Saturday

Multi Level Marketing

I have been approached many times in my life about an “opportunity” to join in a multi-level marketing organization. I have always declined. God challenged me to clarify my opinion one day.

Multi-Level Marketing is Expensive:

1. It costs relationships. Multi-level marketing (MLM), by its very design and nature, changes my relationships. People are no longer only my friends or family, but must become—to some degree—prospects for the business. MLM requires by its very nature that you bring others into it. I have not been willing to pay that price.

Furthermore, some of the relationships that are spent are those of my family. MLM works well only if both husband and wife are equally committed to and enthused about “the business.” But even then, the time and attention siphoned away from my family relationships is hard for me to live with. Besides, I’ll miss our golf games on Fridays if that’s part of the cost.

And beyond all that, every successful MLM that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!) virtually requires my joining their social subculture in order to be “successful.”

2. It costs time. Any business endeavor will require an investment in time. Ten hours a week (such as is often quoted) strikes me as idealistic, but even if it is true, I have other uses for those hours that are more consistent with my long term (eg. ten thousand years and beyond) goals. Ten hours a week usually means ten hours on a quiet week and more on other weeks. But even ten hours a week comes out to 520 hours in a year, or the equivalent of three months of full-time work every year. I’d rather spend that with my family, or with baby believers, or even raking out my lawn!

3. It costs money. Likewise, any business will require a significant financial investment. Even if I don’t buy product to sell (but then what would I show my customers?), I must buy advertising, brochures, gas to attend meetings, costs for meals & conferences, meals for some meetings, bookkeeping paraphernalia, office space, etc. TANSTAAFL, you know.

4. It costs focus. MLM is, by its nature, an opportunistic business. That means that when I find an opportunity, I must seize it and make the presentation. (Rather like evangelism, though it’s an either/or situation. One can’t evangelize for both MLM and Jesus simultaneously. “No man can serve two masters…” and all that.) The inevitable result is a significant loss of attention to the task at hand, whether that’s groceries, landscaping, job search, or pastoring.

5. It costs reputation. Thanks to Amway, MLM has a really bad name in America: a low-life, get-rich-quick reputation. Of course, people involved in MLM aren’t always “low-life, get-rich-quick” people, but you’d be hard pressed to convince many Americans of that. They hear MLM and they begin to look at you differently.

6. It costs my values. The last thing I need is a values war inside me. Many people have observed a spirit of greed in MLM adherants. In my experience, this is a very (I repeat, very) common problem with MLM. Soon, often before they even sign up, people stop seeing a business and start seeing dollar signs. This is largely related to the way many MLM members promote “the business:” “Look at the potential,” they say. “Think of the things you could do with the money!” I know, this is not a given. It is a serious danger; one that I choose not to expose myself or my family to. I don’t want any of my family flirting with the lust of the eyes or the boastful pride of life.

7. It costs my self-esteem. When I am in MLM, I am associated with values that are opposed to my personal core values. I am part of a group that is considered “low-life, get-rich-quick” by people whose opinions I hope to influence. I get a dozen “No thank you” and a handful of “Hell No’s” for every “I’ll think about it.”

The official figures are that one out of every twelve presentations will be interested in the business and one out of every ten persons who signs up will do anything with it. (These figures come from Amway.) That means one out of every 120 people I take the time to make presentations to will be influenced by “the business.” That’s a lot of work.

The concept of “If you work hard at your business, you can be very successful,” is true for most businesses, most jobs. If I own a drug store and work with as much focus and dedication as is required to make a success of the MLM business, I’ll be a wealthy drug-store owner before long.

Benefits of Multi Level Marketing

Now, lest I be found guilty of one-sidedness, I should present some of the “other side:”

1. If your boss is involved, it may be the “politically correct” thing to do.

2. If you are willing to pay the price(s), MLM can indeed make you rich. My personal opinion is that nobody does it better than Amway, but then Amway has so many people and so much exposure that it’s hard to make it to the big time with them. (A note about startup MLMs: the support services are usually pretty skimpy.)

