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

Transformation in sharing the Gospel message.

Written by: on January 23, 2024

I enjoyed the overarching theme of the book Threshold Concepts, which revolves around transformative, integrative, and irreversible concepts that, once grasped, lead to a new way of thinking within a particular discipline. Meyer and Land argue that certain concepts are gateways to deeper understanding and disciplinary expertise. The very idea that there are transformative and integrative ideas that, once understood, represent a shift in perception (p7) of a subject rings true. During my Masters of Leadership studies, I often looked at the essay assignments and found myself reading extensively until I even understood what the questions were asking. Further research caused me to have the “aha” moments I needed to develop my understanding and writing. Meyer and Land brilliantly argue that these threshold concepts act as gateways to deeper understanding but can also pose significant challenges because these threshold concepts are often challenging for students to grasp due to their transformative nature.

The authors argue that troublesome knowledge is not merely characterised by complexity; rather, it arises from a misalignment between learners’ pre-existing conceptions and the fundamental concepts inherent to a discipline. The authors contend that these cognitive obstacles can impede the acquisition of threshold concepts, hindering students’ progression to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of a subject.

Through excellent empirical research and illustrative case studies, the book expounds strategies for educators to recognise, address, and overcome troublesome knowledge. In essence, “Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding” underscores the significance of acknowledging and navigating troublesome knowledge to facilitate meaningful learning and conceptual development among students.

The Interdisciplinary applicability of threshold concepts is not confined to a specific discipline of academic learning. It is a valuable learning resource for educators, even in Gospel proclamation. While it is inevitable that the concept of salvation through Jesus, once grasped, leads to a new way of thinking, the idea of troublesome knowledge is an insightful way to look at those on the journey of salvation. If not rectified, the inherent misalignment between an unsaved person’s pre-existing concept of Jesus and the fundamental truthful concept of Christ creates grave obstacles in the salvation journey. The troublesome knowledge in this area underscores the importance of pedagogical approaches in teaching the gospel that actively engage the unreached with challenging biblical concepts, fostering a transformative learning experience. With pedagogical reflection in mind,  Meyer and Land encourage the gospel witness/preacher to reflect on teaching practice, encouraging instructors (or preachers) to reconsider their assumptions about learning and teaching and fostering a continuous improvement mindset. Considering this idea as a gospel preacher could bring about a revolution in the church in how preachers and parishioners share the gospel with friends, work colleagues and family.

In positing that traditional pedagogical methods may fail to address the intricacies of threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (p169), the authors advocate for pedagogical innovations that actively engage students in grappling with challenging concepts. The authors emphasise the importance of incorporating active learning strategies, such as problem-based learning, case studies, and collaborative activities, to deepen students’ understanding and promote conceptual transformation. What would this look like in a gospel proclamation sense? 

Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, though devised in 1956, still has a modern application that may help preachers. He developed six categories that support the enabling of learners to overcome threshold concepts. They include:

  1. Remembering: This level involves recalling facts, concepts, or information without necessarily understanding them. It includes tasks like memorisation and recognition.
  2. Understanding: At this level, individuals demonstrate comprehension of the material by interpreting, summarising, or explaining it in their own words. Understanding goes beyond mere memorisation to grasp the meaning of concepts.
  3. Applying: This category involves using acquired knowledge in new situations or solving problems. Applying skills often requires the transfer of learned information to practical scenarios.
  4. Analysing: Analysing requires breaking down information into its components, examining relationships, and understanding the organisational structure. It involves critical thinking and the ability to identify patterns or connections.
  5. Evaluating: This level involves making judgments about the value of ideas, materials, or methods based on criteria or standards. It includes critical assessment and forming opinions.
  6. Creating: The highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, creating, involves synthesising information from various sources to generate new ideas, products, or solutions. It requires originality, innovation, and the ability to combine elements in a novel way.

In summary, “Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding” guides students, educators and preachers, offering insights into pedagogical approaches that transcend conventional methods, fostering an environment conducive to overcoming cognitive hurdles and ultimately enhancing the learner’s comprehension of challenging disciplinary content.



Heflin, Houston. “That’s a Good Question: Inquiry as a Pedagogical Strategy of  Jesus in Matthew.” Journal of Adult Theological Education 18, no. 2 (2021): 135-147. doi:10.1177/07398913211009524.

Meyer, Jan H. F., and Ray Land. Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. London: Routledge, 2006.

