Presented to the EMS Conference, March 11, 2023, Lakewood, CO

Dr. Christopher Cone, ThD, PhD, PhD

President/CEO / Research Professor of Transformative Learning and Leadership

Vyrsity / Colorado Biblical University / AgathonEDU Educational Group


            The gap between outcomes provided by “an archaic system”[1] of traditional higher education and the actual needs of learners and the organizations where they serve continues to widen. Recognizing the threats associated with a “systemic lack of synchronization,”[2] organizations are increasingly suspicious of traditional educational channels. They are discovering that they are themselves better equipped to define effective and sustainable educational solutions for preparing and equipping their constituency. With a newfound willingness to divert from previously necessary educational channels, organizations are discovering that recentralizing education to internally developed solutions can be the solution to the disconnect. Rather than relying entirely upon external third-party solutions which are often not good mission fits, internally developed education programs can allow organizations to tailor educational outcomes to their particular missions and objectives. For organizations that recognize the value of a first-party training environment, and desire to make that part of their culture, this nine-stage model may be engaged for the efficient development, launch, and continuous improvement of training, competency development, and contextualization. The transformative learning model outlined here in nine sequential stages guides in the development and implementation of a Biblically founded, philosophically unified, and missionally grounded educational system for a well-equipped constituency. The nine stages include:

  1. Identify Audience and Need
  2. Identify Missional Connection
  3. Select and Develop Likeminded Development and Delivery Team
  4. Develop Objectives, Scope of Curricula, and Content
  5. Complete Needs Analysis for Technology Features
  6. Select and Develop Technology Platform
  7. Beta Test and Improve
  8. Develop Assessment Parameters
  9. Launch, Assess, Improve

            While this particular model is designed with a transformative learning (Biblical equipping) perspective in focus, these steps can provide efficiency in any learning context, as they are tailored for a unified teaching/learning approach that centers on mission fidelity for the educational needs of any organization.


            Paul highlights the importance of relationship of mission, activities, and constituency in his First Letter to Timothy, end even models a sort of backward design. After briefly recounting the task Timothy had been given,[3] Paul explains that the goal, purpose, or end (telos) of the instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.[4] With the purpose or results stated (love), Paul then identifies the audience that needs to be addressed (sinners[5] who need to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth[6]), and describes his own necessary activities for addressing that audience (preacher, apostle, and teacher of the Gentiles),[7] and prescribes activities for Timothy to address his audience (pointing out these things to the brethren,[8] and preaching the word, doing the work of an evangelist[9]).

Before outlining the specific activities, Paul makes clear what the mission is. When prescribing the activities needed, he clarifies the various audiences that needed to be addressed. It is noteworthy that the activities with those diverse audiences differ. Certain men needed certain instruction.[10] Hymenaeus and Alexander need to be taught not to blaspheme.[11] The brethren needed these things pointed out.[12] Also, the general outward activities included prescribing and teaching, the reading of Scripture, exhortation and teaching.[13] Near the conclusion of his instructions to Timothy Paul provides Timothy the standard, including three very important guardrails: (1) one must not advocate a different teaching, (2) one must agree with the sounds words of Jesus, and (3) must agree with the teaching that conforms to godliness.[14]

We can recognize that Paul’s transformative method here includes at least four aspects: purpose, audience, activities, and standard. The purpose is unchanging regardless of audience. The audience is diverse and demands a degree of diversity of activities to help promote the desired outcome. The standard governs the activities to ensure that the purpose is not lost, and to keep us from becoming too creative with the activities. In Paul’s transformative model, the educator doesn’t have full prerogative to determine content, but rather that content must always adhere to the standard.

Backwards design is a contemporary way to apply some of the principles that Paul presented. It can be a helpful tool not only for product and curriculum development but is also a useful tool for understanding the relationship of mission, activities, and constituency. It can help shift the focus of the educator to the end user and their specific needs – as Paul does in guiding Timothy’s andragogy. In backwards design, “Designers in education…are strongly client-centered. The effectiveness of their designs corresponds to whether they have accomplished explicit goals for specific end users.”[15] At the same time, “standards inform and shape our work.”[16] The goal isn’t to meet the needs of end users at any cost (as Paul cautioned), but to meet the needs within a missionally aligned context. This can also be a useful tool for deriving and evaluating an organizational mission in the first place. The three stages of backward design are (1) identifying desired results, (2) determining acceptable evidence, and (3) planning learning experiences and instruction.[17] These stages illustrate the value of beginning with the end in mind. To do that most effectively, Paul focuses our attention on the audience(s) and their needs. Before determining the mission, one must have a clear target audience(s) and understand the needs of the audience(s) being served.

