Several years ago a man called me who was living in Las Vegas after reading one of my books. He asked if I could come meet him to discuss why he was going through such incredible adversity in his life. This man was one of the top producers in a network marketing company, but had been sued by the government for $500,000 because he was a top producer in a company that was making claims about their product that was untrue, although my friend understood the claims of the product were true. My friend was an industry leader and consultant in network marketing and had been on the cover of network marketing magazines as a top performer and consultant.
I flew to Las Vegas and we sat down for lunch. "I don't know why it is, but it seems like every company I get involved with, they end of lying to me about their product." Immediately I got a download from God.
"That is because the network marketing industry as a whole has a stronghold of deceit and mammon over the industry." Many of these companies over-promise and under deliver on their products and business model. There is often an over-emphasis on building financial security instead of providing a good product or service. When that happens, relationships become dollar signs in the eyes of the sales person. This is not to say there are not many fine companies who do not do that, but this is one reason the industry has a tainted name. The Bible tells us that "bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel" (Prov 20: 17).
Whenever you simply say the name "network marketing" in conjunction with a product there is a strong reaction, either very negative or positive. There is no middle ground. Countless people have had a bad experience. However, in this article I want to help you understand that network marketing as a business model is not the issue; it is the people who are affected by a mammon spirit and deceit that takes a person down the wrong road.
Every business model has its weaknesses. Every business leader is susceptible to greed and deception. Just look at the 2008 banking and mortgage crisis. This was pure greed on behalf of bankers, consumers and even the government. Deception impacted all three parties.
God's Promise to the Christian Business Person
In the Old Testament we read a promise from God: " And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day" (Dt 8:18). If you are called to business then you are called to create wealth, not just for yourself, but for the establishment of His kingdom on the earth. The Bible says that the purpose of riches and wealth is to provide for the needs of our own families and be able to give to others and the poor (2 Cor. 9: 8-10). We are stewards rather than owners of the resources God has entrusted to us. We are called to express His life through our working life and serve others in the process. We are called to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3).
Joseph was an example of a man in whom God took him through great adversity to be a spiritual and physical provider of others. God spoke to him through dreams and visions. He gave him a strategy to save a nation and a people. He became the source of provision for a nation and his own people. I believe God is raising up a new generation of Joseph entrepreneurs that will be solution providers to major problems in society. Recently I came in contact with a network marketing company that combines social entrepreneurship with a business enterprise, much like the Tom's shoes, i.,e, "buy one pair of shoes and we'll give another to a needy child." I was so impressed with their vision to impact children who suffer from malnutrition that I signed up personally and as a ministry to represent their product. [i]
Network Marketing as a Business Model
Have you ever considered the model Jesus built for spreading His message? It is a network marketing model. He recruited each one individually, one by one. He poured his life into twelve who then shared the message with others. Granted, his model was not building a profit-making business, but the model was an effective method for spreading a message that people needed to hear. If you are representing a product that you believe in, then I see no difference.
I believe wealth creation is a by-product of our work instead of a goal. I believe that is what the Bible teaches. If you listen to those who created vast sums of wealth, people like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, their goal was not wealth creation. They loved their work. They loved the creativity of doing business. The fruit of their doing their work well was wealth creation. It was a by-product.
I believe many people react negatively to network marketing because they have had a negative personal experience at some level by trying it themselves and failing, or they have been hurt by a friend or associate who they perceive used them to sell a product to them. They began questioning the motives of their friend as to why they were in the relationship with them. These are the two greatest weaknesses of network marketing, but they are also the greatest strengths if handled properly. If you are in network marketing, this is the one area you must be aware of. Be sensitive to those in whom you have relationship and make sure you do not use relationships improperly.
Unless you build and own your own business, become a star in a particular field, or become a celebrity it is difficult to create wealth. Network marketing allows an individual that wants to work hard actually be able to create wealth. It can also be an avenue to create part-time income. Today I believe one must have multiple income streams to navigate these uncertain economic times. Network marketing is a business structure that allows this to happen.
Craig Hill, president of Family Foundations International and author of several books on finance, including Five Wealth Secrets 96% of Us Don't Know, explains below why he believes network marketing is actually a more biblical model of business than many others. In addition to leading an international ministry to families, Craig has been in a successful multi-level marketing business for sixteen years. It was interesting to me that I knew him two years before he ever mentioned his involvement with his company. I greatly respect his sensitivity to how he handles relationships in ministry and his business relationships. When I asked him about that he said, "I am sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as to whether the products I represent might be appropriate for each person. He lets me know the boundaries." This is a Kingdom way of doing business. Here are more of his thoughts on multi-level marketing.