About the Author


Glyn Barrett

I am the founding, Lead Pastor of !Audacious Church in Manchester, England. I was born in Manchester, but moved to Australia at the age of two. My wife and I were married in Australia and began married and ministry life in England 28 years ago. After serving as youth pastors for 12 years, we moved to Manchester to pioneer !Audacious Church. As a church we now have 7 locations. 3 in Manchester, Chester, Cardiff (Wales), Sheffield, and Geneva (Switzerland). In 2019 I became the National Leader of Assemblies of God in Great Britain. We have over 600 churches in our movement and have planted 50 new churches since May 2022 with a goal of planting 400 new churches between May 2022 and May 2028. I am the European Lead for MM33, which is the church planting ministry for Assemblies of God Global and also chair Empowered21 Western Europe. I'm happily married to Sophia, with two children, one dog and two motorbikes. I love Golf, coffee and spending time with friends. Looking forward to meeting you all, and creating new friendships.

10 responses to “Transformation in sharing the Gospel message.”

  1. Debbie Owen says:

    Glyn, this is a very thorough description of much of the book, and some appropriate applications to sharing the gospel.

    What do you think is often “troublesome knowledge” for a new disciple? And what are the challenging Biblical concepts you’ve found to be most transformative for new disciples of Jesus?

    Regarding Bloom’s Taxonomy, where do you think most “salvation” conversations begin? Where might it be best for them to begin?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hi Debbe, thanks for the comments and questions. “Troublesome knowledge” for new disciples often involves grappling with the complexity of biblical teachings and their application in daily life. Concepts such as forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and unconditional love can be challenging to fully comprehend and implement on the salvation journey. Transformative biblical concepts for new disciples often include the idea of grace, emphasising that salvation is a gift and not something earned through works. The paradoxical nature of Christian teachings, such as dying to oneself to find true life, can be both perplexing and profoundly transformative at the same time.

      In terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy, salvation conversations begin at the Understanding level, introducing foundational concepts like sin, redemption, and “how to respond to the resurrected Christ”. However, for a more profound impact, it is necessary to progress to higher levels, such as application and evaluation. Encouraging people to reflect on how salvation influences their actions and relationships fosters a deeper understanding and personal connection with Jesus on their faith journey. Ultimately, beginning at the foundational levels and gradually progressing allows for a comprehensive and transformative experience.

  2. Christy Liner says:


    I love the application of threshold concepts to the gospel.

    We once read the John 1 with a hindu and he we quickly realized that the passage was quite troublesome, especially vs 13-14:

    “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

    He shared that he wasn’t in the family of God, and despite our efforts, he couldn’t understand that there was an invitation. Do you have any experience with helping hindus cross the threshold into the family of God?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Christy, thanks for your thoughts and feedback. Personally, I have not had a lot of interaction with the Hindu community in the city where I live. I’m keen to learn, though, and any lessons you can share would be really valuable.

  3. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Thanks Glyn! I appreciate this post and the challenge to stay a continuous learner as a preacher and evangelists. I also appreciated the list of Bloom’s teaching objectives. Thanks for bringing that in. Which of those 6 have you found the most challenging as a preacher to engage people with?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Thanks for the question. I think the answer depends very much on the setting I find myself in, i.e., whether a church Sunday service or evangelistic setting.
      Perhaps one of the most challenging levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy for a preacher is often the Application level. I always teach new preachers with the “So What?” In other words, why should we care and how to de apply what is being preached? Encouraging congregants to integrate and apply complex theological concepts requires a deep understanding and personal connection to the material. Synthesising information involves creating new insights, and effectively guiding individuals in their own understanding can be difficult. Balancing depth and accessibility is essential to fostering transformative engagement at this higher cognitive level in the preaching process.

  4. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Glyn — I appreciate the way you explored and shared the interdisciplinary applicability of threshold concepts, particularly in the context of Gospel proclamation.

    I find the application of threshold concepts to Gospel proclamation is a unique and intriguing perspective, adding depth to the understanding of transformative learning. I agree that the connection between troublesome knowledge and the potential misalignment of pre-existing concepts of Jesus highlights a critical consideration in the journey of salvation. The call for pedagogical reflection and continuous improvement in teaching the gospel emphasizes the need for engaging and transformative approaches.

  5. Julie O'Hara says:

    Hi Glyn, Thank you for providing the info from Blooms Taxonomy. It provides additional structure in thinking about the ways I want to support our ministerial candidates. These categories can help me evaluate where a student might be on the more troublesome concepts and appropriately resource them toward crossing the threshold.

  6. Chad Warren says:

    Glyn, I appreciate the way you invite us to consider threshold concepts when thinking about the proclamation of the Gospel. In light of this, I have begun looking at Jesus’ own teaching and proclamation in the New Testament to see evidence of threshold concepts, troublesome knowledge, or liminality for the disciples, Pharisees, or others. His parables immediately come to mind. What, if any, examples do you identify in Jesus’ teaching?

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