Practical Steps

  • Identify the various audiences the organization is to be designed and equipped to serve.
  • Understand the need(s) that the organization is designed and equipped to meet.
  • In light of Paul’s transformative method and the backwards design adaptation, consider the standards limitations (values) that will govern initiatives and activities.


            As one of the world’s most financially valuable brands, Amazon demonstrates an important connection between mission, activities, and constituency. Amazon’s mission is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.”[18] While one might critique this mission for insufficient ambition (only Earth???), one can’t miss Amazon’s clear dual-audience focus on customers and employees as integral to its mission. The model for fulfilling this mission was first drawn on a napkin by Jeff Bezos and remains a focal point for the company (see Figure 1 below).[19]

Figure 1: Amazon’s Virtuous Cycle

            Amazon’s model is more focused on a cycle than a specific product, because the cycle drives mission fulfillment, not an individual product. Providing excellent customer experience leads to growth. Growth enables lower costs and prices, which continually improves customer experience. The mission: be customer-centric. The activities: provide excellent customer experience. The constituencies: customers, sellers, and (implied) employees.

The Virtuous Cycle and Education

            Before Jeff Bezos doodled his magic formula on a napkin, Paul provided Timothy with a world-changing virtuous cycle of his own. Paul charges Timothy to continue Paul’s replication cycle:

“The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”[20]

Paul’s instruction includes these elements: content (things you have heard…), activity (entrust), audience (faithful men or people[21]) and outcome (who will be able to teach others also). The outcome promulgates the cycle of replication. The audience is specific, as is the activity, and the content. Paul’s instruction here reads like a mission statement and underscores the importance of mission alignment and connection with activities and audience. The content is important and needs to be passed along with each succeeding generation. In order to meet the need, select individuals are chosen to receive content in such a way (entrusting) that those individuals will be able to effectively teach those same things to another generation. If the content is distorted, then what is taught is not transformative (or at least authoritative).[22] If the right activities are not engaged then the outcome is lost. If the wrong audience is chosen the desired ability might not be developed and the intended cycle ends. If there is any variation from the formula Paul provides, then the cycle is broken. Paul’s cycle underscores the interdependent roles of educator and learner in the replicative transformative process.

            Paul’s model illustrates how to arrive at an effective and connective mission. The standards, activities, and audience are all connected properly to ensure that if the process or cycle is followed, the outcome will be achieved. From these elements the mission is crafted. We may also infer rubric standards for evaluation of the mission: Is the mission connected to and consistent with the standards and values which govern our activities? Are we engaging in activities that will effectively connect the audience with the outcome? If the mission outcome is achieved, does that correspond to organizational success, or is our measure of success disconnected from the mission? At this point we have some excellent examples and sound principles that help define our purpose, audience, activities, and content. We now understand who we are, what are our core commitments, what we are trying to achieve, and with whom we are trying to achieve it.

Practical Steps

  • Being informed by the process of identifying our audience, their needs, and the standards which govern us, draft a mission statement.
  • Evaluate possible scenarios for success and failure, beta testing the mission for effectiveness and sustainability.
  • Revise and finalize the mission.
  • Put in place a process and rubric for ongoing evaluation of mission fulfillment and failure.


            At this stage the organization has a clear picture of who it is and why it exists. Next it has to address how it will fulfill its purpose. These core organizational foundations are also critical moorings for the internal educational system. The first two stages underscore the importance of mission and values alignment at every level of the team. If any stage of the cycle fails, the whole cycle fails. The selection of team members will go a long way in determining whether the cycle will fail or sustain. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to invest in faithful men who will be able to teach others is an important reminder that like-mindedness, mission alignment, and values alignment are critical components for mission fulfillment, and especially in the context of educational endeavors.

