This is a series by Athena Dean Holtz on Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) in the Church. Click here to start at the beginning.
I was a Money-Changer in the Temple
I know I was not the only one in deception. There are countless numbers of sincere Christians who have succumbed to the same deception in the American church. In my business, we always taught our new recruits that the church was the best place to go get recruits.
One man I know created an entire informational meeting to present at churches. His strategy was to attract one or two sharp individuals who he could get excited about the business. Then they would sell and recruit the rest of the church body. Another woman I knew used to go from church to church, getting involved in women’s Bible studies and offering to lead praise and worship. In reality, she was just going to meet new people and find more prospects for her business.
I found out that advertising on Christian radio was the ultimate bonanza! This is not to say that Christians are naive, but they just seem to assume that people advertising on Christian radio must be genuinely born-again, or they wouldn’t be advertising on there. There are many companies run by Mormons actively advertising on Christian radio! Compared to advertising on secular stations, I found the Christian radio audience to be trusting to a fault, because they assumed their brothers and sisters had their best interests at heart. It was amazingly easy to sell and recruit networks of believers from hundreds of churches across the country simply by running an ad campaign on nationwide Christian radio. They just automatically believed advertisers were trustworthy and credible.
My intention is not to point the finger at multi-level marketing only. Network marketing isn’t the only kind of business that uses the body of Christ to build its ranks. Almost every sales organization I know of that manufactures consumer items encourages its sales people to utilize their personal relationships to build up their business. Whether it’s real estate, insurance, automobiles, cosmetics, vitamins, or even a privately-owned retail establishment, those who represent their products or services will usually look for prospects at their place of worship.
Bill started selling real estate a few years ago. He was very well trained and provided a great service to his clients. When he became a Christian, he just automatically networked at church, exchanging business cards with other parishioners before and after church, and “working the crowd” every chance he got. Before long he was listing and selling so many houses he hardly had time to come to church. When he did, it was not to get fed and grow in the things of God, it was to do business.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you sell real estate or some other legitimate service and are highly respected in your field, people will refer others to you, and yes, you may sell to people in the church, but not as a target audience that you’ve specifically pursued. Get the difference?
After much prayer and conviction by the Holy Spirit, I can now see that by bringing business into the church, we have become like the money changers in the temple. Jesus did not take what these men were doing lately. He said,
“Take these things away! Do not make my father’s house a house of merchandise!” John 2:16.
Oh, how we defile the house of God by bringing our business with us to church!
Just as a reminder, this series of blog posts about MLM in the church is taken from a book I wrote over 20 years ago. Whenever I get a lot of push back and wonder if things have really changed a lot since I originally wrote the book, God is gracious to encourage me. This time, it was a lead article in the latest edition of Christianity Today. Now, of course, this article tells both sides of the story, the good and the bad, which is balanced journalism. In light of this article you might feel my posts are rather negative…and I’m sorry for that. However, my book was literally my “public repentance” for being involved in MLM. It is filled with my story (later in the book I tell other’s stories) of God’s conviction. That may sound negative, but it was kindness to me…His kindness that leads to repentance.