3. If everything goes exactly as planned (not a regular occurance in our world, but it does happen), you can end up with a sizable residual income, if the MLM company doesn't go bankrupt. (Most do.)

My Sources

Having said all that, it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain where my opinions come from.

I have studied MLM quite closely. I have a friend who is in an Amway offshoot and is probably going to be rich before he’s my age. He and I have spent probably 100 hours or more discussing Amway and other MLMs (he had studied several before joining his organization). He is a single man who is fanatically devoted to his group. He got a job as a taxi driver simply so he can have contact with more people to “present the business” to. He reads dozens of books, listens to hundreds of tapes and CD’s, hangs out with his “upline”, and attends lots of meetings. He makes several presentations a week and has built a substantial organization. He probably spends (or spent, when I knew him), 15 hours a week actively working on the business, but it consumed him.

I have also studied several MLM companies fairly intentionally. I’ve gone to meetings, read magazines and books, evaluated programs, propaganda, and merchandise. I’ve interviewed both winners and losers in a load of programs: NuSkin, Herbal Life, NSA, Quorum, Amway, Shaklee, Fuller Brush (yes, they went through a MLM stage) and a dozen or more others selling everything from diet plans to insurance and annuities to houses to home security systems to home computers. I’ve named Amway in my concerns above, but every single issue (or “cost”) that I raise above has been found in every single MLM organization I’ve looked at. No exceptions that I’ve yet found.

And last but not least. I have been personally involved in two different MLM programs. My experiences from the inside have confirmed everything I had observed from the outside.

Why did I join? I wanted to invest some of my “spare” time and make some money. It seemed like a good thing at the time. I had been approached by a man I respected. What did it cost? Every thing I’ve mentioned above and more. For years, I carried a sizable debt from the last endeavor. I know whereof I speak.

Conclusion:

Multi-level Marketing opportunities are everywhere, and they have a measure of truth in them. If you are willing to give your life to “the business”, you can make a lot of money in some of them. They are na├»ve (or worse) in their communication of how much work is required. That work is better spent, more cleanly spent, in other places.