            John Mark first appears in Acts 12 and was part of Barnabas’s and Paul’s early ministry together.[23] Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on the duo’s second missionary journey together,[24] but Paul objected because Mark had abandoned them at Pamphylia.[25] The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp that they parted ways and ceased their ministry together.[26] After some time, Paul was again with Mark, and acknowledges that he should be welcomed. In that same context we learn that Mark was actually Barnabas’s cousin.[27] Paul later adds that Mark was his fellow worker,[28] and remarks to Timothy that Mark was useful to him in ministry.[29]

We learn much about organizational health from these interactions. Perhaps most importantly, the importance of forgiveness and restoration. It is helpful to see that even though Mark had failed Paul, there was a restoration and a resumption of ministry and fellowship. It is also evident that Paul and Barnabas show different values in making the decision whether or not to include Mark in the second journey. Barnabas valued the family relationship. Perhaps he trusted Mark. Perhaps Barnabas valued familiarity. Paul seemed to value faithfulness to the task at hand. The question wasn’t about Mark’s, Barnabas’s, or Paul’s qualifications, it was about the bases for decision making and how to most effectively fulfill the mission at hand. Paul and Barnabas separated over differing values.

In 2005 the Miami Dolphins hired a successful college football coach. After two years of underachievement and conflict, and after a dismal 2006 season, Saban left the NFL, to coach at Alabama. The failure at Miami was so abject, that it was actually rumored that his players wanted to fight Saban.[30] While things turned out poorly in Miami, Saban subsequently proved himself to be one of the most effective coaches in college athletics history, winning six national championships at Alabama after the debacle at Miami. Saban’s failed tenure at Miami and subsequent success at Alabama illustrates that quality and qualification are not necessarily the determining factor for success. Values alignment matters. Perhaps this is one reason that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. This is one reason an underdog can overcome long odds in achieving victory. Vince Lombardi noted the impact of values alignment on problem solving and overall success: “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society…Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”[31]

Using the newly developed mission and codified values to assess potential team members is critical. Perhaps the most effective approach to building the team is to complete the cycle of replication, equipping and placing team members who have been well trained and enculturated – this is perhaps the most obvious motivation for the internal education model in the first place. But unfortunately, the organization has to start somewhere. The team has to be constructed at first without the advantage of the educational program. But the mission and values that undergird the educational program should provide the needed guidance for constructing the initial team who will build the educational program and carry on the cycle of replication.

Practical Steps

  • Develop a recruiting strategy that will transparently represent the mission and values.
  • In applying the principle of audience selection from 2 Timothy 2:2, identify likeminded candidates who will be receptive to and faithful with the valued content and standards, and who demonstrate capacity to engage the cycle of replication. Don’t settle. Don’t compromise.
  • Communicate roles and expectations with clarity.


            With core values in place, and likeminded team members being recruited and onboarded, the focus shifts to the vehicle for content, the curriculum. Decisions must be made about objectives and how they will be achieved, the sequence of instruction, breadth and depth, concepts, ideas, and topics. Peter provides some guidance for the scope of curricula when he notes that grace and peace are multiplied to believers through the full or true knowledge (epignosis) of God and Jesus Christ our Lord.[32] He adds that God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through that same kind of knowledge.[33] The objective is the knowledge of God. This is consistent with Jesus’s description of the meaning of life as the knowledge (gnosis) of Him and His Father.[34] That kind of knowledge equips a person for usefulness and fruitfulness,[35] but if one isn’t alert entanglement in the world is a danger.[36] Thus there is constant need and an always relevant exhortation to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.[37] In this case, the full and relational knowledge of the Lord is both the objective and the scope of curricula. Transformative content is that which renews the mind.[38] Believers are to be continually equipped through the teaching of the word until they are completed in the full knowledge of Christ.[39] Peter’s and Paul’s complementary presentation of transformative learning illustrates the interdependence of the objectives, curricular scope, and content. For an educational model to be most effective, the linkage between these three ought to be evident, as it is in Peter’s and Paul’s model.

