Change or Transformation?

It is important for Adventist institutions to consider and focus on their calling to transform lives through Christ-centred education.

Philosophy and Mission August 5, 2021

Earlier this year we received an email from one of our former graduates, thanking staff for going above and beyond in helping him through his degree.  He had come to us as an international student, with all the challenges associated with studying in a language other than his own.  Appreciation was firstly expressed for the assistance in supporting him through his academic program.  Towards the end of his email however, he unpacked the other reason for making contact. He wanted us to know that because of his interactions with our students and staff, he had been inspired to believe in God and had recently been baptised.  Those who read his email were greatly encouraged, with more than one expressing their emotions by saying, “That is why we exist!” 

In looking at stories of transformation, it can be tempting to view the process as a singular act, bringing instant change to a life.  Typically however, it is a gradual journey that takes the heart by stealth rather than by storm; little acts, faithfully and consistently performed.  That is the exciting part of each new day, the privilege of working alongside Christ  – every email, each conversation, even the next meeting – a fresh opportunity.

A potential mistake for organisations is to view ‘change’ as synonymous with ‘transformation’.  Yet as one author argues, change in itself can be almost addictive, serving as a method for creating the illusion of progress, yet producing little (Johansson & Felten, 2014).  Transformation, on the other hand, often takes place in small increments, one decision at a time – often evident only in retrospect.  The difference between the two usually being the strong sense of mission and purpose that guides the latter.

It is the stories of transformation that become an important link in our search for meaning and purpose.  They serve as a bridge, connecting the mundane with moments of transcendence.  A realisation that every act is part of a larger purpose and that in this context nothing is ever really unimportant, unless, of course, we have simply lost sight of our reason for existence.  

Over the past few months, our institution has spent time re-examining its purpose, leading to the conclusion that we are here to ‘Transform lives through Christ-centred Higher-Education’.  That’s a high calling and one well worth pouring our full energy into. The book Education provides a glimpse into the potential of what is possible in this regard: “The mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite. The effect of such communion on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In this communion is found the highest education.” An important reminder not merely about what we do, but in whose strength and wisdom we do it.

What are the stories from where you work that remind you of your purpose?  In what way does everything you do help to contribute towards this purpose?


Kevin Petrie

Kevin works as Vice Chancellor of Avondale University College. He has worked as the Dean of Faculty for Education, Business & Science at Avondale College. His research interests include school climate, school bullying, peer popularity and classroom management.


  • | September 8, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    Wise words, as always, from Kevin!! A man who practises what he preaches! and Avondale is now a University in its own right 🙂

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