The Transition from David to Solomon

For the past couple of decades, we've been walking in the pattern of King David.
In the late 1980s, God spoke to the church about a new generation of warriors He was raising up, and He used the young David as the model. The new warriors would be anointed by God in anonymity (1 Samuel 16:13). They would be unafraid of the enemy 17:26), and would be willing to step into the war that the generation of Saul had no heart for (17:32). They would initially be disdained by the church of the previous generation (17:28), then the church would try unsuccessfully to clothe them with the old armor, the old methods of waging the war (17:38-39). After the miraculous victories in the Name of the Lord (17:51), finally the old army pays attention (17:55), and draws them into its influence (18:2), which ends up in a sour match (18:8).
It was in this season that God raised up many young "Davids," and formed key alliances with supportive partners, "Jonathans," and brought the new warriors out of the old form of religion into a new model. While many ministries were birthed in this season, there were far more young warriors that fell from the favor of the traditional churches, and were forced by Divine strategy into the wilderness where they began to learn from God. There, they began to gather with others who were "...in distress... in debt, and ... discontented." (22:2)
Then in the middle of the 1990s, God was speaking of David again, this time from the story of where he brought the ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6 & 1 Chronicles 13 & 15). God taught us that the desire for His presence (the Ark) was good and right, but we must seek for His presence in His way. Jokes were made in pulpits all across the land that the use of "boards and big wheels" (the components used to make a cart, 1 Samuel 6:3) is the wrong way: that's the way of the Philistines. Uzzah (lit. "strength", speaking of man's strength) was killed when he touched the presence of God (the Ark, 6:6,7). David was angry (6:8), afraid & confused (6:9), and put off the project for months or years (1 Chronicles 14). A holy fear came on some as God judged His church.
Later, David submitted to the Law of God & brought the Ark (God's presence) into Jerusalem (the church) using the methods God had commanded (1 Chronicles 15:13), and was lavish with sacrifice (speaking of holiness, 1 Samuel 6:13) and praise (6:14). The house of Saul again expresses disdain, and is judged for it (Michal, in 6:20-23), but the power over the new warriors was broken off: never again would David be subject to the house of Saul.
During this season, the worship movement exploded across America (with Integrity Music & Vineyard Music in their prime), and the cry for holiness was heard, albeit less vigorously. And God's presence did indeed begin to come back into His church. Cities like Toronto and Brownsville became famous for God's presence, but many communities began to see His presence in less publicized outpourings.
The presence of God is hidden away in "David's Tabernacle," which is little more than a pup tent in a back bedroom or courtyard in David's palace, but God's presence is there, and David himself undoubtedly leads the band of palace employees in worship there.
Now there were two places of worship. David and his household worship in God's presence in the back bedroom. But the nation - or those who worship God - still worship at the tabernacle of Moses, which is still in operation on Shiloh's hill. They're obeying the Law there, like their fathers did before them, and God's blessing is on them. The pagentry of the priesthood and the Levites continues in full swing, and the people's offerings support that worship. Israel is obeying God when they worship at the tabernacle. But God's presence, the ark of the covenant, is now gone.
David was the only historic figure who walked in all three anointed offices of prophet, priest and king, and those three ministries are being released on the church again, in the prophetic, intercessory and apostolic movements, and the Lord Himself leads the movements. David's psalmist spirit is being released again, through prophetic song or "ode pneumaticus," the "song of the Spirit."
During the recent years, much was made of the requirements needed to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, but little or nothing was said of what happened to the ark once it got there. In the past few years, God has been speaking of this: there is an established, obedient, liturgical church that is walking in obedience to what God had commanded, and they enjoy power, prestige, position and possessions. But the Ark of God's presence is no longer among them. There is no judgment on them, they are obeying God; but His presence is not among them.
God's presence is more often found in the little bands of God chasers, gathered in small storefronts, converted warehouses and living rooms, led by the Son of David Himself. These are the modern Tabernacles of David.
During those historic years, David worshiped at that little tent in his back yard, but he also worshiped "in the temple" (Psalm 27:4), though it wouldn't be actually built until David was dead and buried. David worshiped in faith, seeing with the eyes of faith that which mortal eyes wouldn't see for another generation. God is beginning to release a faith for the work that God is beginning for the next generation. With eyes of faith, some have seen His outpouring in the generation that is now in its youth. Those visionaries - like David - are beginning to prepare plans, materials and workers for the richest, most glorious outpouring of God since the angels sang to startled shepherds outside of Bethlehem two millennia ago. Many of those preparing and interceding for the outpouring will never see this house with their mortal eyes, but having seen it in faith, that's almost irrelevant: the tidal wave is coming.