            Google ranks highly on the Forbes list of America’s Best Large Employers,[40] a status the tech giant has achieved in part by its employee onboarding and education process and its “just in time” approach to creating urgency and intense focus on enculturation.[41] Google builds urgency and responsibility into their curricular model by notifying managers of training responsibility of new hires with only twenty-four hours’ notice. That addition to Google’s model and their use of an onboarding checklist (underscoring objectives, curricular scope, and actual content) is credited with improving their onboarding results by 25%.[42]

            There are several useful course design models including Backwards Design and Lean. But for simplicity, ADDIE is a good model with which to begin. ADDIE is an acronym for analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. The ADDIE model is a cycle for curricular development that relies on data analysis to provide guidance for design and scope. This ensures that what is developed and implemented is deliberate and achieves the objectives which are rooted in the organizational mission and values. Further, ADDIE has a built-in continuous improvement component through ongoing evaluation as the summative stage of the “continuous circle of overlapping boundaries.[43]

Practical Steps

  • Develop specific outcomes and goals for the programmatic level
  • Develop specific outcomes and goals for the unit level
  • Write a scope and sequence statement
  • Determine what curricular needs can/should be fulfilled by third party resources and what ought to be first party.
  • Initiate ADDIE process (or other design model of preference) to design and develop course content (including learning objectives, engagements, resources, and assessments).


            As core curricular components begin to take shape, a delivery platform is needed that can effectively connect the course material with the learner. Before the platform can be determined, a needs analysis provides guidance and parameters for selecting the right platform the first time. Switching platforms is costly, both in financial and human resources. Choosing the best platform for the task based on thorough analysis is a best practice. To increase the likelihood of the first choice being the ideal choice, it is helpful to catalog the desired, needed, and indispensable technology features.

            God used Ezekiel to not only communicate His message audibly, but often also used objects and dramatic scenarios to illustrate visually truths that God intended for Israel to understand. In one such instance, God instructs Ezekiel to “get a brick, place it before you, and inscribe a city on it – Jerusalem. Then lay siege against it, build a siege wall, raise a ramp, pitch camps, and place battering rams all around it…”[44] The instructions continue throughout subsequent chapters, and mandate role play by Ezekiel using visual aids to illustrate vividly a coming judgment on Jerusalem. The content of Ezekiel’s message was provided, and clear instruction was given. The curriculum is specified in certain terms. In order to fulfill this stewardship, Ezekiel had to gather appropriate items. For example, he would have had to sought out a brick of sufficient size and density to write (in Hebrew) the name of Jerusalem. He would have to find materials to build a small wall around the brick, to build a ramp, and then suitable materials to construct camps and battering rams. The curricular requirements were clear, but Ezekiel had to evaluate what materials would work best to produce this educational experience. With each item he chose, he would likely have considered whether that item could be used effectively in conjunction with the other materials to create the scene and drama God had directed. Poor choices on Ezekiel’s part would have made the imagery confusing and obfuscated the message. Ezekiel’s commission and the task he was given underscore the importance of choosing the right tools for the job. Even though they were not the focus of the instruction, they were vital for completing the task.

            As leadership of Vyrsity and Colorado Biblical University made the initial choice of technology platforms for their institutions, they relied upon experience in other contexts, rather than doing a needs analysis for the unique needs of these institutions. The onboarding and launch went very smoothly, but as the infrastructure was built out to correspond with the institutions’ mission and values, it became apparent that the chosen platform was not a good fit. The streamlined strategies, customer-centric values, and mission-driven processes were not well accommodated by the platform, which was designed for more traditional academic applications. Within the first several months it became obvious that a needs analysis ought to be conducted, and that a search for a new platform that could fulfill the actual needs of the universities should commence. Six months later, a new platform was developed, customized, and launched. While that platform is not without its own challenges, the new choice is a much better fit for the schools. The right choice was made nearly a year after it should have been, and after significant expense was undertaken going in the wrong direction. Had the needs analysis for technology features been done rather than ignored in favor of previous experience, much lost time, expense, and difficulty on the parts of administrators, faculty, and learners could have been avoided. Experience in one context doesn’t guarantee portability to another context. A platform fit in one context doesn’t mean that same technology platform is the right choice for a different context.

Practical Steps

  • Summarize relevant experience of involved personnel with various technology platforms.
  • Evaluate pros and cons of known platforms in light of known current context factors.
  • In light of outcomes, goals, scope and sequence of curricula – and actual course content already designed, conduct a needs analysis to determine what technology features will be required to support each aspect of curricular design and delivery.


