This article is from the issue: Volume 2, Issue 4: Transformational Development Part 1

A Note from the Editor: Transformational Development

Oct 31, 20135 comments

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Our current issue features “transformational development” — a concept that evolved from the earlier notion of holistic development or cross-cultural ministry in the 1970s, and has been widely used among Christian (international development) circles, though it often encompasses somewhat nuanced field of change. We seek to provide a platform for engaged review and discussion based on studies and reflections from the global community, to inform one other, and to broaden our understanding, through which, hopefully, a shared conceptual framework may eventually surface. A heated dialogue is already underway in our blog revolving around “What Is Transformational Development?” Many readers may be aware of Bryant Myers’ book, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, which provides insightful perspectives that help illuminate the concept. He sets some signposts for transformational development as “seeking positive change in the whole of human life materially, socially, psychologically and spiritually” (2011, 3), a journey with God involving all “those who are on it” (16). He articulates the two goals of transformational development as “changed people and just and peaceful relationships” (17), and identifies, as essential in transformational development, the rediscovery of “human dignity and identity” and right relationship with God, self, community, those who are “other,” and the creation (180).

On WCIU’s website we recognize that “the roots of human problems lie deep within socio-cultural, socio-economic and political systems, and science and technology systems.” To address these root problems effectively, one needs to “understand these systems, to identify the roots of pervasive problems associated with human need (economic, political, cultural, mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual).” We also affirm international development as a dynamic process of change and growth, and is most transformative when generated from within a socio-cultural system. “Development that aims at transforming societies provides not only options and resources for physical and social betterment, but also hope and answers for spiritual questions and needs. Only through such development practices can lasting change be achieved.” The Hebrew concept of Shalom, right relationship with God, with other humans, and with God’s creation, is foundational to transformational development as we explore the various aspects of it surfacing in local contexts across the globe.

International Council for Higher Education logoThis topic has obviously generated a lot of interests from scholars and practitioners. I would like to thank all the authors whose works have (or have not) been selected for publication. Two of the authors in this issue are associated with the International Council for Higher Education and we are honored to feature their work. Kevin Mannoia is the new ICHE President, and David Lim’s paper was presented at the ICHE conference in May 2013.

Because of the amount of quality submissions for this issue we have received, we have decided to devote two issues, the current Fall 2013 Issue, and Winter 2014 Issue, to the same topic of transformational development. For this issue, Transformational Development: Part 1, we are publishing six articles including our first article in French. These include research done in various domains of human development, case studies, and biblical reflection.

Journal articles on Transformational Development:

“Curriculum for Economic Transformation” by David Lim.
“Integration in Program Development” by Kevin Mannoia.
“Local Public Policies and Citizen Participation in the Major Cities of North Cameroon: A Concern in the Fight against Poverty” by Gustave Gaye (article is in French with an English abstract).
“Transformational Development among Women with Disabilities in Sierra Leone” by Kim Kargbo.
“Faith and Life: A Pauline Perspective on the Integration of Faith and Everyday Life” by Corneliu Constantineanu (from the WCIU Press forthcoming book, First the Kingdom: Global Voices on Global Ministry).
“Contextual Scripture Engagement and Transcultural Ministry” by Rene Padilla (from the WCIU Press forthcoming book, First the Kingdom: Global Voices on Global Ministry).

You can download the full Transformational Development issue or click one of the links above to read each article individually.

I invite you to join the dialogue, discussion, and debate through commenting on the articles and blog postings, and sharing insights to your own social networks.

Read the full issue on “Transformational Development”


Hyeyoung Moon
Nov 06, 2013

I welcome this topic, ‘Transformational Development’ with heart. This concept gives us well-balanced perspectives and also it includes all aspects of human life and its conditions: social, economic, cultural, political, emotional, and spiritual, etc. They are given to us by God and they are all distorted. As an agent of God, when we join the recovery of this world, no area shall be excluded from us. All the more, we should seek for where is a blind spot. ‘A note from the editor’ gives the detailed reflections to us. Thank you.

Yalin Xin
Nov 11, 2013

Hyeyoung, thanks for the comment. It’s great that you are finding the topic relevant and important. I hope you will enjoy reading the rest of the journal articles.

