Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

From Knowledge Acquisition to Transformative Perspectives

Written by: on January 25, 2024

I love the rich visual imagery in liminality, crossing a threshold from one room to another and embracing the experience of the known past, gathering it with the unknown future. As I read “Overcoming Barriers to Student Learning”, I appreciated that Jan H. F. Meyer and Ray Land did not explain the nature of any universal threshold for all, but offered the learning process to build in some space for students to define and attend to the unknown and troublesome elements they encounter so that new perspectives could emerge.

When the opportunities for working through emotional, logical or praxis-oriented gaps are build into the learning, it is often transformative. One way I have heard this expressed along the way is by philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He pronounced that “the only simplicity to be trusted is the simplicity to be found on the far side of complexity.”24 [1]. And in Jane Vella’s work, she explores this through the lens of “Dialogue education”, building on the work of Brazilian pioneer in Adult Education theory, Paulo Freire [2]. Both of these, along with Meyer and Land, incorporate the mystical wonder that comes by doing what Robert Coven calls “reinstating the browse” [3]. It is not enough to offer knowledge to be acquired or consumed. I want to be engaged in active, social and creative learning and teaching that attend to generative and constructivist paradigms [4].

One of the most significant threshold concepts I have encountered in my life as a Christian minister is the disciple-making paradigm for the Christian journey. I previously thought of discipleship in a ‘bookish’ way, and like many others, locked it into teaching and preaching. But as I began to explore the life-on-life, whole-life dimensions of following and helping others follow Jesus, I began to build in more contextual awareness. As I walked with others, I was able to see my role not as knowledge keeper or knowledge dispenser, but wayfarer. I learned this term from Antonio Machado, who wrote, “Wayfarer, there is no way, we make the way by walking” 1 [5]. Jennifer Booth’s chapter “On the mastery of philosophical concepts” in Meyer and Land’s work draw out three features of a threshold concept: transformative, irreversible, and integrative [6]. For me, the joy and wonder of following Jesus, and helping others do the same have become more of a “choose your own adventure” than a rigid set of guidelines and teachings set out in a linear fashion. As a result, I have not become a better quantitative leader, but qualitatively, I have seen the fruit in the lives of many parishioners, fellow sojourners, and students who are incorporating this threshold concept in their lives too.


[1] Seamands, Stephen A. (2005). Ministry in the Image of God : The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 113.

[2] Vella, Jane. (2007). On Teaching and Learning : Putting the Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education into Action. Somerset: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

[3] YouTube. “Breaking Through: Threshold Concepts as a Key to Understanding | Robert Coven | TEDxCaryAcademy,” n.d. https://youtube.com/watch?v=GCPYSKSFky4&si=h6o_HJeOxkWPrY9o.

[4] Meyer, J., & Land, R. (2006). Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge (1st ed.). Routledge, 34.

[5] Vella, 1.

[6] Meyer, 175.

About the Author


Joel Zantingh

Joel Zantingh serves as the Canadian Coordinator of the World Evangelical Alliance's Peace and Reconciliation Network, and as Director of Engagement with Lausanne Movement Canada. He has served in local and national roles within the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, and led their global mission arm. He has experience teaching in formal and informal settings with Bible college students and leaders from various cultures and generations. Joel and Christie are parents to adult children, as well as grandparents. They reside in Guelph, Ont., situated on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and home to many past, present and future First Nations peoples, including the Anishinnabe and Hodinöhsö:ni'.

8 responses to “From Knowledge Acquisition to Transformative Perspectives”

  1. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Joel, As I read your post about the imagery of liminality, I thought of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, our next week book, where the rites of passage was mentioned in different tribes and cultures, most time dreaded and sometimes painful. Yet what causes me pause is that our walk in faith is not finished once we become a Christian. We cross a threshold into faith where I believe we are ever changed, but there are more growing edges and doorways to traverse.
    I like your awareness the value of walking along side someone on the journey. How would you see this being done in a practical way.

    • Diane, thanks for your question. Like last week’s session on coaching where Tom Camacho used an 80/20 rule for when to coach and when to apply other skills, I lean to the discipling and spiritual formation predominantly from the everyday conversation, doing-life-together approaches in which Scripture and prayer are infused in the rhythms of life. the 80/20 is still open to formal preaching, teaching and bible study, but a Deut. 6 approach of talking about God’s lasts when we get up, eat at the table, walk along the road… this is what I mean practically when I describe it. Does that help you frame it a bit better? In what ways might that work in your world?

  2. Debbie Owen says:

    Joel, you’re speaking my favorite language when you enter the realm of life-on-life discipleship and disciplemaking. 🙂

    In your own personal and spiritual growth, where do you find that you are engaged in active, social and creative learning? Is there any troublesome knowledge you must wrestle with first? What’s waiting for you on the other side?

  3. Jeff Styer says:

    I appreciate your mentioning Paulo Freire. My oldest daughter introduced his writings to me and some of his thoughts resonated with me as a social worker. You mentioned your paradigm shift on discipleship making. I wonde, did the lecture and paper by Martyn Percy has further challenged your view of discipleship? While I am not a pastor, I seem to recall several people there struggle to process his comments.

    • Chad, thanks for bringing this back! So, the way I engage in walking with other followers of Jesus (discipling) has not been impacted by Martyn Percy’s comment. As I recall, he simply stated that we should not expect to disciple all followers of Jesus, and I would say I’ve come to interpret this in line with my former inner and outer rings, considering Jesus has the 3, the 12, the 70, the 120, and the crowd. His engagement with these different layers is distinct. So, Percy is addressing “who” gets discipled, and I am speaking here of ‘how” I see discipling. What are your thoughts on the matter?

      • Jeff Styer says:

        I’ve had conversations with family about this. I liked Martyn Percy’s rationale that he gave in his paper and lecture. As I look around my church and see the number of people who do not stay for a 2nd hour designed for discipling, I think I am okay that not everyone has to be a “disciple” being a follower is okay.

  4. Adam Cheney says:

    I like the term “Wayfarer.” It sounds like it should be the name of a title or identity in a card game. It is a great analogy and I often look at my life as one in a similar fashion. I just want to help people along the path towards Jesus. People are all along the path, some further along than others. I am further than many but there are plenty who are further along than me to help me along the way. Are there any specific “aha” moments that others have had as they move past the threshold that was holding them back that you have been excited about in the last few months?

  5. Chad Warren says:

    Joel, I resonated most with the liminality imagery as well. I appreciate what you said about the threshold concept of disciple-making. Describing it as a paradigm shift from from knowledge-keeper or knowledge-giver to wayfarer. Love it! I imagine you have brought others along as you have made this shift. Would you say it has created a liminal journey for others you have walked with? If so, how did that manifest?

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