“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
This is what living in community with other believers looked like for the early church, but is it really possible to experience today? We lead such individualistic lives, each person is focused on what is happening in his or her own world, that it seems almost impossible to experience the kind of fellowship that we read about in the book of Acts.
Before coming to Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program I had no idea what it would look like to spend a year with a group of believers who take community living based on the book of Acts seriously. The family here at Gospel for Asia is passionate about loving Christ and that naturally results in a lifestyle of servanthood. John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So what does love actually look like lived out in practical everyday terms? True love means being willing to sacrifice. It is looking beyond your own interests, wants and needs to see how you can invest in the life of another. Christ-like love demonstrated through a lifestyle of servanthood is what I have experienced during my time in Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program. I have had the privilege to be a part of a family whose one supreme focus is Christ and that results in a close and precious fellowship with each other.
At first I wasn’t sure how to receive this kind of love. These people seemed so radical I wasn’t sure if they could be for real. Who is actually willing to leave behind all that they are comfortable and familiar with, sacrificing relationships and their own dreams and desires along the way in order to be obedient to the calling God has placed on their life?
Who is willing to invest in other people’s lives and be an example of what it means to follow Christ?
It is people who have experienced the call of God on their lives. It is a radical call to live for something different than the rest of this world. It is what has brought each one of us here, staff and students alike, and it is the reason why we can live together in fellowship with one another, showing the same kind of selfless love that Christ did.
Every day I have the privilege to do life together with my family here. It isn’t always easy but on the difficult days we hold onto and encourage each other to continue pursuing Christ and remain steadfast in Him. My experiences as a part of this community will impact me for the rest of my life.
I have had the opportunity to learn from older brothers and sisters who have walked with the Lord for many years and don’t just talk about having a radical faith, they actually live it out. Their passion to reach the lost, dedication to a life of prayer and commitment to following God’s call on their life is what I desire and have now begun to experience in my own life.
I’ve realized that as a part of the Body of Christ I wasn’t meant to do life on my own. Just as my physical body is designed in such a way that each part is important and relies on the other parts to function, so it is with the Body of Christ. Eph.4:16 says “From Him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
This living in community has required of me a level of openness and honesty that I never had before. I’ve been learning that I don’t have to keep all of my struggles and failures on the inside. My family here truly cares about me and not just because of how I appear on the outside. They are willing to walk with me through good and bad times and care most of all about how I am doing on the inside. As I am learning to open up to the people around me I have also begun to realize my need to be totally open before the Lord. Close relationships both with the Lord and other people are developed only through trusting enough to reveal who I really am, even if it’s not always pretty. It’s definitely not easy but it is bringing me closer to the Lord which is right where I need to be.
What a journey this year has been, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything! My goal for this year in Gospel for Asia’s Discipleship Program was to become more like Christ. Being a part of this community of radical believers has shown me what that looks like and helped me tune my focus to Christ.
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Written by a student in the Discipleship Program
Some people like to live alone and others don’t think they could survive. But everyone has a family and needs a family because we were created that way. Of course family doesn’t have to be blood related, family are the people we treasure the most.
I’ve been at Gospel For Asia’s Discipleship Program for 1 year and nearly 8 months. I’ve lived in the same house for this time, with the same people for the first year and then a few different people for the second year. I’ve gone to serve at the same office every week day with these people and others for this whole time. It’s like a family. No, I’m not related to any of the people here, I didn’t know any of them before I came. But they are family, and as a house we do everything together. We get up at 6 AM on Monday morning tired and quiet to pray together for the day ahead, we all understand each other because we’re feeling the same things, we slowly travel downstairs to exercise together still tired and quiet. The kitchen is busy at 7 AM as everyone is eating breakfast and getting their lunch for the day, but no one fights or argues, we’re all polite and love to serve each other. Then our house remains silent and empty, because we all head to the office for prayer and ministry service. We come home at 5:30 PM, tired and hungry. A couple of us cook a meal for everyone. At 7 PM we sit down and enjoy each other some more, we’re more awake than in the morning and are able to talk and tell about our day – the joys and the challenges because everyone understands. They’ve struggled with similar things too. I love this family I have, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I didn’t realise how close I am to these people until I thought about leaving at the end of the year. They are my friends that I can rely on, as Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (ESV). Here I have made friends who are closer than my own family. I still love my family very much, and I know they love me, but these people know far more than my family does about what I’ve experienced this year and 8 months. They are the friends I won’t forget.
Though I believe I could live alone if the LORD called me to do it, I have found a greater joy in living with others who have the same vision and goal as I do. I want to find family wherever I go because I believe it is God’s plan that His children (Christians related through the blood of Jesus) live together in unity and love, able to say to like Jesus did in Matthew 12:48-50, “But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
—School of Discipleship student
I am so blessed to serve with a Body of Believers who are really like the Church in Acts. We are all here for two purposes: to grow closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to proclaim His name and His glory to those millions who haven’t heard His name.
