It started about six years ago, when Doug Firebaugh, a veteran networker, speaker and trainer, was chatting with his friend and upline, Ben Johnson. Fellow Christians, the two remarked on how closely the life and career of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament, modeled network marketing.

Doug soon moved to Dallas, but the conversation stayed with him. He shared his thoughts with Bill Pike, a Texas networker, and they thought about creating an event based on the idea of Biblical principles of networking. Doug produced a tape program called “The Biblical Recruiting Genius of Christ”—and when the program sold like hotcakes, far outstripping Doug’s expectations, he began to realize just how much of an unmet demand there was.

Through another friend, Doug was soon introduced to one of the most recognizable faces in Christian broadcasting. Former co-host of Pat Robertson's 700 Club and now a host of Praise the Lord on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), Ben Kinchlow was not only a public figure of tremendous influence—he was also a serious enthusiast of network marketing. The quartet of founders was complete, and the four launched an enterprise that came to be known as The Original Networker.

On August 19, 2002, the four men held the first Original Networker event at the Harvey Hotel in Dallas.

“We thought, let’s just put on some sort of event and see what happens,” recalls Firebaugh. “We figured, ‘Hey, if we have ten people, we have ten people.’” In fact, they sold about 240 tickets—over 200 of them to people outside Texas.

“We had people flying in from Scotland, England and a few other countries. Within a week, we had six cities who wanted to coordinate events of their own, and three number-one earners in their respective companies who wanted
to coordinate one for their groups. There was obviously a real hunger out there for this kind of thing.”

The “original networker” concept is not, of course, a purely New Testament phenomenon. At the Dallas event, speakers talked about Abraham (“I think he really started network marketing,” says Firebaugh with a grin), Moses and a host of other Biblical characters, and how their lives exemplified the tenets of networking. One speaker spoke about the Prayer of Jabez; another about persistence; another about the emotional and social aspects of networking.

The event was followed with the unveiling of The Original Networker Web site (www.the
originalnetworker.com). Today, the Original Networker hosts weekly conference calls to discuss specific principles; top-earning networkers share a practical application of the principle. An e-zine answers questions, provides additional insight and offers commentary from industry leaders. The site also provides related links, personal development products, and information on forthcoming “Original Networker” conferences.

 

Conflict of Church and State?

Some networking companies have been noted for an especially evangelical flavor, with distributor groups that have even had altar calls during opportunity meetings. We asked Doug, had they had any negative feedback—any concerns they were crossing boundaries in a kind of mixing of church and state, so to speak?

“You’ve got to have a balance,” Firebaugh acknowledged; “this is not a church. Ironically, Christ himself exemplified this balance; he was 100 percent focused on his mission, but he understood that if you’re too one-sided, people get turned off. Rather than just harangue people, he talked in parables—so that he didn’t offend
people who were perhaps not of like mind.

“We’re not here to be fanatics. We have a message: we’re modeling Christ in a way that everybody can get something out of it, whether they’re Christian or not.”

In fact, says Firebaugh, while the Original Networker team are clearly and unabashedly Christian, they’ve had people attend their events who don’t share their particular spiritual beliefs, and who get a lot out of the experience anyway. He describes their material as being aimed at “people who are hungry to learn about how to tap into a higher power in this business.”

“Whether in Christianity or networking,” explains Doug, “I’ve always taught the Hansel-and-Gretel model of recruiting: let people follow the trail of crumbs. Too many people want to shove the whole loaf in your mouth! That just doesn’t work. The bread-crumb approach is what Christ did: through his parables and his amazing one-liners. Our goal is not to be evangelical fanatics. Our goal is a message of modeling. People will listen and find it valuable or not, but they won’t find it offensive. At the very least, we want to make them think.”

 

Faith and Networking

Network marketers have often observed that people of faith and stronger spiritual values seem especially drawn to our profession. Doug believes this has to do with the very essence of networking.

“Most people who have faith in God or a higher power are very relationship-focused and place a high value on making a difference in people’s lives. I think that’s what attracts them to this profession: we are in a business of touching and changing people’s lives.”

That being so, in fact, it’s actually kind of fascinating that nobody has pulled together a generic, profession-wide program like this before. Was there anything, beyond the fortuitous meeting of the four founders, that made the time especially ripe for the Original Networker?

“It’s easy to start drawing everything back to 9-11,” muses Doug, “but it does seem we have entered into a particularly introspective and values-examining kind of time in our collective lives. In the aftermath of the tragedy, people started looking more deeply at the realities of life, and placing more value on family, God, faith—on the things that money can’t buy.”

