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Core Model Brief: An Introduction to Transformational Theology

Theology is for everyone, because the Word of God is for everyone! God desires that all believers are deeply taught His Word so that everyone will be mature in Christ.

Malcolm Webber

In Transformational Theology there are two major, biblical ideas. First, theology is for every believer, including children. Second, theology is transformational.
When most Christians think of “theology” today, words like theoretical, abstract and irrelevant come to mind. The only people who should learn “theology” are seminary students, and the only people who should teach it are scholars. The word brings up images of classrooms, libraries, papers, exams and grades. Finally, and sadly, the idea of “theology” usually makes people feel tired or bored.
Biblically, however, every part of this scenario is wrong!
Theology is for everyone, because the Word of God is for everyone! God desires that all believers are deeply taught His Word so that everyone will be mature in Christ.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
The method matters, too! Jesus and Paul taught truth to their disciples in the midst of the pressures, challenges and opportunities of life, not in classrooms.
Finally, we know that when biblical Truth is taught it has tremendous impact: freedom, life, joy, victory, power, fruitfulness – and above all, that we will know God! (1 John 1:3)
Even a quick reading of the Book of Acts will demonstrate that:
  • Theological learning was done in local churches, not academic institutions.
  • Theological learning was accessible for everyone, not only the elite.
  • Theological learning was done in a transformational way. It was not theoretical and abstract.
The Three Pillars of Transformational Theology

