I have taught in Russia, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United States. Despite all these experiences, I am still learning the essential wisdom for teachers. Since my area of teaching is New Testament, the concept of integrating faith and learning for my classes is hard to grasp. Teachers of non-biblical material are encouraged to connect their subject matter with biblical ideas. I do not need to connect them together, because I am dealing with biblical material. I am already connected!
At Southern Adventist University we have a department called “Center for Teaching Excellence and Biblical Foundations of Faith and Learning.” Its focus is in helping teachers have the right biblical orientations in their teaching while also providing ideas to help them improve their teaching skills. I have learned a great deal from the department’s Summer Institute. However, it is still difficult to implement what I learned, simply because my material is biblical.
For now I must feel satisfied in emphasizing the need to make the whole course a spiritual journey for the students and myself. Why I am doing this? I have had this idea for a long time, but I have not developed or implemented it for my teaching activities. Students are incredibly busy. All kinds of homework are piled on them. They simply do not have enough time. In trying to help them find spiritual nourishment while they are doing homework for my classes (except Greek class), I tell them to consider their homework a spiritual exercise or journey.
For example, if a student is taking Life and Teachings of Jesus, it is easy to make the homework into a spiritual exercise. Normally, I ask them to read The Desire of Ages. If they focus on spiritual nourishment as they read the book and do the assignment, it will become a wonderful opportunity to “catch two birds with one stone.” If a student is taking a course on the Book of Acts, he or she can read Acts in his or her devotion time. It is important to have a focus. We need to help students plan their spiritual exercises by using the material they are studying in their Bible classes.
During my own college days, I preached at a local church at least once a week. Even though I was taking a few Bible classes, I prepared sermons from a book of the Bible that was not being dealt with in my classes. I was spreading myself too thin, not using my time wisely, and not benefitting from the classes I was taking. I realized my mistake a little too late. I could have finished with better grades and success, both in my classes and my sermon preparations, had I chosen to utilize my classwork as part of my spiritual journey and service for the church.
If we can encourage our students to follow this idea, they will experience more success in both their studies and their spiritual exercises. I hope I can do more of this in my own work and spiritual journey.