Cascading Impact: Moving from Doing to Being

Waters cascading down the mountain.
Waters cascading down the mountain.

One of my favorite moments is sitting beside a rushing stream in the mountains of Colorado. Dana and I have hiked from above tree line to the whitewater of the Arkansas River. Tucked in crevices on the mountains are hundreds of waterways that cascade from the high mountain lakes and melting snow to the Arkansas River, flowing towards the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sitting along a roaring creek in an unknown little corner brings peace and perspective. I can’t hear anything but the water; it splashes and roars over and over but never the same as the moment before. There is a power that is beyond me and that I can’t control.

Our fourth pillar for transformational education is about cascading, and the streams falling out of the mountain help me understand.

Doing the First Three Pillars

We explored the first three “pillars of transformational education” this year. We looked at how transformational education works and what we can do to help it along, knowing that the Holy Spirit brings about transformation, not us.

Pillar one is about pursuing the Creator’s design while trusting the Spirit for complete transformation into the image of Christ—essentially our “teaching objective,” what we want to happen in a learner. Pillar two talks about the Spirit using excellent educational environments—our “teaching methods.” And pillar three notes that transformation happens in the heart-mind before behavior—a reminder to always “know your learner” and how learning works.

These three pillars are things we can work at. They are rich in possibility as we live out transformational education and pray that God uses them.

Watching and Praying for Pillar Four

But then we get to pillar four. It is different. We don’t do much. We affirm it and we hope for it and like the mountain stream, we mostly watch as it cascades to larger places. Pillar four tells us that “Transformation cascades from the individual to communities and beyond.”

We hope and pray that God will grow fruit from our work, “some hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty,” as Jesus says in Matthew 13:23. We hope we will see God “pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on dry ground.[1]” We look forward to God transforming lives and neighborhoods, cities and nations. Even the world.

It is His way to begin with individuals. Look at the disciples: Jesus left them, and Christianity spread to millions and millions. When God is doing the work, nothing stops it. The Good News pours into crevices and to rivers and oceans, flowing out to more and more people and places.

How can we affirm this Cascade of Transformation?

  1. Know that transforming communities begins with individuals. Your moment by moment engagement with learners and neighbors is valuable. You don’t know what seed will spring up, grow, and drop more seed in places beyond you. Don’t minimize even the smallest transformation in one leaner. We value each person and look forward to what God will do.
  2. Know that transformation takes time. You will hardly ever see the downstream results of what you do tomorrow. But God uses your work, the life He gives you overflows and the Truth of His Word is molded in His great plan. Never give up. Changed communities take time that may be beyond your eyes.
  3. Don’t get in the way. Maybe we can’t stop a rushing stream, but we can certainly pile rocks in a small one or channel it in different ways. Encourage and support an outward view for learners and yourself. Arrange opportunities for your learners to reach others outside your walls and into communities. Then watch what happens.
  4. Enjoy moments when you can see a stream starting to flow. God is at work in our world. When you can hear or see His power, let it fill your heart and tell someone else.
  5. Don’t forget that the streams cascading down a mountain start up high, they come from snow melt and peaceful lakes. Transformed communities begin with letting God transform you. One peaceful and loving classroom at a time. One sip of cold snow melt. This is where it starts. What you do and who you are is at the top of the cascade.
A cascade starts in a quiet place with a small trickle of snow melt.
A cascade starts in a quiet place with a small trickle of snow melt.

Joe Neff, Th.M.
Coordinating Director of Education Services
TeachBeyond Global


[1] Isaiah 44:3

Photo Credits: header photo: B. Hunsberger. all other photos by D. Neff.