            Matthew records Jesus’s qualification as the Messianic King and includes much of Jesus’s proclamation of the nearness of the kingdom.[45] Matthew records Jesus’s explanations and teaching on details of the kingdom and why the people needed to change their minds about it.[46] It is very noteworthy, also, that Matthew records a dramatic shift in Jesus’s teaching method after Jesus was ultimately rejected by the leadership and the nation in general.[47] Matthew describes that at that point, Jesus spoke many things to the people in parables.[48] The disciples were surprised at this new approach Jesus was employing, and they asked Him why He was speaking in parables after communicating so clearly before.[49] Jesus explains to them that the goal of his teaching was not to clarify the truth any longer for those who had rejected Him, but to veil it.[50] From that point on, Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, though He would often provide detailed explanations for the disciples He was preparing for the next stages of their apostolic task. Jesus chose a methodology that fit the andragogical goal. He did not dither nor hesitate – it was the right tool for the job, and in its use His purpose in that aspect of His teaching was fulfilled.

            In 2019, Elon Musk rolled out the prototype Tesla Cybertruck, which was advertised as having virtually unbreakable armor glass windows. After demonstrating that a sheet of glass could withstand even the impact of a falling steel ball, that same steel ball was thrown at the front driver side window. While the ball didn’t go through the window, the glass did shatter (though not completely) in an embarrassing failure. The steel ball was thrown at the rear driver window with the same result. Musk sheepishly noted that the results were “not bad,” and joked, “we’ll fix it in post.”[51] While the reason for the failure was not immediately known, it was later observed that previous impact had slightly lowered the windows, diminishing the structural stability. The technology that was chosen didn’t quite meet the standard needed, and it wasn’t discovered until the global unveiling event. While it was an embarrassing moment for Musk and Tesla, it provided a helpful object lesson of the potential cost of employing the wrong technology or employing the technology wrongly.

            The needs analysis in the previous stage provides important data and context that can be leveraged to choose an effective technology vehicle for platforming the educational content. Appropriate application of the analysis findings offers important guidance for choosing the best option, and minimizing the chance for failure at launch.

Practical Steps

  • Compare pros and cons of known platforms with technology features needs analysis.
  • Survey and evaluate current technology platforms to identify the best fit as vehicle for mission, values, and curricular communication.
  • Make the choice and orient the team to the platform.
  • Export created course content to the platform.
  • Develop a process for assessment of platform so that as needs change, the organization can proactively move in a better direction.


            Paul’s instructions for the Corinthians and the Thessalonians demonstrate that people are not always at the same level of growth. There is need for testing against the standard, for evaluation, and for improvement. The Corinthians were horribly immature, as evidenced by obscene immoralities in their midst,[52] Paul doesn’t question their position in Christ nor threaten that they might lose it. Rather he diagnoses them as fleshly and in need of growth.[53] He explains that their work will be tested by fire to show the quality or lack thereof.[54] If the work remains, the worker receives a reward, but if it is burned up, the reward is lost, though the person is neither burned up nor loses his position.[55] The Corinthians needed to grow up and stop behaving like infants.

            The Thessalonians, on the other hand, are repeatedly commended.[56] There is no direct rebuke in Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. Rather he repeats the exhortation that they excel still more.[57] The Corinthians and Thessalonians were positionally in Christ – Paul never questions their position in Christ. Yet, they were in very different places in the growth and maturity. Paul presents them both with standards by which he measures them. The Corinthians were failing to live up to those standards, while the Thessalonians were commendable and exemplary when measured against the standards Paul mentions. Despite their differing levels of maturity, both needed to grow. The Corinthians were not so immature that they could not grow, nor were the Thessalonians so mature that they did not need to grow. Testing and evaluation against standards are critical vital components prerequisite to growth. Test and improve is important in one’s personal life. Likewise, test and improve is necessary for organizational health and certainly so in the endeavor of launching a technology platform as the vehicle for the educational content.

Practical Steps

  • Implement the platform assessment process for continuous improvement and to ensure that the needs don’t outgrow the platform, and if they do, the platform can be changed in time.
  • Test against that process.
  • Make improvements in preparation for launch.


            The platform for the educational model is onboarded and operational. At least a requisite minimum number of courses have been designed, developed, and platformed, there is one final stage before launch of the replication cycle. A comprehensive assessment plan is needed to ensure ongoing evaluation against organizational standards. Assessment at this level is not simply to test the technology platform nor any other singular component of the educational model. Rather it should be designed to evaluate the sum and all the parts of the program.