"It is not the business model of network
marketing or any other model, for that matter, that is the problem. I believe
that it is the motive of the people using the model. To me, to condemn network
marketing as a business model because someone has had a negative experience
with the business model is like blaming guns for the killing of innocent
people. Guns can be used to protect and save lives (as police frequently do) or
to kill and destroy lives (as criminals frequently do) dependent upon the
motives and intent of the person using the gun. The same is true of retail
sales, direct sales, network marketing, or any business model.
The typical retail model of sales never offers an equal playing field to all involved. Every business model I can think of is a pyramid (i.e. 1 president, 3 vice presidents, 10 middle managers, 25 managers, 100 workers, etc.). People at the top get to leverage of off people below them in the organization. In a retail model for example, there is usually a CEO or President. The CEO, and only the CEO leverages his income off of the work of everyone else in his organization. Only he can earn income from all levels in his organization. He never offers this same opportunity to anyone else in his business organization. None of the vice presidents, regional managers, middle managers, store managers, or sales staff will ever earn more money (or even equal money) than the CEO. Only he earns income from all the levels in his organization. (Some CEOs or business owners leverage so much off of the work done by others in their wholesale/retail pyramid organization, that they can afford to live in a different country, manage from afar, have little hands on involvement in the business, and only physically visit the country in which the business is located a few times per year. However, such CEOs somehow don't feel that they are exploiting or using for personal gain the people who work in their business organization. They also don't seem to feel guilty for advertising or recommending their store or service to others.)
Because the retail model pays people for position and seniority rather than for productivity, no one in the typical retail business model will be offered the opportunity to make more money than the person above them, even if they are more productive. The middle manager will never make more money than the vice president, nor will the sales clerk make more than the store manager. In contrast, in network marketing this happens all the time. The network marketing model, which is much more fair, just, and Kingdom oriented, offers each person the opportunity to make more money than the people above them in the organization if they are more productive. In the network marketing model, everyone is on a level playing field and is offered the same opportunity as everyone else. People are paid according to productivity, not seniority or position (like the Luke 19 mina parable). I can make more money than the people above me in the company if I am more productive. I can offer anyone I engage in my network marketing business the exact same opportunity I have had, and that person can make more money than I do if he can learn how to become more productive and serve more people than I have. The network marketing business I am involved with actually functions according to the Kingdom principle Jesus outlines in Matthew 20:25-27. Whoever learns how to serve and minister to the most people makes the most money. A man who learns how to multiply his serving of people through coaching and leading others to serve and bless more people earns even more money.
Furthermore, Jewish people never seem to feel guilty about providing a legitimate good or service to their friends, relatives and acquaintances and charging them a fair price to do so. In the biblical account of the famine in Egypt, Joseph did not give the stored grain away for free to his friends and relatives. He sold the grain for a fair price to everyone. Christians, on the other hand seem to feel guilty about this, as though they should for some reason not do legitimate business with friends, relatives, or acquaintances, but only give things away for free. I guess Christians think that we should only do business with strangers and enemies. Jews have a totally different, and in my opinion, much healthier and more biblical perspective regarding business. I learned much about this from a book written by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, called 'Thou Shall Prosper.' I downloaded and read it as an e-book earlier this year and found it very helpful on this topic.
While network marketing has been abused in the past, network marketing is actually the fairest, Kingdom oriented way to compensate people for work done and for actual results produced of any system available. It is much more efficient and fair than the wholesale/retail model.People are happy to talk about being a change agent or being a social entrepreneur, but when you actually begin to do it with a practical economic engine attached some become unhappy. They prefer to remain in the realm of theory rather than practice."
Sometimes I believe people go too far on the other side of the spectrum. Some people want to be so sure they are not affected by mammon that they begin to over-spiritualize their non-involvement in a business model like network marketing. They suffer from a dualistic view of work that separates the spiritual from the secular. They wrongly associate money-making enterprise with something they perceive as less spiritual. Jesus never called money or making money unspiritual or unrighteous. He warned about the love of money and making it an idol in our lives.
In summary, I do not feel that network marketing is inappropriate as a business model. Like any business model, we need to understand the pitfalls. We need to exhibit the highest form of integrity in how we handle our relationships and our business dealings. And most importantly, the mammon spirit wants to entice all business people, no matter what model they operate within.
Ultimately, every person must seek God for their own lives as to the path they take in any endeavor. And they must live a life of integrity before God in all aspects of life and work. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you" (Matt 6:33).