It All Came Crashing Down
In June of 1994 , I saw Chuck off at the airport for his flight to Virginia Beach where he was attending the Christian Broadcasting Network’s annual Victory over Vietnam Conference. I thought for sure God had something to say to him to restore his vision for the ministry He’d birthed in him for Vietnam veterans.
But true to form, God had a different agenda. His plan in sending Chuck to CBN was to get me alone for a whole weekend so He could put His finger on some areas of sin in my life! He needed my full attention so He could begin to convict me on my heart motives.
I was feeling an overwhelming urge to pray. Prayer was my last resort these days. But that weekend, as I quietly spent time in prayer, the Lord took me back to July of 1991. I felt compelled to dig out that journal entry. As I reread the marching orders the Lord has given me, I felt a wave of conviction wash over me.
For the first time in 3 years, I was confronted with the strong feeling that I had been in complete disobedience by getting back into MLM. It was as clear as the inks scrawls in my journal. God had told me what he wanted me to do and I had not obeyed. I had gone off in another direction, just because it sounded good! I had assumed that, because I saw an open door, I should go through it. But the Lord was making it undeniably clear that just because that door was open did not mean He wanted me to walk through it!
God’s Convicting Power
The new high-tech communication business that we had jumped into seem to have all the ingredients that the other company lacked. But the Lord was showing me that motives, not good management and great products, were the issue at heart. To get started in the new business, distributors would have to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. We encouraged people to use their credit cards—to go into debt—to get their business going.
That weekend befor the Lord I was feeling stressed and anxious as I thought of the struggle we were having to rebuild or organizations with a new product and company. The new business was not growing as fast as it needed to in order to cover all the overhead of the office space where we had kept our training center. For the first time in three years I was unsure enough of myself to stop and listen to God. Immediately, he directed me to a book in the bookcase called Men’s Manual: Financial Freedom by Bill Gothard. Thinking I’d find some suggestions for the problem of insufficient finances, I turned to the section of the book on financial freedom principles. The words I read pierced my heart.
Gothard listed God’s four purposes for money:
1) to provide basic needs
2) to confirm directions
3) to give to Christians
4) to illustrate God’s power1
Purpose number 2 jumped off the page at me.
Money, or the lack thereof, is God’s way of confirming His direction for our lives.2
If people used credit to get involved in our new business, they were bypassing God’s caution sign. If the money wasn’t available, that was His way of saying “No!” We were suggesting and even encouraging Christians to make it happen on their own without God’s blessing or confirmation.
My heart was heavy with conviction as I continued to look through Bille Gothard’s book. In the section on developing sales resistance, I found a definition that brought me godly sorrow.
Being content with food and clothing, using and caring for the positions that we have, and keeping our focus on the purpose for which God made us.3
Gothard defined alluring advertising as “Carefully planned appeals to our human weaknesses designed to make us discontent with what we have so that we can rationalize buying things that we know we do not need and should not have.”4
At that moment the most powerful conviction I have ever felt swept over me. The previous three years were like a weight on my back. I knew right then that I had been full of rebellion, disobedience, and sin. As I read on, the Lord showed me all the different ways I was promoting sinful behavior in the ways I did my business. Gothard’s list of subtle advertising tactics included the following:
Promoting an independent spirit
Depending on human reasoning
Appealing to the lust of the eyes
Offering fulfillment apart from God
Denying the product’s weakest point.5
That is exactly what we were doing in our business and in every sales business I’d ever been involved with! As the weight of what I had done began to press down on me, I felt so ashamed. The Lord did an instant replay of every advertisement I’d ever written for the radio ad campaigns. He reminded me of every script I’d ever written for the voicemail message people would hear when they called in for information. He took me back to the way I’d written the slideshow presentation and every other sales tool I had created. I saw those tactics in every promotional campaign I had ever done, even after I became a Christian. My conscience had been activated and I could no longer compromise or straddle the fence by being deceitful or dishonest.
But God wasn’t done with me yet. He began to show me how I had been using my God given ability to inspire and motivate people for the wrong ends. I was using my gift to encourage people to the wrong end: to make money and build a successful business, rather than inspiring them to a closer walk with Jesus.
This is a series by Athena Dean Holtz on Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) in the Church. Click here to start at the beginning.
1 Gothard, Bill. Men’s Manual, Volume 11 – Financial Freedom, (Oak Brook, IL: Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1983), pages 22-25.
2 Ibid., p. 23
3 Ibid., p. 105
4 Ibid., p. 105
5 Ibid., p. 106-109