It’s probably been a decade since I went back and took a look at the site for Crown Financial Ministries. Frankly I was shocked about what I saw just now.
It’s clear Crown Financial Ministries has moved a long way away from the foundation laid by Larry Burkett (Christian Financial Concepts) and Howard Dayton (Crown Ministries).
In the interest of disclosure I did make a donation to Crown Financial Ministries in honor of Larry Burkett when he passed away in 2003.
If we look at the Wikipedia description of the group this is what we see:
“Crown Financial Ministries is a nondenominational, evangelical Christian ministry with the mission of equipping Christians around the world to learn, apply and teach financial principles which they claim are based on the Bible. The ministry’s goal is to teach 300 million people by September 2015.”
That is certainly an admirable goal to assist Christians and a lofty goal. But what is the message that you find if you dig a little deeper? How about words like commissions, upsell, indemnification, trade secret, non-compete, arbitration and keep your mouth shut about criticism.
The Crown Financial Ministries Mission
Crown Financial Ministries mission and vision seems fairly simple and direct. In their own words:
Share Truth, Deliver Hope, Advance Transformation.
We equip servant leaders to live by God’s design for their finances, work and life … to advance transformation.
Lordship – Jesus Christ is our Head. All that we do should reflect our humble submission to His leading. We will seek Him first in our personal lives and corporate decisions.
Stewardship – In all decisions we make, we do so with a desire to please the Lord with our management of the resources He has entrusted to us.
Generosity – We commit ourselves to foster a culture of biblical generosity, practicing generous living and gracious giving, within our spheres of influence through modeling, teaching and equipping. – Source
But Is It That Simple and Clean?
I admit the mission as they lay it out seems completely innocent and simple. They proclaim to offer finance and money instruction through generosity, humble submission, a desire to please the Lord, and to graciousness.
So how do match that with this part of their contractor agreement?
Crown desires to provide its Contractors with the best services and Compensation Plan possible. Accordingly, Crown values constructive criticism and encourages the submission of written comments addressed to Crown leadership. However, negative and disparaging comments about Crown calculated to dampen the enthusiasm of other Crown Contractors and disparage Crown represents a material breach of these Policies and Procedures and may be subject to sanctions as deemed appropriate by Crown. – Source
The Crown Contrators or Crown Associates as they are called are 1099 contractors that work full or part time and are “Focused on sale of Crown programs, products, and events.”
Here is how Crown describes their U.S. Sales Force and it’s emphasis on “up selling” and being sales focused.
Crown Associates earn “25% commission on the sale of most programs and products.” They have the opportunity to earn more, are paid monthly, and can get a protected territory, much like a franchise.
The basis for the belief in this mission seems to be the quote used on the cover of this sales material.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. – 2 Timothy 2:2 – Source
I did a Bible search but couldn’t locate any corresponding quotes that had anything to do with keeping your mouth shut if you disagree or up-selling.
Statement of Faith
As part of the Crown Associates application and screening process to earn paltry 25% commissions on low priced goods the associate has to complete:
- Personal Information
- Education & Employment History
- Ministry Involvement
- Statement of Faith
- Personality Assessment
- Spiritual Pilgrimage – Source
I’m not sure if the statement of faith is the same as the one available on their site but here is what Crown Financial Ministries says:
Statement of Faith
We believe that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative Word of God. It is without error in all its teaching.
We believe that there is one God, Lord of the universe, eternally existent in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ; in His virgin birth; in His perfect, sinless life; in His miracles; in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood; in His bodily resurrection; in His ascension to heaven to the right hand of God the Father; and in His personal and visible return in power and glory.
We believe that all people are lost sinners and that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
We believe that all people will be resurrected-those who are saved to eternal life and those who are lost to eternal damnation.
We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe that God, as Creator, is the ultimate Owner of all possessions on earth. God has given people the authority to be stewards of those possessions and the responsibility to faithfully manage them according to the principles in the Word of God. – Source
God Forgives, Crown Financial Ministries Doesn’t
I hate to keep circling back to this but how can you rationalize the all forgiving and gracious nature of God and the don’t say anything bad about us or we kick you out of Crown Financial Ministries as a sales representative and potentially keep your commissions?
