This is a series by Athena Dean Holtz on Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) in the Church. Click here to start at the beginning.
It All Sounded So Good
By spending 70 hours a week on becoming an expert in my financial services business, I felt I was on my way to what I called “success.” Eventually I became an expert on network marketing and even wrote books about how to succeed in that arena. I was on fire. I would wake up at 6 a.m. with my wheels turning. A rush of adrenaline would search through me as I anticipated what the day would hold. It seemed I never got tired or lack energy. From that first early morning cup of coffee to the last satisfied look at my day timer in the evening, I was completely focused and intense. My business was my life. If people or things didn’t relate somehow to my business, I wasn’t interested.
I didn’t know much about multi-level marketing when I first started. I just wanted the business to help me achieve my goals. My main goal was to create financial independence: to have that nice house, drive a BMW or Mercedes, to have the good life where money would never be an issue. I thought I would then be free from having to answer to anyone. I would be able to do as I pleased.
As I learned the inner workings of multi-level marketing, I could identify with its common sense way of doing business. I learned that it combines two proven ideas in the world of business: networking and marketing. Marketing is the business practice of moving goods and services through distribution channels, from the manufacturer to the consumer. Networking is the joining of people who share resources and knowledge to accomplish common goals. In an MLM business, you develop a network of people by recruiting them into your organization, also called a down line. Through that network of people, the company’s products or services are sold. Sometimes, the distributor is the consumer. Or the distributor sells the product or service to the consumer. Either way, without this distributor buying for personal use or selling to make a profit, the company doesn’t make any money.
Rather than spending a predetermined amount on advertising, the company pays the distributor to advertise their products by word of mouth. Distributors make their money from personal sales, bonuses, and override commissions on the sales volume of the distributors in their downline. The network is created by recruiting and selling to friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances.
Multi-level marketing has many names, such as network marketing, direct selling, direct marketing, direct sales and the like. Most companies have figured out that multi-level marketing has developed a bad reputation, so they go to great lengths to try to make their distribution system sound like something else.
One lady I met recently was involved in a home party plan that sold jewelry. She was offended that I would label her company as multi-level, adamantly insisting that it was not. She had over 20 people in her organization and was encouraged to build a larger organization so she could make overrides on others and not have to work so hard at it herself.
If you have to recruit distributors in order to make the big money, it’s definitely some form of multi-level marketing, no matter what name it is being called. And it’s true, some companies are legit, some are dubious, and some are downright fraudulent, so I’m not making a judgment call on specific companies or products. There are some great products out there being sold using this business model. In this post, I am simply making sure everyone understands how I am defining MLM.
Cruising for Christians
“Just think, Chuck,” I mused out loud, “if I can just make it to senior vice president, I’ll qualify for an extra $10,000 a month!” If I could get some other believers involved we could all make our dreams come true for the Lord.
Yes, just a few years into my first MLM experience, I heard the gospel for the first time in my life at the age of 33 and surrendered to Christ. I’ve written about that experience in another blog, but suffice it to say, I may have said the prayer and confessed my surrender to the Lord, but I had no intention of giving up my business goals. I made Him my Savior, but not my Lord. Now, I had a new purpose for making all that money and sincerely felt like I was doing something noble by offering others the opportunity to make it big along with me.
Chuck agreed that there was plenty we could do with the extra money each month. “Just think of all the vets we could get saved,” he said, thinking of all the places he could travel to reach them.
It all sounded so good! I would recruit other Christians into my business and make a ton of money so my husband could be supported in full time ministry!
We were very young believers, but because of Chuck’s gift of evangelism and love for his comrades in arms, he ended up being given a 501 (c ) 3 ministry called Point Man by the founder’s widow. I continued building my financial services business while he spent all his time creating a network of Christian Vietnam veterans to minister to other vets who were hurting.
Looking back, I can see how I had used the good motivation of funding the ministry to justify my lust for more of the world. I convinced myself that I was doing a good thing for people. After all, with a lot of money, I could give to missions and help other Christians get out of debt. But in my heart, I was far from seeking God’s perfect will for my life.