            Paul illustrates that assessment can be confidently and successfully engaged within the right parameters. In particular, he instructs Timothy to be diligent to present himself approved by God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed because Timothy is handling accurately the word of truth.[58] The process requires diligence on Timothy’s part. The One who approves is God. If Timothy follows these instructions, he will not need to be ashamed because he is accurately handling God’s word. Paul highlights Timothy’s personal responsibility, his accountability to God, the certainty Timothy can have in the assessment process and results, and the specific activities that will lead to confidence and certainty (accurately handling God’s word). While Paul has a specific scope of accountability in mind in this exhortation to Timothy, the principles and elements of accountability Paul highlights provide a helpful model for assessing organizational progress within an educational model as well.

            One device developed and employed by this writer in multiple institutional contexts is the Cycle for Excellence (see Figure 2) is an assessment tool, designed by this writer and employed in a number of organizational contexts to ground aspects and sequence of the organizational and programmatic assessment plan. The Cycle begins with an assessment process including collecting data, evaluating and analyzing that data, diagnosing based on that data, and then communicating results broadly so that all involved can contribute appropriately to the contextualization of the results of the assessment. That contextualizing affords the need to evaluate the mission in light of objectives, and complete a gap analysis – to discern the gap between what the organization says it is doing (mission) and what it is actually doing (how well it is achieving the objectives). Next is the planning stage in which the course, strategies, goals, objectives, and metrics are put in place. The plan is reviewed, approved, and communicated. From the plan, the budget is developed, reviewed, approved, and communicated. It is important to note that often budgets precede the plan. That pragmatic sequence isn’t ideal for mission fulfillment and doesn’t provide mission-driven prioritization. While the budget has to be realistic, it is nonetheless vital that the budget is derived from the plan and not the other way around. Finally, the plan is executed, and the first loop of the Cycle for Excellence is closed, and the next begun.

Figure 2: The Cycle for Excellence

Practical Steps

  • Translate and adapt the steps of the Cycle for Excellence for the organization’s particular context.
  • Identify how each step can be implemented, specifically in relation to aspects of the educational model.
  • Begin the cycle with assessment of current progress and results.


“Good is the enemy of great,”[59] says Jim Collins. He also inquires whether the disease of being merely good is incurable,[60] and affirms ultimately that it is not. On the other hand, Voltaire is reputed to have said, “The best is the enemy of the good,” Confucius to have noted, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without,” and Shakespeare to have observed that, “Striving to better, we oft mar what’s well.”[61] Collins’s affirmation of good as enemy of great seems at first glance to contradict the other three cautions. Collins is challenging leaders of good companies to strive for great. That striving requires a willingness to leave the merely good behind. It is an exhortation to improvement of an already in motion entity. The other three statements warn that the initial pursuit of perfection can result in inaction because it is so elusive. Better to pursue the good now than to await perfection that may never be achieved.

Solomon offers an entirely different perspective. Rather than focus on either the good or the perfect, he simply exhorts to commit one’s work to the Lord and the plans will be established.[62] In other words, the burden of perfection isn’t on the one who works, rather the responsibility to commit one’s work to the Lord. The predictable result is established plans.

In the context of putting the finishing touches on the educational program and launching, the pursuit of perfection is a good thing. However, edits, adjustments, and improvements can always be made. If one waits to begin until all edits, adjustments, and improvements have been made, then one will never begin. Note Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians. He commends them for their action “just you as you actually do walk”) and challenges them to excel still more.[63] He doesn’t expect them to excel still more before they actually begin to walk. That would be an absurd expectation that could be met only if the walk never actually began. Likewise, James challenges his readers to be doers of the word, and not just hearers.[64] He challenges them to put their faith in practice – to have a faith that is useful to others.[65]

Through implementation of the stages described in this model, there is now a plan in place for assessment and for improvement of the educational program. That plan includes the all-important step without which there is no program at all: execute. If we are standing on the diving board making last minute adjustments, afraid to jump due to all kinds of fears, Jesus’s parable of the stewards and talents[66] might be just what is needed to help you take the plunge. The master entrusted to his servants five, two, and one talent, according to their respective abilities. Jesus narrates how the one given five immediately took action and added another five. Likewise, the one given two gained two more. These servants took action. We might imagine that they planned, considered, thought, strategized, etc., but whatever they did, they took immediate action and launched. On the other hand, the servant given one talent hid it, taking no initiative – apparently paralyzed by his fear. The two servants who took action were commended and the one who didn’t was severely chastised. The parable speaks of faithfulness with what has been entrusted, and it might remind us that at the start of a race we do not ever hear, “On your mark…get set…get set some more…make sure you are set….get some more feedback to make sure you are set….if you are not set, then you need to demonstrate improvement in your getting set…maybe you shouldn’t be on your mark because your aren’t set enough…” No. The race begins with, “On your mark…get set…go.” As Davy Crocket is reported to have said, “Be sure you’re right and then go ahead.” No more practical steps for preparation – start the replication cycle. Fulfill your mission. Launch, assess, and improve. so that learners can be equipped for excellence in their own mission fulfillment.

