Multi-Level Marketing
Okermans.com
Links These days, I think we all have had some experience with what is now called Multi-Level Marketing, or MLM for short.There are many well-known companies such as the Avon, Mary Kay, and Amway that use this business method to not only market their products, but also build their company structure as well.

I recently had an experience with a company giving away free Web sites called Coolebiz, that was interesting and taught me a lot about the principles of Multi-Level Marketing. The idea in all these companies is not so much to train people to sell the products, as it is to train people to sell the concept of multiplication which not only sells the product, it expands the entire company continually.

It's very much like discipleship once you understand it. It's exactly what Jesus was talking about to his disciples when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. It seems, Multi-Level Marketing is not a new 20th century idea at all, but Jesus' idea for building His kingdom. It's well worth thinking about and understanding the principles.

Let me briefly explain how it works. The key in a Multi-Level Marketing business (MLM), is to build disciples, or sales personnel who are able to train and motivate and build other disciples and sales personnel. This is called building a down-line. Those people under you are your down-line and you earn a commission on all their sales as well as your own.

Because of the down-line commissions and multiplication factor, a successful MLM marketing person may spend more time helping his or her down-line people to become successful, than he or she spends going after more new people to sell to. It’s just like evangelism and church membership training. One feeds the other. And we need both.

I signed up for Coolebiz to get a free Web site with the hopes that maybe some of the amazing promises of MLM might just come true for me. If I found 10 people and taught them to find and train three people each, within 10 generations, or 10 levels, I was going to earn $70,000 a year as spending money. Wow, that sounded good.

It seemed amazing that by giving away something free a person could receive that kind of reward. The amount that I would be paid per person who signed up under me was very small, only about 5 to 25 cents, as a commission. The key to the big bucks was multiplication, finding ten people who would find three people, who would find three people, who would find three people, who would find three people. It has to be multiplied into the multi-levels to see the payoff.

Church work, church planting, and building the Kingdom is exactly the same. So often we spend too much time gathering crowds and bringing in the numbers. It looks good to have a church full of people, even if it is a very small church. It feels successful to have a group coming to hear us speak. But real growth is not through addition, but rather by multiplication. I must train others, to train others. Just collecting people into my group will not bring in the big reward.

In reality, the average person can only keep in touch with about 20 people at one time anyway. Few people really know more than a hundred people personally. Though it varies depending on a person’s personality of course. But there is a limit to time and energy for all of us.

It feels good, and it looks good to be the leader of any group of people. So as missionaries and church workers we tend to want to lead the group, rather than serve and train a handful of people who train and lead others. We like to be the big fish in the very small pond. But in MLM style discipleship, anyone can build a down-line and build the bigger Kingdom and receive their reward. Housewives are often far more effective than even a church pastor.

The intensity to which I have to train and be involved in a person's life in order to see multiplication and reproduction is much higher than just adding someone to my club. It's more like raising children. I'm stretched right now, to raise seven children of our own. I have invested thousands of hours into the older kids in the early years, and it seemed as if I wasn't getting anywhere. But after about ten or fifteen years of hard work, I began to see the upcoming payoff.

These days I continue to invest hundreds of hours into all my kids. But the older kids are already teaching and raising some of the younger ones. It has become obvious that the potential of my kid’s future is so far greater than my own individual potential that my hope is now in their generation not mine. First, I teach them and equipped them. And, in the process, I must motivate them and empower them until they catch the vision of multiplying throughout the Kingdom.

I like to think of the motivation factor as the “fire in the belly”. They have to have that same passion for Jesus if they are going to go on to train others. Those that have the “fire” are self-motivated and go on to do something with it. Those without the “fire” tend to wind down and find something else of interest to give their life to. The same is true with all Multi-Level Marketing groups and Christian and missionary endeavors.

The thing that starts the ball rolling is someone who has that “fire in the belly”. They have the vision. They have the passion. And they know how to teach and equip, motivate and release and empower other people. And as a result the people they teach and equip and empowered are able to reach other people and equip and teach them.

