In this post, I will be sharing an August interview conducted by Gracie Woo from Biblical Graduate School of Theology (BGST). We discussed how I came to be a teacher, and how my theological studies have helped me cope with many of the challenges in teaching. This article was originally published on Windows to BGST September 2021 edition. Do check out the other resources that BGST is providing, too!
Reflection of a Teacher
|Marcus Mok is a teacher in a secondary school, he is also one of BGST’s Alumni Resource Team members. Here’s his story…|
Marcus began his journey as an educator when he received the MOE Teaching Award in 2001 with Singapore’s Ministry of Education. Prior to that, he had already been working with young people under Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC), a non-profit para-Christian organisation. Many of his mentors went on to become full-time teachers, and he also sensed God’s leading to continue to impact young people’s lives. Marcus has a gift for communicating with young people and a heart to nurture them. At the same time, he had thoughts of going into full-time ministry, and becoming a teacher seemed to be a solid stepping stone.
While Marcus is passionate about teaching, the job has come with many challenges. One such challenge is having to contend with a heavy workload, leaving very little time for lesson preparation which had sometimes left him feeling discouraged and depleted. This is a common sentiment among teachers when administrative duties become overwhelming—there is a misalignment between expectations and reality, and this could lead to feelings of jadedness and possibly even burnout. The additional pressure that was brought about during the Circuit Breaker of 2020 caused Marcus to consider his own mental health and seek help.
“The title “Teacher” does not define me…”
Marcus’ message to fellow educators is to get a life beyond teaching, and find true rest in God. Being a teacher should not define who we are, but our identity in Christ should define our approach to teaching. He says that it is very easy to get buried in work and be caught up with the to-do lists. Sabbath-keeping has been crucial for him to keep things together. It is important that we set work aside for a day, seek refuge in the Lord, even if our vocation is our calling. Sabbath-keeping is a declaration that God has delivered us from Egypt, the land of slavery (where we only have the option to work), to belong to Him as His chosen people (where we have the liberty to rest). Indeed it is not only a clear commandment to keep the Sabbath, but God Himself rested. Since we are created in His image, we too must rest. Sabbath-keeping is crucial to maintain our physical and mental health, amongst other purposes.
By nature, we do get caught up in our performance, and how others perceive us, often to the extent that it brings anxiety and robs us of our joy in the Lord. Marcus’ faith in God’s sovereignty, that He has a plan for us and is in all our ups and downs, has seen him through the challenges of life. He also reminds us to be a channel of Christ’s love for the students, and to pray before each lesson. It is a manifestation of a Christian teacher’s ministry and priestly duty.
Read more about Marcus and his reflections here at embraceourcalling.com.
Reflections of our Students
Our respondents, Marcus Mok & Jacqueline Lie share about their time at BGST
What motivated you to study with BGST?
Marcus: In 2008, I enrolled in Apologetics, hoping that I would “get better at sharing the gospel”. At the same time, I was trying to discern if God was calling me to full-time ministry. I was also driven by a desire to get some intellectual stimulation which I felt I was missing, from the time I was enrolled in academic studies. Later I enrolled for other courses and completed my Graduate Diploma.
Jacqueline: I got to know of BGST when one of the lecturers came to preach at my church. The exciting thought “I can learn about God and the Bible even beyond my local church” stuck with me, and I soon enrolled in a course which suited my schedule. I started with a relatively challenging (in hindsight) course, but it was one that helped me to see how theology is relevant for our everyday lives as lay Christians. Since then, I’ve taken a variety of courses and hopefully more after I complete a diploma!
Can you share about the teaching and teachers from BGST?
Marcus: I really flourished under the care and teaching of the lecturers and tutors from BGST! They came alongside to learn and grow together, they were our companions. For instance, when I began to doubt my own faith as I studied Apologetics, my tutor met up with me as a brother in Christ to encourage me. One of my lecturers who regularly made time to have dinners with us, has become a personal mentor and friend. I was also given an opportunity to do a guided personal spiritual retreat with another lecturer. God has given the teachers here so much wisdom and love for their students. It was during the study of Vocation, Work and Ministry that God showed me that teaching is my full-time ministry. I am very thankful for this journey that I have had with BGST!
Jacqueline: As someone who has experienced the challenges of teaching abstract concepts to young minds, I empathise with our BGST teachers in their endeavours to make theological and biblical studies accessible to lay Christians. Our teachers are mindful that students are from diverse backgrounds, with vastly different levels of biblical foundation. As such, it is really helpful that students are given the space to learn at our own pace and the ownership to say “I want to be reading up more on this or that!”. What has also been really encouraging is that the teachers are all very approachable, making our theological studies not just an academic pursuit, but a journey of learning in community.
How do you think you benefited most from your time with BGST?
Marcus: It’s the holistic and integrated view of theology and how it is to be lived out in our daily lives. In addition, I am thankful for the spiritual formation that I have undergone here. It has shaped and moulded me to find my calling.
Jacqueline: My time with BGST has helped to broaden my understanding of the Christian faith; the various disciplines, from Church History to Missiology, have shown me how the Lord’s teaching is multi-faceted and exciting. And to be sure, anyone can embark on this exciting journey of theological and biblical studies, sans undue pressure but rather with the joy of learning.