So if we turn our attention back to the Crown Financial Ministries contractor agreement for people that have presumably passed the personality assessment and statement of faith, along with other things, we find:
- Contractor agrees to purchase either a basic or deluxe resource kit (at a discounted price of approximately $100 or $200, respectively) for the purposes of promoting Crown products and services.
- In exchange for the Contractor’s compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Crown will pay Contractor a monthly commission equal to twenty-five percent (25%) of the purchase price paid by the customer for orders placed under the Contractor’s name or individual ID code.
- Crown has no control over, and no right to control or direct, the Contractor’s method, manner, or means of performing the work, but is only concerned about the end results of Contractor’s work to protect the Crown brand and goodwill. [It's about the end results.]
- If Contractor chooses to perform any work under this Agreement, however, Contractor is responsible for determining how to perform the work, consistent with generally recognized standards of care in the industry, any applicable laws, rules, or regulations, and Crown’s Statement of Faith. [What industry is that?]
- If Contractor chooses to perform any work under this Agreement, however, Contractor is responsible for determining how to perform the work, consistent with generally recognized standards of care in the industry, any applicable laws, rules, or regulations, and Crown’s Statement of Faith. [Again, what industry?]
- During the term of this Agreement and for a period of 2 years after the termination or expiration of this Agreement between the Contractor and Crown, the Contractor shall not use the information to compete with Crown or for any purpose other than promoting his or her business with Crown.
- During the term of this Agreement and for a period of 6 months thereafter, any Crown Contractor must not sell, or entice others to sell, any competing products or services without pre-approval by Crown. Any product or service in the same generic category as a Crown product or service is deemed to be competing regardless of differences in cost.
- During the term of this Agreement and for 6 months thereafter, Contractor also agrees not encourage, solicit, or otherwise attempt to recruit or persuade any other Crown Contractors to compete with the business of Crown. Furthermore, for the same duration, Contractor agrees not to recruit or solicit any of Crown’s customers for a competing enterprise, unless Contractor can demonstrate a pre-existing relationship prior to this Agreement.
- Except as provided in Paragraph 18, either Contractor or Crown may terminate this Agreement for any or no reason whatsoever upon 30 days’ written notice to the other, which notice the recipient may waive, in which event the effective termination date shall be deemed the date of such waiver.
- Crown may, at any time, terminate this Agreement upon twenty-four (24) hours’ written notice if Contractor materially breaches this Agreement or if Crown becomes insolvent, bankrupt or initiates bankruptcy proceedings. – Source
Please don’t misconstrue my observations and criticism. It’s entirely appropriate for Crown Financial Ministries to create a profitable business enterprise out of the products and services they create and promote. But what has struck me is the division between the claimed mission and the apparent restrictive and censoring contractual relations created by it’s sales force. And a true sales force it is when the emphasis is on sales up-selling, and moving product.
To be financially and spiritually successful, one has to abandon pride and embrace humility. Audio: ow.ly/bylqp
— Crown(@CrownUpdates) June 13, 2012
Doesn’t humility also allow Crown Financial Ministries to accept the fact that some might disagree with their service and products and wish to conduct a health discussion about those issues without the fear of reprisal? Apparently not.
And these slide comes from the Crown Financial Ministries church presentation materials.
Crown Financial Ministries is Losing Revenue
According to the last public tax return for Crown Financial Ministries for 2010 they had $9,638,529 in income and lost $2,361,970 for the year.
Interestingly enough in their public tax return to the IRS they don’t seem to put the same emphasis on sales and up-selling as they do for their associates and sales representatives.
According to the return, Chuck Bently works 40 hours a week and earned $168,591. All together they report paying out $4,810,850 in salaries and wages. They also reported $103,619 for product development costs and nearly a million lost on something called “software conv loss.”
If we look at their published track record, the company is steadily loosing revenue.
- 2006 – $15,567,190
- 2007 – $15,951,480
- 2008 – $13,161,757
- 2009 – $10,138,484
- 2010 – $7,214,535
And apparently their primary fundraiser is cleaning up. In 2010, MDS Communications, Corp, 545 W Juanita Ave, Mesa Arizona received $119,332 and retained $72,879 of those funds. – Source
I have no idea what is causing their dropping revenue but it appears this sales program was launched by them around June of 2011 and they probably thought it was a good idea to help generate additional sales and revenue.
Unwittingly they appear to have embraced a poor approach at helping to spread their mission and message by putting a noose around the neck of the very associates they are trying to recruit as sales people.
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