How good are we as churches at recognising potential? Do we look at each other and see only faults, or can we see the signs of talents that could grow to become something special?
Jesus saw potential in what might have looked to others like hopeless causes. He not only spotted what people could become, he did something about it, too. You could say that this was a characteristic of much of Jesus’ ministry, but it is perhaps most noticeable in his choice of disciples.
It has been remarked many times that Jesus chooses an unlikely bunch to work with and to entrust with the task of spreading the good news of God’s kingdom. Surely he should have chosen some “religious leaders” who would command the respect of the community and have a good education in the Scriptures? Instead, Jesus chooses fishermen and a tax collector, to name a few.
Somehow, when Jesus gets to know Simon, Andrew and James, he decides that these are the people he wants to work with. He sees their potential to do more than catch fish (not that he disparages this at all, of course); Jesus sees people with talents that could be developed to help bring people into the kingdom (Mark 1:16-20).
When Jesus meets Simon in John 1:42 he says that he will have a new name – “Peter”. This is not just a case of using a different name as his old one was hard to pronounce or anything like that! Jesus renames him as an indication of something he sees in him that will later come to fruition.
Barnabas is another example from the New Testament of someone who sees potential in others. Most notably, he believes in Paul and opens up opportunities for him to use his talents – Acts 9:26-28, 11:19-26 (see also my article on Barnabas – “Encourage – then everyone wins”).
Whilst it may be right to emphasise growth in character, becoming more Christ-like in personal “holiness”, we shouldn’t be so keen to drive the bad out of ourselves that we fail to notice the good that can be developed and the talents that can be used for God’s kingdom. We may not have the immense abilities of insight that Jesus had, but with prayer and an effort on our part to notice, we can learn to see not only the good in one another, but the potential as well.
Have you noticed talent or potential in someone recently? Have you told them so? Are we too preoccupied with getting our own talents spotted and used to notice others’? What might happen to our churches and the work for the kingdom if we spent more time encouraging one another, opening doors and developing people?
© Joe Lenton, October 2012
I think that one of the hindrances to both church growth and the individual growth of Christians is the failure to recognise and develop talents in all areas. Unless someone is good at doing the obvious ‘ministry’ things (preaching or leading worship) or has a useful skill in property maintenance or keeping the accounts, their abilities may not be recognised or utilised in the church.
Some years ago I read a book called ‘The Church Unleashed’ by a US pastor, Frank Tillapaugh (still on Amazon as a used book!). As I remember it, his basic idea was that the Minister of a church was there to recognise, encourage, and develop the gifts of his congregation – to ‘unleash’ them! The ‘ministry’ of the church was done by the church members, the ‘minister’ was there to facilitate that.
Unfortunately, many churches today consider that ministry is done by the minister alone! Much potential therefore goes unused.
Yet all talents are God-given and should have their place in ‘ministry’ of one sort or another. As I was told once ‘The gifting is the calling’. That made a great impact on my perceptions – for me, particularly in the area of writing, but it equally applies to every person and all gifts.
Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. You make some good points. Personally, I would like to see “ministers/pastors/vicars” think of themselves more as “facilitators”. Their role (to my mind) should be more of what you are suggesting above – helping others to grow, develop their gifts and minister for the kingdom. Too often, looking for “gifting” or “talents” is concerned with filling the usual visible roles within church. What about talents for the kingdom that are best used outside of “church” settings?
One of the issues here, I guess, is that talents are often raw, and leaders have to take risks, letting someone develop their talent when it’s at an early stage. Perhaps that’s why the process doesn’t always work. Jesus was prepared to take the risks.