This move of God's Spirit, this message, is not yet established in the Church. The preparations are not yet complete, but the waves are coming more quickly now. I believe that another wave of His Spirit is already beginning. This is not the tidal wave, the move of God that will compare to the glory of God in the completed temple, the outpouring that will bring the harvest of perhaps a billion souls in a single generation. This is merely another lesson, and not necessarily the next one, in preparation for that day which is still yet to come.
The vision is certainly not yet clear, but here are some shadows to be discerned in the approaching wave. 1 Kings 1 documents the transition of leadership from the generation of David to the generation of Solomon.
But there comes a challenge for the succession to the throne, and this is where we must now focus our attention. God's purposes call for Solomon, the son of Bathsheba, to be on the throne. But Adonijah son of Haggith ("rejoicing" or "festive") declares "I will be king" (1 Kings 1:5; see also the "I will" statements of Isaiah 14:13), and he has some claim to the title, being the eldest surviving son of David. (He is also brother to the now-dead Absalom, born from the same mother.) He sets up a coronation with a group of leaders, including some from Saul's days: Joab , the great general & traitor, and Abaithar the priest, the last priestly descendant from Eli. Notably absent are the true leaders of David's generation.
The self-coronation is revealed to the prophet Nathan, who involves Bathsheba, a picture of redemption and forgiveness, and King David himself. The plot is stopped, the right son, Solomon, is sat upon the throne (1:35), blessed (1 Kings 1:37) anointed (1:39). Adonijah repents and is spared (1:51-53) for a season. After David instructs Solomon & dies, Adonijah makes a manipulative try for the crown in the guise of proper relationship (2:13-18), but he's found out & executed (2:22, 25).
I believe that God is raising up a "Solomon generation." These will be characterized by wisdom (Solomon's great gift), by peace (the literal translation of "Solomon") inwardly if not outwardly, by God's favor (Solomon was offered something no one else has ever been, 1 Kings 3:5), and by the great outpouring of God's grace (the "tidal wave" mentioned above).
This generation is also known as the "Samuel generation," for like Samuel, God is preparing them from a very early age to move powerfully in the prophetic and to turn the tide of history. While they will not fight the wars of the older generation, they will lead an entire generation into the glory of God. Of course, they will not go unchallenged by the enemy.
When the present generation of leadership is dying off, I expect that my children's generation will be challenged for the right to shepherd the move of God. There will be some who will rise up from a background of religious obedience, or even the evangelical movement (Adonijah means "the Lord is my master"), and some from a background of the renewal movement (Haggith means "rejoicing" or "festive") to lay claim to the leadership of that generation, and indeed they will have the natural right to claim the position; and they are natural leaders. And they will augment their claim with leaders from the Saul generation, persons (formerly?) of influence in the denominational or traditional church structures. But they will not be God's choice to lead their generation.
Those chosen by God will be brushed right by, and it will seem like they never had a chance, but our generation must recognize the new leaders, and place them in the office that is being wrested from them.
It is interesting that although the attack is against the Solomon generation, it is the David Generation that must identify & overcome the enemy at this time. Our prophets must see the challenge (as Nathan did) and speak out, our pastors must cry out (as Bathsheba did), and our apostles (in the role of David) must designate and anoint the leaders whom God has chosen. They must be brought into leadership, even ahead of us, while yet God's grace is still upon our generation (the throne: 1:35), and this process must be public (1:39). The Solomons will sit on the throne, but it is our war to fight, not theirs, which will make that happen. However, the final victory over the Adonijah rebellion will be theirs.
I believe God has reason for bringing this to light now:
* Our generation will require years of preparation before we ourselves are ready to carry out our responsibilities at the end of our time of glory.
* God will anoint the new generation before the old generation is gone. (I told you the waves were coming faster now.) By that point, before we are through with our own ministry, we must have conquered the Philistines, and have handed the kingdom - and the preparations for the great temple - to the divinely chosen leaders of the next generation.
* The plans, materials and workers must be in place before the next generation is ready, or even understands the vision. We must train the children and the youth in the ways that God has given us: intercession, prophecy and apostolic leadership must be in their blood before they reach adulthood.
* We must intercede for the battle over leadership that is yet to come. A war can be turned by little effort spent before battle is joined. If comes to full combat, the cost will be much greater. We must pray for those chosen by God to be raised up instead of the natural leaders.

