My dear friends,

Realising our potential

 

There is a huge distance to be travelled between identifying potential and realising it.

The Chaplain General of the British Army encouraged me to take the plunge and accept his invitation to join the Parachute Regiment as one of their chaplains.  I expressed concern that at nearly forty, selection and training might pose something of a challenge.  But he was certain I had what it took.  Six months later, as I lay in my hospital bed recovering, I recognised we had both been right!   Even at my advanced age, passing the demands of pre-parachute selection was indeed within my capabilities; but I had also been realistic in calculating that this achievement would require, to use a Churchillian phrase, ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat.’1 

It is so easy to identify potential.  We do so almost casually, cavalierly even.  We say to a well-matched couple that a long and happy life lies before them; we tell a young athlete he has the makings of an Olympian or suggest to a prodigious child musician that they ‘have what it takes’.  We fail to tell them that even with all the potential in the world a lifelong marriage, Olympic medals and successful performing careers take an almost incalculable amount of sheer hard work to achieve.  It is nothing less than cruel if we suggest otherwise.

Christian discipleship is just such a path, which is why Jesus warned potential followers to ‘count the cost’ before they rushed to take up their cross and follow him.2

And becoming a healthy and growing church is also not achieved without blood, toil, tears and sweat.  It comes through being prepared to make bold decisions full of faith.  It requires patience, active involvement and constant attention to detail.  Many balk at the challenge.  I know a great number of churches with real potential, that when they begin to see the cost of growth and change, choose rather to settle for the quiet and more orderly life of peaceful stagnation and gentle decline.

For every successful athlete, a thousand or more of equal potential and talent have fallen by the wayside.  I don’t know about you, but when it comes to living the Christian life or building the church, there is just too much at stake to allow that.

My wife tells me I quote Churchill too much, and she is always right about such things, but if you will permit me to quote him just once more in conclusion:

'Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.’3

 

Jeff Cuttell

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1 A phrase used by Sir Winston Churchill on 13th May 1940 in his first speech to parliament three days after being made Prime Minister

2 Luke 14:27-33

3 The sentence Churchill used to the House of Commons to conclude the above speech.

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