The Christian and Direct Selling Schemes

By Jefferson David Tant

At the outset, let me state that I have no personal axe to grind, nor am I seeking to push any product through these words. Over the years, I have been involved in various sales organizations, multi-level distributorships, etc., and feel that I can speak with some objectivity about the matter. I have been rebuked when cautioning people about some of the dangers, being accused of being envious, or whatever, and at the risk of being falsely accused again, let me give some observations from the viewpoint of a “distributor.”

The Negative Side

Parking-lot-warehouse syndrome. At times, it has seemed as though the parking lot became a product warehouse. As soon as services are over, brethren rush out, open trunks all over the place, an begin swapping products. That is unsightly, and leaves a bad image. I appreciated some brethren where I once labored who determined any trading that needed to be done after services would best be done in a nearby shopping center lot.

Shop talk at church. Visitors and other members can be turned off quickly by a group of people huddled together giving off such mysterious phrases as “PE,” “PV,” “lead,” “3%,” “qualify,” “rally,” etc. This tends to exclude our brethren and visitors from our conversations, when we should be showing hospitality. Save shop talk until later.

The “sic-‘ em”syndrome. The sight of a new member sets lights flashing and bells ringing, signaling “new customer,” or “new distributor.” Then the rush is on to see who gets there first with the pitch. Why not let the person at least get unpacked before rushing in with “You must listen to this fantastic offer.” And “Humility” won’t always seek to be first.

Cliques. Among some, you just are not “with it” unless you are involved in this or that sales group. I have known of those prospective Christians who were hesitant to become part of a local church because “If you’re not involved in , you don’t fit in very well.”

The thumb-screw problem. Some are quite insistent that those who sell under them “go, go, go” and “sell, sell, sell.” I know some who just quit because they felt they were constantly being pressured and harassed. Maybe they do not want a full-time income from their sales – just a supplement. Wouldn’t it be better for the sponsor to be content with a little less income from some, rather than to alienate them and leave hard feelings from the daily phone calls to inquire “How much are you going to sell today? How much tomorrow . . .?”

“I don’t have time. ” Sometimes, people get so involved in selling, what with training seminars, sales presentations. trips afield, etc., that they no longer have time to function as a member of the local church. They are gone so much they cannot teach a class, and are so involved they have little time for personal work programs, visiting those in need, etc. This is just a matter of setting priorities. “Seek ye first his kingdom . . .” said Jesus, and if I have to put the kingdom business second, third or lower on my priority list because of my involvement with a part time job, then I have things all mixed up.

“Don’t call me. I’ll call you. ” Yes, some are quite eager to get others set up in business, sell the product, deliver the product, and deposit the money. But when there is a refund due, or maybe a distributor decides he just isn’t cut out for this and wants to return the product, there is sometimes difficulty in making connection. This sometimes goes on for weeks and weeks. Such is entirely against the spirit of Christ, who gave us a little saying we call “The Golden Rule” (Matt. 7:12). Paul encouraged us to “owe no man anything” (Rom. 13:8), and to “take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). It is good to practice this advice scrupulously – good for the seller and the buyer.

The “Surprise! Fooled you” game. I have heard some express great resentment at being invited into a fellow Christian’s home for an evening of pleasant social companionship, only to find to their dismay that as soon as they sat down, they activated a hidden switch that (a) fastened seat belts around them, (b) turned off the lights, (c) flopped a projector into position, (d) lowered a screen from the wall, and (e) showed a film presenting “The Business Opportunity of the Millennium.” It’s not that they minded the sales presentation, but it was the deception that galled them. Brethren, you will win more friends and influence more people by being honest with them as to the nature of your gracious invitation.

The Positive Side

Please don’t get the idea that I am “death” on involvement in these marketing plans. It is just that I have seen the abuses and feel they are unnecessary and can be avoided with some forethought and an awareness of the potential problems. There are some definite advantages that can be realized.

More contacts. Some people view their customers, as well as distributors they have sponsored, in the light of their responsibility to “preach the gospel to the whole world.” In one congregation where I was, 11 were converted one year solely through such contacts. This has, of course, spread in the ensuing years, and at this writing the husband of one of those converted is preaching the gospel. The often, and close, contacts we have with people in these business dealings can be most productive if our minds are attuned to the opportunities.

More income. We must be honest and consider that most people get involved in these sales organizations because they need extra money (and who doesn’t these days?) Now, what are you going to do with than money? I have known of those who took part-time jobs in order that they might turn over the whole profit to the church because of a special need at that season. Others I know are using their extra income to send to missionaries, to buy material and equipment to facilitate their personal teaching, to help the needy, etc. No, I am not suggesting that we must turn every penny so earned to such projects, but certainly we should remember the Lord and his work according to our prosperity. Right?

More free time. While some might become too involved in too many things, others who might do well in these matters are actually seeking a way to maintain their needed income, and yet have more time to devote to the Lord’s work. I have those in mind who are planning to free themselves from a 9 to 5 job, with a view to continuing (or increasing) their present level of income by means of their new selling career. With a less demanding job, time-wise, they will increase their involvement in teaching others the gospel. Others are hoping to support themselves so they might preach the gospel in needy areas.

When all is said and done, our opportunities can be either a bane or a blessing. It just depends upon our attitude towards them, whether we talk about selling insurance, Avon, Amway, Slender Now, Nutrilite, Hoda, Sara Conventry Jewelry, or Giant Earthworms (which you use for bait, naturally).

Truth Magazine XXIII: 42, pp. 682, 684
October 25, 1979