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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind

J.Heinrich Arnold  (1913-1982)

Johann Heinrich Arnold (also known as Heini and Heinrich) is best known for his books, which have helped thousands to follow Christ in their daily lives, and for his pastoral care as elder of the Bruderhof community movement.

Arnold grew up surrounded by people for whom discipleship took shape in a dramatic way. 

When Heinrich Arnold was seven, his parents Eberhard and Emmy Arnold and their five children left a bourgeois life in Berlin for a dilapidated villa in the German village of Sannerz, where they founded the Bruderhof, a Christian community based on Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

As a young man, Heinrich Arnold refused to serve in Hitler's armed forces and was forced to flee Germany. He studied agriculture in Zurich, Switzerland, and in 1936 married Annemarie Waechter, a kindergarten teacher and fellow Bruderhof member.

Arnold was a true pastor, but an unconventional one. He was not a charismatic personality, and he had no formal theological training. He was a true Seelsorgeror “spiritual guide” who cared deeply for the inner and outer wellbeing of the communities entrusted to him.

Arnold’s style as a speaker and writer was straightforward and spontaneous. He rarely spoke with notes, and when he wrote, he quickly and sometimes almost aggressively met the heart of the issue. There were those who felt he was too blunt. Yet it was precisely his simplicity that made his witness accessible to so many. His faith was not a matter theological sophistication, but something that had to be expressed in deeds: “We are tired of words; they are cheap and can be heard almost anywhere, for who will say that he is against brotherhood and love?”

As a pastor, Arnold was called on to address every aspect of spiritual life, personal and communal. But there is a visible thread that runs through all he wrote: Christ and his cross as the center of the universe. What mattered to him most of all was the power of the Gospel to transform the lives of his readers and of all those he counseled. In his own words:
What a great gift it would be if we could see a little of the great vision of Jesus – if we could see beyond our small lives! Certainly our view is very limited. But we can at least ask him to call us out of our small worlds and our self-centeredness, and we can at least ask to feel the challenge of the great harvest that must be gathered – the harvest of all nations and all people, including the generations of the future.
*Biography information taken from

Sometimes sensitive, sometimes provocative, but always encouraging, Arnold guides readers toward leading Christlike lives amid the stress and strain of modern life.  Perhaps the hardest thing about following Christ is translating our good intentions into deeds.  Christ calls us, and we yearn to answer Him, but time and again we lose resolve. Is discipleship really possible today?

Many selections in this book offer answers to specific needs or problems.  Others grapple with broader themes such as world suffering, salvation, and the coming of the kingdom of God.  All of them pulsate with conviction and compassion, giving fresh hope to those who find themselves lonely or disheartened in the daily search to follow Christ. 

"The excerpts in this book were compiled and edited over several years by people who knew Arnold personally.  It was no easy task to sift through the material, for there was so much to choose from, and it ranged from published articles to personal correspondence, from transcripts of worship meetings to circulars written on behalf of the congregations he served.  The purpose of this selection is simply to bring to the reader the full impact of his witness."  (pg. xiv of the introduction)

My Thoughts:
Plough Publishing House (Walden, New York) has offered readers an invaluable tool.  Discipleship: Living for Christ in the Daily Grind is a well organized and edited introduction to and compilation of J. Heinrich Arnold's writings and thoughts on what following Christ day after day looks like.
The book covers almost every conceivable aspect of life under the three broad categories of The Disciple, The Church and The Kingdom of God.  Organized in sections rather than chapters, the book is easy to navigate and allows the reader to easily find a particular subject rather than having to start necessarily at page one and move to the end.  I really appreciated having Scripture references to the side of each paragraph.
Discipleship would be an excellent personal study tool or would be particularly useful in a one on one discipleship relationship with a new Christian or resource for small group study.  I can not recommend it highly enough!  It now takes a prominent place in my personal study library.

*Thank you Julie Busteed for the complimentary copy of the book for the purpose of this review through Handlebar.

You can order the book at by going HERE.