Engaging an Enemy

Observations from 1 Samuel 17:

It seems that there are seasons in our lives when maybe we’re a little more gutsy than we otherwise would be. There are seasons where we take on some larger enemies, either in own lives or in our communities, like David did with Goliath. We can expect several responses:

1. Brothers accusing us of wrong doing. (“I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” v. 28)

2. Leadership or people in positions of authority say, “You can’t do that!” (v. 33) These folks are often – if not carefully Spirit-led – very good at pointing out our weaknesses and the difficulty of the circumstances.

3. Others trying to put their own revelation/tools/limits on us (v. 38: “So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail.”) There is room to find symbolism in these components, but the point is unchanged: they want to make us like them before they decide we’re ready to “be released.”

4. The enemy also will speak to us:

a. Some enemies will disdain us (v. 42) (Hebrew: “to despise, regard with contempt;”)

“Who do you think you are? What makes you think you can take on this kind of thing. You’re nothing but a ‘wimpy, wimpy, chicken, chicken!’

b. Some enemies will curse us by their own gods (v. 43) (Hebrew: “to make despicable; to curse,” but in a verb form that indicates intensity and repeated action.)

Goliath cursed him vehemently and repeatedly! In the current vernacular, “He ripped him a new one!”

c. Some enemies will make threats. (v. 43: “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”)

In contrast to the enemy’s words, David took action:

A. Before the challenge:

1. David carried (received, walked in) the anointing of God (1 Samuel 16:13).

2. David was a practicing worshipper (1 Samuel 16:23 & most of the Psalms).

3. David had a practice of serving others (Saul, see above; Dad’s sheep, 17:15; brothers in the war, 17:20).

B. During the challenge:

4. David hung around the warriors (17:22), and became aware of the reality and nature of the war by first-hand experience(v. 23).

5. David asks questions (v 26, 30). I think he's essentially asking, “What’s it take to fight this guy?”

Horns or Craftsmen?

Recently, there have been a number of prophetic words about a season of shaking that has been coming on the people of God. We’ve been living out of Hebrews 12 for a number of years, in that God has been disciplining / discipling / training His children, requiring us to grow up.
Now, the prophets have been saying we’re living in the latter part of the chapter:
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
If God is shaking both the earth and the heavens, then it is likely that many of His people are feeling shaken. But He declares that He’s shaking for a reason: He’s removing the things that can be shaken – the things that tempt us to trust them rather than Him – so that we will trust in the things which cannot be shaken, the only things left to us.
It is into this context that I ran across Zechariah, chapter one:
Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were four horns. And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?"
So he answered me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem."
Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. And I said, "What are these coming to do?"
So he said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it."
The prophet has been writing the prophecies of comfort for God’s people that God is speaking to him. He looks up and what does he see: the horns that are coming against God’s people. He’s in the midst of prophesying blessing on them ("The LORD will again comfort Zion, And will again choose Jerusalem.") and he looks up from that and the first thing he sees is trouble; he sees horns scattering God’s people. The horns are a symbol of strength, in this case, specifically of peoples (“nations”) that exalt their own strength against the people of God.
But God corrects his vision: God shows him the rest of the picture, four craftsmen that the prophet had not yet seen. The enemy had indeed scattered God’s people, shaken their focus, divided them. But the craftsmen God pointed out had stopped them: first they terrified the horns (and presumably the powers that wielded them), then they cast them out of the land.
We’re like that sometimes, especially when things are getting shaken: we look around and see the things that are coming against us better than we see the provision of God. We quickly see the strength of the enemy and miss the greater work that God is doing.
Often we whine, “God, make it stop!” and the result would be enemies in our midst that are not as effective at what they’re doing: they’re still working, but their work is limited; we tolerate a degree of the enemy’s work, and we have the strength in ourselves to resist him.
God, however, is seldom satisfied with compromise in us, and does not appear to value our capacity to accomplish things – even good things – in our own strength. Therefore, He lets the enemies run rampant for a while, teaching us that our own strength is insufficient; then He terrifies them and boots them out. So instead of partially effective enemies among us, we have terrified enemies that have been completely removed from us. So tell me, which is the better condition?
In this season of shaking everything that can be shaken, it’s easy to see the shaking first and best. It’s easy to feel shaken, to feel our grip slipping from the things that we turn to for comfort, to feel the panic rising. Those things are in fact actually happening; in fact, they’re the goal of the process: that we would trust in nothing except God. These are actually answers to our prayers. And still we feel the panic as our grip on our habits and our crutches slips.
I’ve been praying, “Lord, show me the craftsmen. Let me see the things that You’re doing, not just the things that scare me, not just the things that the enemy is doing that shake me. But whether I see it or not, please complete Your work!” For when the enemy shakes us, he’s usually indirectly accomplishing the purposes of God, and in fact, it’s happening in this season.
Some of us are doing especially well at discerning the shaking, and we need to better see the provision of God, the results that He’s leading us into. Others among us are hardly noticing the shaking, whether because they have such a light hold on the temporal things being shaken, or because they have such a good grip on God; I admire them, and I aspire to be more like them: fixing my eyes on the things that God is doing, even when I have to push the horns out of the way to see Him.