Honesty in Advertising?
Meet Kennon Vaughan.
From all indications, Kennon is aggressively putting himself on the fast track to be the next Oral Roberts or Jimmy Swaggert. This young hopeful in the religious Personality Pageant seems to be making all the right moves too. That’s not what brought him to my attention, however. He seems to be making no bones about creating a religious money machine with himself at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. He has named his operation “Downline Ministries”.
Downline: Refers to multi-level marketing (MLM) and describes people who work beneath you, or 'down the line'. A person's job would be to recruit others to sell their product, and in return, receive a percentage of their sales. The next person's job then is to recruit people even more so below them, and receive a percentage of their sales. This technique continues down and down. Part of the scheme of this entire process revolves around the people at the top being the real money makers. MLM existed before the Internet, but the Net has helped it to really take off.
From the Mission Statement at downineministries.com:
“In the Spring of 2004, after a year of prayerfully discerning the specific nature of this call, I founded “DownLine Ministries” to aid in the training of men to make disciples. “DownLine” is a non-profit organization, birthed under the guidance and leadership of a phenomenal Board of Directors, including Kem Wilson Jr., Jack Moore, Roy “Soup” Campbell, Hamp Holcomb, Dr. David Libby, Paul Ellis, and Dr. James Selecman.”
So, the mission is essentially to train people how to train followers - for a fee of course. I have never noticed a shortage in willing followers or Seminary Schools, but Kennon apparently discovered a need that required filling. And who gets to be the Band Leader of this new chapter of the Jesus Glee Club? One guess.
I have to admire his style, if not his motives or ethics, which remain questionable. He has run his campaign with the skill of a General. He has made all the right moves. He has formed strategic alliances and a nice mutual admiration society. He has secured the all-important 501c3 classification for his school. Visitors are informed of this and invited to participate through donation right on his home page. He has shown a good understanding of multi-tier, multi-faceted marketing, including the use of testimonials from self-interested parties. Some of them should end, “I’m not just a satisfied customer, I’m also on the Board of Directors.”
Vaughan has worked hard to promote himself as a leader with a squeaky clean reputation. His Bachelor Party is even a matter of public record. You won’t see any of the usual shenanigans here, it’s an athletic competition. If there are any skeletons in his closet, he’s working hard to keep them in the past. That way they can be attributed to his life before he was “saved” and easily overlooked/forgiven by the faithful. Vaughan has also made a strategic marriage. I’m not saying he doesn’t love this woman, but he certainly did not settle for his high school sweetheart, or the girl next door. I predict that she will be more help in this venture than Tammy Faye was to Jim Bakker. He has wasted no time in starting a family, either. Given the usual Christian hang-ups about human sexuality, making babies is a requirement. Besides, people tend to show more trust toward a “family man”, for reasons known only to psychologists. Freddie List was a classmate of mine, so I don’t afford family men or Paragons of the Church any special consideration. I digress.
In six short years, Kennon Vaughan has taken an idea from dream to infrastructure. He is likely to go far if he doesn’t succumb to any of the temptations that seem to plague the successful Alpha personality. Power corrupts, as a look at the history of Swaggert, Bakker, or Roberts could tell you. That Vaughan has the alpha personality is indisputable. He is highly competitive, and shows a strong will to dominate. He is on a track that will very likely allow him to surround himself with people who will give him what he wants, wealth, power, and a panoply.