Networking the Church

We have all experienced a time when someone from your church or the Christian community eagerly wants to get to know you, or is insincerely nice to you for some underlying motive of a “business opportunity” or to present directly or indirectly their product or service. We agree to see them because they go to our church or because they are a fellow “believer,” but we wonder what their motives and intentions are. The sales profession can be an honorable and essential component to our economic system, but we must be able to discern the underlying motives and representation of sales and marketing tactics. It is a common pratice for sale professionals to intentionally become a part of a committee, ministry or board just to build their network of business contacts and future prospects.

One of the major problems with this kind of network building in the church is that it often provides a false sense of community. Church attendees who are approached by networkers are vulnerable because they feel safe in their fellowship settings. The role of church leaders is to shepherd the flock they have charge over, which means among many things, spiritually protecting the sheep so they may roam freely in community without fear of being solicited. It is the opposite of Christ’s example of grace where our love and acceptance is not based on performance. But the solicited member may feel conflicted that in order to have fellowship with (networkers) they must participate in their proposals . It mimics spiritual concern for the potential prospect, but is really earthly in motive. The church should be the one place these two agendas are not confused.

Multi-level marketing
The subject of Multi-level Marketing (MLM) is an emotional subject to many. There have been good and bad effects on the lives of people who engage in this fast-growing area of consumer sales. These organizations sell their products through individual distributors rather than from the shelves of a retail store. The distributors usually sell part-time primarily to personal acquaintances, friends and family. This distribution person also is motivated to recruit other distributors to sell, who become their “downline,” and he benefits monetarily from all his downline sales activities. Multi-level Marketing can be a legitimate and legal way to transact business, and there are many credible companies using this distribution process; however, the issue of motive (not product) can be the biggest stumbling block.

Uncovering the motives of the heart
Many times what started out as a part-time job ends up as an all-consuming passion to sell more products or recruit more prospects. Every person becomes a prospect, and every social activity is a sales platform. There have been many Christians who have damaged their credibility and witness by becoming know as “Mr. or Mrs. Sales Person”. Sometimes hyped-up programs can be only a fad, or comparable products are much less expensive due to the markups of various levels of distribution. Some of the leadership of these sales organizations stage high-pitched, emotional meetings that incite get-rich quick philosophies and insinuate that if you are content with your current finances, then you are lazy. We are like sheep many times, and we follow when someone convincing is leading. “Only simpletons believe everything they’re told. The prudent carefully consider their steps” (Proverbs 14:15 NLT).

Unexamined costs
For the Christian networker there are important things to consider. First, it is not wrong to be a part of a multi-level marketing program. If kept separate from pursuing spiritual connections and community in the church then some of these types of business opportunities are great ventures. Practically speaking it would mean that you would not set up meetings or get-togethers for the purpose of weaving product information in hopes to garner business. This would take great self control on the part of the networker because it often goes against many marketing company policies. If a church member asks about your line of work only then it’s okay to mention your product but without pressure. In these instances the table turns, and you must wait to be pursued and not be the pursuer. This is key to walking uprightly in this line of business in the church. Also, like any business, success requires people have good sales skills, a good product and a business plan with realistic expectations. My caution is always to be patient to build a product sales organization. Be sure the product is not just a passing fad, and be sure it’s meeting a genuine need for the ultimate user. The sales profession is not for everyone; don’t be convinced or tempted to begin something that is not a good fit for your personality and gifting.

The True Test of Attitude
We need to test and retest our motives daily. The only way to evaluate our motives is always to consider others first. God wants us to be astute in the things of God and innocent to the guiles of the world. Anything we do as Christians must be approached with an attitude of service to others. A Christian must know God’s individual plan for his life. Many believers do not know His plan for them and consequently get led into many schemes that disrupt their lives.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NLT).

Jeffery Masters, president of Jeffery W. Masters & Associates, can be reached at 954-977-5150. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Independent Financial Partners, a registered investment advisor. Independent Financial Partners and Jeffery W. Masters & Associates are separate entities’ from LPL Financial – Jeffery.Masters@LPL.com. Jeff is a locally endorsed Investment Advisor by Dave Ramsey, who is not affiliated with LPL Financial

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