Notes and Citations

[1] Michael Hansen, “The U.S. Education System Isn’t Giving Students What Employers Need,” Harvard Business Review, May 18, 2021, viewed at

[2] Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman, The Partnership Imperative: Community Colleges, Employers, and America’s Skills Gap, Harvard Business School, December 2022, 19.

[3] 1 Timothy 1:3-4.

[4] 1 Timothy 1:5.

[5] 1 Timothy 1:15.

[6] 1 Timothy 2:4.

[7] 1 Timothy 2:7.

[8] 1 Timothy 4:6.

[9] 1 Timothy 4:2,5.

[10] 1 Timothy 1:3.

[11] 1 Timothy 1:20.

[12] 1 Timothy 4:6.

[13] 1 Timothy 4:11,13, 5:7, 6:2.

[14] 1 Timothy 6:3.

[15] Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design, 2nd Expanded Edition (Assn. for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005), 13.

[16] Understanding by Design, 13.

[17] Understanding by Design, 18.

[18] “Who We Are,” Amazon, viewed at

[19] “Help make history starting with Day 1,” Amazon, viewed at

[20] 2 Timothy 2:2.

[21] The word Paul uses is Anthropos (often a general reference to humanity) rather than andros (always gender specific reference to men).

[22] 1 Timothy 6:3-5.

[23] Acts 12:12, 25.

[24] Acts 12:37.

[25] Acts 12:38.

[26] Acts 12:39.

[27] Colossians 4:10.

[28] Philemon 24.

[29] 2 Timothy 4:11.

[30] Andrew Holleran, “2 Dolphins Players Reportedly Tried to Fight Nick Saban”, The Spun by Sports Illustrated, January 20,2021, viewed at

[31] Vince Lombardi, “Famous Quotes by Vince Lombardi: Teamwork,”, viewed at

[32] 2 Peter 1:2.

[33] 2 Peter 1:3.

[34] John 17:3.

[35] 2 Peter 1:8.

[36] 2 Peter 2:20.

[37] 2 Peter 3:18.

[38] Romans 12:2.

[39] Ephesians 4:12-13.

[40] Alan Schwarz, “America’s Best Large Employers, 2023” Forbes, February 15, 2023, viewed at

[41] Ben Mulholland, “Why Google’s Onboarding Process Works 25% Better Than Everyone Else’s,”, January 28, 2022, viewed at

[42] “Why Google’s Onboarding Process Works…”

[43] University of Washington Bothell, “Instructional Design, ADDIE Model” viewed at

[44] Ezekiel 4:1-2.

[45] E.g., Matthew 4:17.

[46] E.G. Matthew 5-7.

[47] While there were certainly individuals who believe in Jesus, Jesus makes it clear that that particular generation as a whole did were not willing to change their minds about Him and His coming kingdom (Matthew 12).

[48] Matthew 13:3.

[49] Matthew 13:10.

[50] Matthew 13:11-17.

[51] “Elon Musk’s epic Cybertruck ‘bulletproof’ window smash fail,” The Sun, viewed at

[52] 1 Corinthians 5:1-3.

[53] 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

[54] 1 Corinthians 3:13.

[55] 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.

[56] 1 Thessalonians 1:3-8.

[57] 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 10.

[58] 2 Timothy 2:15.

[59] Jim Collins, Good to Great (Harper Business, 2001), 1.

[60] Good to Great, 3.

[61] Deep Patel, “Why Perfection is the Enemy of Done,” Forbes, June 16, 2017, viewed at

[62] Proverbs 16:3.

[63] 1 Thessalonians 4:1.

[64] James 1:22.

[65] James 2:14.

[66] Matthew 25:14-30.