All three must always be present for “theology” to have been done biblically.
A Transformational Goal
The goal of doctrine in the Bible is always life change. In the Scripture, doctrine is never taught for its own sake. In all the Word of God, there is not a single example of this! In other words, the purpose of the biblical author in teaching doctrine is never merely that we understand and agree with correct doctrine. His purpose is always that our lives are transformed in certain specific ways.
For example, in Philippians 2, Paul teaches that Jesus “emptied Himself” when He became a Man, so that we would do the same thing and imitate Him by emptying ourselves of our ambition, privileges, and self-centeredness and by serving one another. Paul’s purpose was to nurture servanthood, community and unity in the Church. This is a transformational purpose!
In Hebrews 4:14-16, the writer of Hebrews teaches that Jesus has a genuine humanity so that we go to Him when we are struggling. Because He is a Man, Jesus knows what we are going through. Therefore, we can go to Him boldly and expect that He will help us and give us the grace to endure. This is also a transformational purpose!
Every doctrine in the Bible has direct transformational purpose – with no exception.
  • There is one God – therefore, we serve Him alone with singleness of heart and life (Deuteronomy 6:4).
  • Jesus is God – therefore, we will surrender our lives to Him as our God, worship and obey Him as our God, and trust Him in the midst of our sufferings because He is the One who holds our lives and all things in His hands.
  • God is Spirit – therefore, we will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
  • God is omnipotent – therefore, we will not limit Him (Ephesians 3:20).
  • God is self-existent and we are not – therefore, we are dependent on Him for everything (Colossians 1:17).
  • God does not change – therefore, we can fully trust His Word (Numbers 23:19).
  • God is love – therefore, we experience His love and share His love with others (1 John 3:16).
  • God is holy – therefore, those who are born of Him will also be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).
  • God is sovereign – therefore, we rest in the assurance that He is in control of all things (Daniel 4:34-35).
  • Man is responsible – therefore, we take initiative in our lives and in sharing the Gospel with others (Romans 10:14-15).
  • The Scripture is God-breathed – therefore, we love the Word, devote our lives to it, believe it, obey it, and trust it (2 Timothy 3:16).
  • We are saved by God’s grace received through faith and not works – therefore, we will rest in God’s grace, experiencing peace and joy in His gift of life (Romans 5:1).
  • We are sanctified in Christ – therefore, we will live every part of our lives as a holy service to God (Colossians 3:22-24).
  • And many more …
Doctrine is always taught this way in the Bible! Always! There is no single example in the entire Bible where doctrine is taught for its own sake – that we would merely understand it. The goal of theological truth in the Bible is always life transformation (Psalm 19:7-8, John 20:30-31, 1 John 1:3).
Clearly, we must change the way we do theological learning. First, we must have a clear and explicit transformational goal in everything we do. Then, second, we must have a transformational process.
A Transformational Process
The process of theological learning in the Bible is always holistic and transformational, and never purely theoretical and academic. We must use the Four Dynamics of Transformation (the 4Ds).
The 4Ds define a transformational process – all four must be deeply integrated in theological learning.
Did Jesus teach theology to His disciples? Of course He did! His disciples’ theology was so deep and robust they turned the world upside down in a few years and then wrote the New Testament.
But how did Jesus do it?
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those whom He desired, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. (Mark 3:13-15)
Jesus created a transformational context around His emerging leaders:
1. A spiritual environment, involving relationship with God (with Himself, as well as with the Father through prayer).
2. A relational web, involving both relationship with a mature leader (Himself), and relationships with others (the community of the disciples).
3. An experiential context, involving obedience to His teaching, challenging assignments, pressure and a diversity of learning opportunities.
Then, in that transformational context:
4. He instructed them; this was the transformational content of development.
This was how Jesus taught theology to His disciples! Paul also taught theology this way (2 Timothy 3:10-17). Both Jesus and Paul deeply integrated all Four Dynamics of Transformation in their method of theological learning.
Not only must we have a clear and explicit transformational goal in everything we do, but we must also use a transformational process.
Third, and finally, we must have transformational content.
Transformational Content
We must teach the Word of God, not the abstract philosophies and theories of men.
This is what Jesus, Paul and all the Early Church leaders taught. The only books that Jesus used were the books of the Old Testament. Paul was a brilliant scholar, yet He also quoted the Word of God and not the words of men. Moreover, he always pointed us to our ultimate purpose in everything – to know the Lord Jesus – and he warned us against everything that would distract us from Him!
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:6-10)
We must return to the centrality and simplicity of the Word of God in our theological learning.
The Word of God has the power to change lives, to build leaders, to change nations. The words of man have no power, but the Word of God is alive and powerful!
… when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
The words of man have no divine authority, but the Word of God has authority (Mark 1:22). The words of man have no conviction – it is merely human debate – but the Word of God carries deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5). When men go beyond the Word of God it creates controversies and division (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
When we teach the Word of God our teaching will be deep, our teaching will have conviction and authority, and our teaching will change people’s lives.
Certainly, there are many good books that point us to the Word of God. But the vast majority of our time should be spent in the Word of God itself – studying, meditating, learning, memorizing, reflecting, obeying and sharing.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Practical Implications of Transformational Theology
  • Transformational Theology is for everyone in our churches, including the children!
  • Everything we teach must have a clear and explicit transformational goal.
  • If what we’re teaching has no practical benefits, then why are we teaching it?
  • We must use the “Four Dynamics of Transformation” – spiritual, relational, experiential and instructional. We must stop “instruction only” theological learning.
  • We must return to the centrality of the Word of God in our teaching. Man’s words should be used very sparingly and purposefully and only if they point directly to the Scripture.
  • We must evaluate the emerging leader’s life – not merely his understanding of theology.
  • Those who teach theology must themselves be examples of transformed lives – not merely academic achievement. Leaders build leaders. This alone will change theological teaching and learning!
  • We do need some scholars who have studied all the abstract theories, but this is not the normal standard for most leaders. In addition, those scholars must be built in their lives – not just their scholarship.
  • We must eliminate “busy-work” for those who are building leaders. Everything they do should be focused on building life – not just performing administrative, institutional tasks.
 Four Major Paradigm Shifts
Transformational Theology requires four paradigm shifts:
1. Theological learning is not only for a few, but for everyone.
2. The goal of theological learning is not merely intellectual knowledge, but life transformation.
3. The process of theological learning is not merely academics, but a holistic 4D process.
4. The content of theological learning is not human views and traditions, but the living Word of God.
Imagine the Church in your nation like this:
  • Every leader has been built in a life-transformational, Christ-centered, Church-integrated, Word-focused, theologically-rich process.
  • Every church is building the people.
  • Parents are building their children.
  • Existing believers are building new disciples.
  • The older women are building the younger ones.
  • The mature men are building the younger men.
  • Leaders are building leaders.
And all of it is being done in a life-transformational, Christ-centered, Church-integrated, Word-focused, theologically-rich process – just like in the Book of Acts. Let us dare to dream!
We may be a long way from this dream now. But God is with us and this is His vision for His Church. Let’s look at Him and pursue His very highest!
Transformational Theology for Everyone
A new day dawns in theological learning!
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
It’s time for change.
We invite you to join the revolution in theological education!
For More Information
For more information on Transformational Theology, please see the following:
  • Transformational Theology by Malcolm Webber
  • How to Build Servant Leaders - youtube.com/watch?v=QkHWl7HznGk
    • This is an example of holistic and experiential learning design that uses theology in a transformational way.
  •  LeaderSource is also creating extensive learning designs that incorporate Transformational Theology for both adults and children. Please contact us for the latest information.


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