Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold

I was given the chance to review this book through Handlebar publishing.  I requested it because I thought that I could use a tip or two on how to become a better disciple.  Not knowing anything about the author, I thought it was going to be a how-to book that would be easy to read.  



After reading the foreword from Henri J.M. Nouwen I thought to myself, "Good Grief!  What have I gotten myself into?"  Nouwen writes:

"At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to be confronted in such a direct way, and I discovered some resistance in myself."

After that statement I was pretty scared.  I started reading the book, which is a compilation of various writings from J.H. Arnold.   J. Heinrich Arnold was raised in a church community called the "Bruderhof" or "place of brothers."  When he was young his parents sold their possessions and home in an upperclass neighborhood in Germany and moved to a small village.  They wanted to live a life based on Acts 2, Acts 4 and the Sermon on the Mount.  Heinrich was asked to be a servant of the word or pastor in 1938 and from 1962 until his death he served as an elder for the growing Bruderhof movement. 

The book is broken into three sections:
The Disciple, The Church and The Kingdom of God

Each section is broken down further into sections.  The Disciple covers The Inner Life, Repentance, Conversion, Faith, Dogmatism, Commitment, The Lower Nature, Purity, Trust, Reverence, Surrender and Sincerity.

The Church includes The Church, Community, Leadership, Gifts, Forgiveness, Unity, Church Discipline, Baptism, The Lord's Supper, Love and Marriage, Family Life, Illness and Death, Evil and Darkness, The Fight, World Suffering and Mission.

The Kingdom of God covers Jesus, The Living Word, The Cross, Salvation, The Holy Spirit and The Kingdom of God.

As I said, I was expecting something different.  At first I found the book hard to read because it was just excerpts from different letters, pamphlets, sermons, etc.  But after I had a little more time and a chance to sit and let some of it soak in, it started to make more sense to me.  These aren't paragraphs that you can just sit and read.  You need time to let them bounce around your head and heart.   It's not because of the way they are written.  Arnold writes clearly and plainly.  It's just that my own personal heart wasn't always in the right place for what I was reading.  Arnold's writing actually convicts my heart.  

From the section "Conversion":

"The radicalism of Christ's way must challenge us.  He does not want to win numbers but dedicated hearts.  And he does not promise security, either economic or otherwise.  He seeks those who want to give themselves unreservedly to God and to their brothers, without seeking anything for themselves."

That's what I mean about conviction.  Humans, myself included, are selfish by nature.  Although we can put others before ourselves sometimes, it's not always easy to do it ALL of the time.

Although I found parts of the book "hard to digest", I particularly liked the section in Family Life that dealt with kids.  His idea that you can't force kids to read the Bible or force them to "enjoy" church makes total sense to me.  His thoughts that you can tell stories and sing songs and create an atmosphere in which they can love Jesus seems more right to me.  I don't always do a great job of letting my kids' relationship with Jesus grow naturally.  I hope that section will inspire me to be a better mother.

In the book, there are a lot of references to Bible stories.  Unfortunately I don't have my Bible memorized.  I'm not one of those people who can remember every detail and verse and person's name.  Fortunately, each paragraph has the Bible verse(s) that are referenced listed right next to the paragraph.  That will make it easier for me when I want to really sit down and get into the meat of what Arnold is saying.

Although a lot of the book "confronted me" just as Henri J. M. Nouwen said in the foreword, I can see how this could be a guide for Discipleship.  To truly be a disciple you have to empty all of your old ways of thinking and being so that God and Jesus have space to move in.  I get it.  It's just hard.  The passages in this book will be a help to me to remember those principles.   I look forward to reading more of the passages and the Bible verses that go along with them.  I really do feel that Arnold's writing will help me open my heart even further to let God and Jesus in so that's God will may be done.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.  All opinions are always 100% mine. 







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