Steve Youngren
Dec 07, 2013

In reading this introduction, it prompted me thinking about how I answered this question recently in my own studies at WCIU:
As one sees the effects of sin in Genesis 3, I also believe one can see the key biblical areas for international development. First of all, our sin separated us from God. This must be of first concern in any plan for international development. Secondly, our relationships were affected one with another, distorting roles, positions, and creating an atmosphere of oppression, hatred and dishonesty. Therefore, a biblical view must address these key areas of oppression, social justice and equality. Thirdly, physical issues were affected. Work would now be hard, physical pain, disease and death would now be part of the curse caused by sin. Therefore, a biblical view of international development must also address issues regarding economic productivity, disease and death. Fourthly, we see that the land was cursed and would no longer cooperate with the original “good” that God intended it for. In the same way, a biblical view of International development must also address such issues as natural disasters, famine relief, as well as explore how a culture can truly steward the natural resources to produce the “good” that God intended for His creation. While this is not exhaustive, each category does provide a basis for addressing spiritual, social/political, physical, economic and environmental issues involved in a biblical view of international development.

Yalin Xin
Dec 31, 2013

Great reflection, Steve. The framework of international development helps position efforts of addressing local needs and getting to the root causes of human problems, thus avoiding the tendency to apply Band-Aid solutions to contextual sores.

erik disch
Jan 10, 2014

Yes, I agree that an understanding of evil is foundational for understanding the human condition. If the following statement is true, then we really need to rethink some things about what it means to be a Christian:

“…our mission is to glorify God among all peoples and that this is essentially a battle against ‘the works of darkness’.” (Snodderly: 1)

Unfortunately, the more popular “your best life now” flavor of Christianity doesn’t leave much room for a warfare theology that demands, at least one’s commitment to be aware of the situation of those around them, if not getting involved in doing something about it.

I’ve been a little skeptical at times of community development initiatives that don’t include a “clear, presentation” of the gospel. I’ve seen Christian groups doing substantial work among the poor in their community but they never open their mouths about why they’re doing it. I think that the proclamation element must be there, or at least I did. Non-religious people are involved in charity and social work as well. So, without the proclamation element of our social/community work there is no discernable difference for the recipient to see. This, in my opinion, prior to my recent thinking on this subject, is lacking in kingdom efficacy. On the other side of that, I’m also aware of the dynamic of preaching the gospel in words only, and doing nothing by way of meeting the felt needs of the hearers. Here too, something is missing.

In terms of international development as a means of “destroying the works of the evil one”, I see a balanced (and new) approach to both the “saying/proclamation” and the “doing” of the gospel. The Kingdom work that God has called us to is to “destroy the works of the devil”. (I John 3:8) As Beth Snodderly states in the article “The Story of the Battle for Our Planet”,

Thus, the task of humans who accept Christ as Lord and Savior is to discover God’s glory through His Word, and through His works (nature, science, history), appreciate it (worship) and to join Him in mission to declare that glory by seeking to destroy the “works of the Devil.”

With this understanding, social work that meets the felt needs of the oppressed is, in and of itself, an act of warfare against the Evil One. The believer’s actions (or inaction) play an important role in the battle against the works of the devil and should be part and parcel of our Christian lives/witness. The proclamation of the gospel should then be seen as more than just words about what Jesus did for us and how to be right with God, etc. Rather, it should be seen as a weapon in the ongoing battle that is being waged for the souls of men and therefore, (seemingly) “random acts of kindness” towards others, done with the purpose of “destroying the work of the Devil”, are consistent with God’s “Kingdom” agenda and restorative plan and should be seen as legitimate expressions of the gospel.

A proper understanding of evil, its origin and effect upon the human condition is absolutely necessary if we are to fulfill our calling as co-workers in the Kingdom of God. How we understand evil determines what we do to work against it and serves as a guide to how we can work to destroy it.

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Yalin Xin, Ph.D

Yalin Xin is an Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at William Carey International University, Research Fellow with the Center for the Study of World Christian Revitalization Movements and Senior Editor for William Carey International Development Journal.