Church people speak in code.

“Bless your heart” means (at least in the South) “I sure am glad I’m not you right now.”

“Not my spiritual gift” translates as “Find someone else.”

“Lord willing” means “I will try to come, but probably won’t.”

“The Lord works in mysterious ways” means “I have no clue what is going on.”

Last but certainly not least, “He has potential” translates into “He is not there yet.”

Potential is a funny thing. We get excited about potential. We make decisions based on potential. I’ve even seen people get married because of potential (a horrible idea, btw).

But potential can be unpredictable. You never know if what could be will actually be.

Too often we mistake gifting for potential.

We think if she can sing then she has potential to lead worship.

Or if he has a dynamic enough personality, then he also has the potential to become a preacher.

We cannot – CANNOT – mistake talent for potential.

Potential can only be identified one way: Process.

Can we endure the tests God is going to take us through?

Can we survive His silence? Our frustration? His unpredictability? Our disappointment?

Can we handle His correction?

Because if gifting cannot tolerate correction, then it can’t be called potential.

If charisma cannot be confronted, it might be a tremendous asset but will never become anything else.

Listen to this short parable in Luke 13:

“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’“ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

Jesus acknowledged the tree’s potential. He also noted it’s barrenness. The solution was simple: it needs some correction.

If we can see it right, correction is an investment into our development. It’s how we get better. Without it, we are doomed to remain at the same level we are at now. After all, you cannot help someone who is already in love with their own advice.

When we think of correction, our minds usually race to times where God lovingly adjusts this or that in the secrecy of our prayer closet or through a Bible verse.

But what about when God uses His delegated leaders to bring correction?

What about the hard conversation with our pastor that is painful, yet can also be empowering?

What about the sermon that makes us cringe on the inside because although we cannot explain it, the man of God seems to be talking directly to me?

What about that opportunity we so desperately want, but our leader hasn’t released us yet because he doesn’t think we are ready?

What about the rebuke? The confrontation?

What about the cutting? The pruning?

Simply put, does your pastor carry a knife?

And if so, do you like it?

I know this is foreign to popular church culture. Be positive, positive, positive; never challenge, never correct, never make a demand on anyone.

But how – HOW – do they grow?

I say we go back to embracing the hard way.

With humility, grace, and truth, let’s surrender our lives to the Father’s correction, no matter how it comes.

Because it’s the only way to get out of us what He put in us.