The reason I write this post is because I have been struggling with headaches consistently everyday for the past… 7 months? And when I walked down the hallway today, someone stopped me to see how I’m doing. When I mentioned the headache, they stopped what they were doing and prayed for me right then and there. This is not an uncommon occurrence, actually it happens all the time. We are a people who pray together constantly, are transparent with one another as the Body should be, we are there to encourage and give of ourselves (out of the strength of God) to help others, we love others even when its hard to do. The staff here at Gospel for Asia are living out what it means to be the Body of Christ. And I am so encouraged by it.
I’m sure there are other places out there that are similar. But I am so blessed to be a part of this family. 🙂
—School of Discipleship Alumni
The broken bridges, the desert plains, these are images that come to my mind when I think of what the past has been. I came here to School of Discipleship thinking my walk with the Lord would grow stronger, and it did. What I didn’t realize is how I would face myself. When we truly seek the Lord and ask Him to change us, we will have to face who we really are, behind the walls, the gates, the bars and all the defenses we throw up. That is a hard thing to do, facing yourself. When we get to know our true selves we won’t like who we are, but we have to remember that the Lord changes us. He seeks out our hearts as we seek out His and He will change us from the inside out. We just have to allow Him to change us.
It will not be easy to bear as the Lord starts changing us; it can be a slow process. It will often be painful in these times. The world will seem to have flipped upside down but God is still God, no matter what. Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship is one of the safest places to really let your guard down before the Lord. As you let your guard down, your guard will began to drop with your housemates, your supervisors, and your department heads and that may terrify you. However, as will be reiterated and reminded of you many times over, the Lord is always with you, so lean on Him. The Lord has brought me here to Gospel for Asia for a reason and that is to grow in Him and part of that is change.
Something important to understand about School of Discipleship is that people will constantly encourage you into the arms of the Lord, and that is the best thing that can happen. You can cry here, you can be vulnerable, it’ll happen at some point whether you want it to or not. There is so much of the Lord’s presence here and His heart is lived out. People will ask you if you are OK and genuinely want to know if you are. You may find yourself responding with disarming honesty, you may find that you can no longer give the phony answer. If you can or do give the phony answer, you’ll feel as if you’ve missed the opportunity to reach out and be part of the body.
That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned here, The Body of Christ. Christ’s Body is made up of so many other Christians and they are meant to be there for us, to exhort and uplift one another in the pursuit of God and His Will. I have discovered that the Body of Christ is a genuine thing and God has used it to soften my heart in areas I had not realized my heart was hard in. Don’t be afraid to grow, don’t be afraid to reach out to others. It’s hard and may not turn out as you expect but there are times God will use it. You will be blown away and through it all you will realize how much He loves you, cares for you, desires your heart and to know you. School of Discipleship is a tool God uses greatly to shape young Christians. Through School of Discipleship you will be introduced to a true Body of Christ (if you’re like me you had never experienced it before) and yourself. It is good. Learn what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. School of Discipleship will teach you.
Who would’ve thought that one word would carry so much meaning? When you type “community” into google, this is the top definition that pops up: “A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I have struggled most of my life to find a place to belong. When I first came to Gospel for Asia to attend School of Discipleship, I didn’t have many expectations of finding that place to belong here. In fact, I was expecting to stick out like a sore thumb because this has been my experience my whole life. Even in the best situations, like with my family or friends, I’ve always had this lingering feeling of being on the outside.
I never understood it, and having known the Lord most of my life, I would ask Him over and over why I had these feelings of not belonging in my family, friends, school, college, even workplaces. Most of the time, I would think in the back of my mind, “Would they even miss me if I was gone?”
Since coming to School of Discipleship, I’ve finally experienced true community for the first time!
The fellowship that the Gospel for Asia staff and students has with one another is real and profound. Since my first step on the campus, they have intentionally taken the time to get know and welcome me. It has been incredible to see the love and genuine kindness expressed from each person here at Gospel for Asia. At first, I was overwhelmed and confused by the community; I didn’t understand why everyone was just so nice to me all the time! But the longer I’ve been here, the more clearly I see what their motives are. They love the Lord and it’s His love that pours out from their hearts, mouths, and actions when they interact with one another. “We love because He FIRST loved us” (1 John 4:19).
As I have been seeking the Lord during my year in School of Discipleship, I have a better understanding of how this community is so genuine and loving to each other. The second part of the definition of community is “having a particular characteristic in common.” Google is completely right! The community here at Gospel for Asia does have one characteristic in common: Jesus. He is the One who unites us and it’s His love and His sacrifice on the Cross that brings us together in a way nothing else can.
Community is just one of the ways the Lord reveals Himself to us. I mean, who else could unite people with such vastly different backgrounds, opinions, and personalities as they live and work alongside of each other?! No one and nothing but Jesus. I have been amazed and grateful to God for the community I have experienced at Gospel for Asia. And more than that, I know now that wherever I go, I can experience community with other believers because of Christ and my experience at Gospel for Asia.