I have run from this post. Truly, I didn’t want to write it and I’ve told the Lord many times over the past few months how I would prefer he removes this prompting. “What if I phrase this in the wrong way, God? What if your message is distorted by my lack of eloquence? What if Satan warps these words into someone hearing them as indictments or finger pointing?” All of these thoughts I have offered up in prayer, and still, I cannot get this subject from my mind. Instead, God has only brought me face-to-face with the issue at an accelerated rate. So before we start, if you think I’m writing something from a judgmental place, I beg you to deny that thought. Instead, I am writing from a place of brokenness and concern. I am by no means an authority here – but as an act of obedience, and as a message to myself, first, and then to my fellow sisters – here we go.

We live in a time where small businesses and direct-sales marketing has caught on like wildfire. I have no problem with this at all! I know it is a tool being used to provide for families, and that is a wonderful gift. However, if we are known to evangelize anything more than we evangelize Christ, we need to be very careful to examine our platform and the motives we have for reaching out to people around us. As believers, we must be so careful not to slip into a place of manipulative interpersonal communication for material gain.

So why is this an issue burned so deeply into my heart? I am a mom of young children. I stay at home with my kids and I love it, but it can also be a very isolating season of life. Thankfully, I’m blessed with incredible, authentic, and deep friendships. These ladies keep me sane, pray me through difficulties, and point me to the Lord. We desperately need these kinds of intimate friendships. We need people who want to know us, and love us anyway. I am blessed with more of these friendships than I deserve – but what God has been showing me lately, is that many women don’t feel quite as blessed with true, deep friendships. They are longing for that kind of connection, and they want someone who wants to know them. This brings me to our current topic.

Last year, I was approached 48 different times from various direct-sales initiatives. In over 20 of these instances, the person reaching out had not contacted me in over 2 years. Several times, it was from a person I hadn’t heard from in over a decade. The sales aspect is not a problem to me, not in the least. Sales and marketing are a part of the fabric of entrepreneurship in our country. The area of heartache I have, are the dozen or so times the person contacting me did so under the guise of wanting to get to know me better or spend time with me. After finding out I was not interested in their product, their interest in me disappeared. Ten of these instances were from women who are strong believers.

Should we see this as a problem? I think so. As believers, does the Lord call us to a higher standard of how we do business? I think so. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is talking about the need to be sincere in every encounter. He says, “We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12, ESV).

Reaching out to specific people to sell something is not a problem if we have and are continuing to reach out to those same people in love and genuine care for what is going on in their lives. This is particularly important if you, as a believer, are reaching out to someone who doesn’t know the Lord. If we use our potential one olive branch of reconnection for the sake of a product or a promotion, then we have to truly examine what we have done. Have we forfeited our right to talk to them about Christ because we neglected to care for a genuine relationship? There is no product that “can change your life” that we should ever promote if we have not already shared the person that will change your eternity.

I fear this post will meet some very harsh critique, and I so wish that instead of a post, it were a conversation. What these words are NOT intended to be: a negative indictment toward small business owners, multi-level marketing, or direct sales. I have no problem with any of these things, and I am an advocate for all things that allow families financial help. I am a small business owner. It’s a big part of our family. Let me say once again, this post is out of love and a convicted spirit.

I think the main point of action we can all take away from this area is, “How can we love our neighbor best?” If we are truly thinking of them first, and ourselves last, then our motivation is in the right place. God will take care of all of our needs if we are putting his commands into practice above all else. Jesus said his most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31, NIV).

We can be champions for entrepreneurship and still be directly in the center of God’s will. We just need to constantly examine our motivations, our relationships, and ourselves. If we reach out to people for the sole reason to acquire something from them rather than to get to know them, I think we have to examine what this does to our credibility, authenticity, and witness in the future. I don’t want anyone to assume I want her for a commodity over a companion. I have enough faults, flaws, and sinful inclinations on my own that make relationship building a challenge. Let us always be working in a way that highlights “God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings” so the main thing our life points toward is Christ.

 

Ashley Veneman

Ashley lives in Memphis, Tennessee and is the wife of Justin, her best friend, and mother of Cole and Norah, her two amazing little ones. She is a work-at-home mom trying to soak up all the little years as much as possible since she has yet to find a way to pause time. Ashley is a wedding photographer with her husband, and is so thankful for the ability to do a profession she loves, while at the same time making PB&J sandwiches, building Lego towers to the sky, and setting up the perfect princess tea party. She loves women’s ministry, a good one-on-one conversation, and being a part of a community of women running hard after the Lord.

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