year till pennies later make the MLM business model really a non sustainable illusive business model.

    Today I am just a consumer supporting some of my Christian friends who are still involved deeply in different MLM network.

    I have given good comments on your books in Amazon and have written to you requesting that you write some more books of this nature. I am glad that you have started this blog instead. By God’s grace, I have benefitted much from reading your books and will definitely share your blogs with many of my friends who are still wasting their time in the dream world of MLM not knowing they are affecting their spiritual lives.

    Thanks Athena please keep this holy and good work.

    • Thank you so much, Norman. I remember you and your encouraging words over the years, and they did influence me to take the time to post the blog posts to keep the information out there. He is worth all the extra effort to warn the body of Christ in this way. Bless you, my friend!

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