Defining Potential

Jeffery Gosnell Leadership

This morning I saw one of those “demotivational” posters that people post on Facebook. It showed a box of French fries with the caption, “POTENTIAL—Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up!” I chuckled for a moment, and then I began thinking about what does potential really mean. I’m not referring to the official definition of the word, but to the expectation of potential.

Contrary to the “self-esteem” movement of the 00’s, we aren’t all born with the same potential. Outside factors such as socio-economics, racial equality, and educational opportunities combine with internal factors like IQ, personality, and genetics will temper our potential. As cool as it might be to work as an astronaut, I have neither the physical make up, nor the temperament to be one. Such a career has always been outside my potential.

HOWEVER, even though we don’t all share the same potential, we all have potential to do great things in the eyes of God. Think about that for a moment, from an eternal perspective a fry-cook at a fast food restaurant has as much potential as an astronaut or president.

One of my favorite true stories is about Edward Kimball. Kimball was a Sunday school teacher in Boston, MA in the spring of 1856. One day, Kimball felt an urging to go to visit one of his students to explain God’s plan of salvation. In the back of a shoe store, Kimball led this 17-year old boy to Christ. That shoe store employee (think 1850’s fry-cook) was name D.L. Moody. Moody went on to become the greatest evangelist of the 19th century. He personally led thousands to Christ. The school he established, Moody Bible Institute, has trained more foreign missionaries than any other western school. Moody, a shoe salesman, did great and amazing things that still impact our world today. However, behind all that “potential” was a volunteer Sunday school teacher taking the time to visit a student.

Group leaders, are you pursuing your potential to its fullest, or do you see your volunteer work as merely a task no one else is willing to do? Have you ever given thought to the potential of those you are leading? One of them may be the next D.L. Moody….or one of them may be the next Edward Kimball. After all, both men did great things—it’s just that one of them had the potential to “go to the moon,” and the other had the potential to prime the rocket.