Charles Ponzi was a brilliant man. What he would do, in essence, was entice investors by claiming to pay short-term returns that were either outrageously consistent or abnormally high (at least that’s what Wikipedia claims). He would then pay off these returns with the money of other investors. He never grew wealth. He never added to anyone’s wealth. He simply would shuffle money between his clients to make it appear as if their wealth was growing. This system of operating is now known as a “Ponzi Scheme.” It’s the same operation Bernie Madoff is currently imprisoned for having run (that’s the second Wikipedia page linked in this post…man, I love that site).
Yesterday, I had a lady who recently left our church come in and visit. She went on to tell me that it is amazing to see what God is doing in the city of Long Beach. When I inquired what God was doing in his church she told me that a local congregation just received 60 new congregants into membership. Now, I don’t want to be a negative nancy, but I will be here for a minute. I know for a fact that a handful of those new members are former members of my own congregation. They left the community I’m apart of and joined another. Now before you think I’m writing this blog post out of bitterness toward that congregation, the woman in my office, or those who left my congregation let me say that I am not. (At least I hope I’m not.) Recently my own congregation praised God for bringing a couple of new families into membership (that had recently left another church in the local area).
The reason I write this post, though, is that I found a problematic relationship in this woman’s statement. She seemed to indicate that “kingdom work” or “God’s work” was equated to what many call “church hopping.” I’m not mad at her or bitter toward her for this, but I think the church (myself included) has, at times, confused these two activities with the one another. ”God’s moving in our congregation because we’re growing,” may be more accurately translated sometimes (not always) as, “God’s moving in our congregation because people are leaving their congregations to come to attend ours.”
Kingdom work is not the “shuffling of sheep” among congregations. Kingdom work is Parkcrest Christian Church (my home church) baptizing several (I think over 100) believers into the faith last summer. It’s Westside Christian Church (which I would have linked on this blog but couldn’t find their website) in Long Beach doing things like Operation RV Christmas a few months ago.
So may God grant us the grace and gift to discern the difference between the “Ponzi Kingdom” and God’s Kingdom.