Generally, however, the second level is not as effective as the first. It’s the old law of diminishing returns. And by the third or four level all the power and motivation may be gone completely, leaving only empty promises that never come true. This is why we must work with people until they become “fired up”. Just praying for salvation does not lead to multiplication.

Every now and then, a new superstar is born, say a Billy Graham or a Tony Evans comes along, and that adds new energy for everyone, at every level all over again. And you never know, but one of the people in your down-line might be the next superstar, and you will share their reward. It happens.

Whenever people mention Amway or other MLM companies, immediately someone will complain, “Oh, I did that before”. Or, “My Dad was in that for five years and never made any money at all”. Two years ago I signed up with Coolebiz, giving away free Web sites, and a chance to learn all about Multi-level Marketing, with the hopes of making some extra cash. They were promising $70,000 a year , so I hoped maybe $2,000 would be reachable. The truth is, a handful of people made over a million dollars. There were many many people in the group of who made over $10,000. And then there were tens of thousands of people like me who didn't make a thin dime, even though we invested several hundred dollars into the program in order to get started.

The great majority of people do end up with a negative experience. And many say, “Those guys made all that money and I didn’t get anything out of it. “ But actually I did get what I paid for. I paid for a nice web site, and an opportunity to learn about Web-site building and Multi- Level Marketing, with the chance of making some extra money. I received all those things, just not the extra money. I just don't have the motivation or the personality or the drive to be one of the $70,000 a year spare cash winners.

And I may never be a great evangelist and lead thousands of people to the Lord either. But I can reach one or two. I can train my seven children. I can multiply myself into a few people and help them do what they can do to reach others in the future. I can build a down-line for the Kingdom of God. In the long term, there will be Multi-Level Multiplication effect.

There are always a few people who lead thousands of people to the Lord and start large churches. They are rare. They're quite a few who lead hundreds to the lord. But they are still the exception. Yet it would not be unreasonable for any of us as Christians to expect to build up and encourage at least ten other people, whether as children or adults, in our life time. If we build up even a handful of people and help them build up another handful, the multiplication factor will take effect.

As missionaries and church workers we tend to spend too much time worrying about our group, when that should not be the top priority. Jesus is the boss, it’s His church. We care too much about our own success, and I’m no exception. And we spend too little time, caring about the success of other people and training them to walking in faith.

Let’s focus our priorities, so that life in Jesus is the number one priority in our life. We need to have that “fire in our belly” to change lives. And the goal must be to reproduce ourselves. What we plant is what we will grow, so we'll never get a juicy apple from the seeds of a sour persimmon. As we learn to live for others, our disciples will learn to live for others in the same way we do.

Multi-level Marketing builds huge companies in a just a few months and years, because everyone is a leader. Everyone is a salesperson. And everyone is a manager, visionary and scorekeeper. Those who are successful are not so much business persons as they are coaches and cheerleaders. The idea is to pass on the vision, the training, the skills and the encouragement while the next level reaches beyond to the levels down the line.

It's a fantastic plan. It continually works. In my short experience with Coolebiz, they went from a start-up company with a huge debt, to become a multi-million-dollar company in less than two years. They were then bought out by a larger company. Luckily, Jesus stays around and let’s us grow in Him, no matter how long it takes.

The truth is, I really don't care about free Web sites. I really want to build the Kingdom of God. I’ll never be good at Multi-Level Marketing for the sake of making money. I've already tasted the riches of multi-level evangelism for the sake of building the Kingdom of God. My eternal rewards and my inheritance are already waiting for me now, and growing through the of the efforts of my down-line, those people I've already trained and released. The focus is not on me and my efforts. The focus is Jesus in us all, and fanning the flame in others, wherever we find it.

I think we should take this seriously. I think there's a principle here that all of us could buy into and do successfully. We don't have to be someone who wins a thousand. We don't need to be a super-star for Jesus to gain the reward. But it is necessary and it is important to be available and look for the opportunities to lead a handful into His grace, and then be the encouragement for them, as they learn to train, empower, equip and releasing others into the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It’s not only for their blessing, but it is our inheritance, and we’ll also see our Kingdom grow in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Go build your down-line for Jesus, and let Him multiply it a thousand times over.