Another thing that distinguishes the networking model, Doug points out, is the fundamental belief that you do well by helping others do well—the perspective of the world as a place of abundance rather than scarcity.

“The Biblical model is one of total, unlimited success,” he explains. “There’s more air in the world than we could ever breathe. There’s more water in the world than we could ever drink. There’s more grass than we could mow, more trees than we could ever cut down, more mountains than we could ever climb, more snow than we could ever dig.

“Everything about the universe is totally unlimited. And it’s not just abundance in money. There’s abundance in relationships, in fulfillment, in a rich rewarding life. Abundance in family, in your relationship with God. And all of that is what network marketing teaches.”


Networking the Golden Rule

 

Ben Kinchlow is known throughout the world as the long-time co-host of The 700 Club; he also hosted the program’s international edition, which was seen in more than 80 countries. An ordained minister, Kinchlow has also founded and directed numerous programs for children, including a teen ministry, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and Kids Against Hunger. He travels worldwide as a motivational and inspirational speaker and is author of Plain Bread and You Don't Have To If You Don't Want To. Networking Times spoke with him recently about The Original Networker.

 

Here is the irreducible minimum of network marketing: once you teach four levels deep, you have a successful branch of your network. Paul explains this in 2 Timothy 2:2:

“The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” He just described four level of duplication!

Our mission statement is, “To convey the information necessary to enable you to elicit a favorable response, from the greatest number of people, in the shortest period of time, with the least amount of effort.” That’s exactly the basis for Matthew 28:18, when Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into all the world and teach them everything that I have commanded you.”

Notice that he said teach—not “convert,” not “evangelize,” but teach. The bottom line of networking is teachers teaching others to teach. When you have that, you’ve got the world by the tail. It’s the secret of the Original Networker—and it can revolutionize the marketing of ideas and products.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of relying on technology. Technology is not the answer. Mostly it is a matter of witnessing. That is essentially what networking is; it’s the gospel format. A “witness” is someone who has a definite understanding of what a product, a message, will do for you.

You take a network marketer who has proved his product; he becomes convinced that it works, and is alive with passion. His mission is not about “recruiting people,” not about making money, not about building a downline—he is fired up because he has an answer that he knows works.

The Original Networker is based on two basic transcendent principles: 1) Love God with all your heart; and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

If you love God, then greed does not become the motivation for your actions. If you love your neighbor as you love yourself, then you won’t do anything to your neighbor that you wouldn’t want anybody to do to you. You exemplify the Golden Rule.

These things are not true because they’re in the Bible; they’re in the Bible because they are true.

Networking works because it is a people to people business. When I have something good, my natural reaction is to share that with somebody else. That’s what this concept boils down to. That’s The Original Networker in a nutshell.

— B.K.


Scriptural Networking

 

Our core belief is that the life and career of Jesus, as portrayed in the Bible, is the perfect model for doing business in network marketing. If you look at anything and everything we do in network marketing, you'll find a perfect model for it in the Bible.

Christ says, "The harvest is ready, open your eyes--it's out there everywhere you look, but the workers are few." What that means to us is, open your eyes, prospects are everywhere.

He was very brief. He said, "Hey, follow me." We spend so much time trying to convince people to listen. But he said, "Those who have ears will listen." This business is not for everybody; the right people are going to show up. If this is right for you, great; if not, you won't hear it.

His presentations were always in parables. We've all taught this: the best way to teach people is with word pictures--tell stories. The most powerful way to recruit is to paint a powerful picture and relate it to the future. That's what he did.

He was a master at closing. He never begged people; it was, "Look, either you're in or you're out, what's it gonna be?" He never said, "Please, please, please!" It was, "Hey, you do what you feel led to do."

Jesus said, "I do only what I see my father do." That's total duplication--and talk about the ultimate sponsor!

In fact, Christ didn't just practice duplication, he practiced multiplication. He sent his disciples out two by two. Now, if I tell you something, it may be suspect, because you just heard from me. But I have my partner on the line with me and we both tell you, it has more credibility, because it's the word of two people.

One of our favorite words in network marketing is "Next!" That's what Christ modeled: if a town is not in accord with your message, shake off the dust and keep moving. "Next!"

Christ was a social animal; he spent his time out in the crowd; his congregations were very eclectic. He modeled the understanding that you never know who your next superstar is going to be. Who'd have thought that the next superstar in his organization would be someone who'd denied him three times? Or a tax-collector, one who was known for his less than ethical ways? Or two uneducated fishermen? And they became great recruiters.

-- D.F