Following the Plough

Although I grew up as a Worth County, Missouri, farmboy and worked many hours in the fields on most summer days during my early-teen years, I never did plow with a horse or a mule. My father and especially my grandfather’s certainly had that hard experience. For some reason I hardly ever even plowed with a tractor; my father did the plowing and I did most of the disking during my high school years. Plowing is hard—especially so with a horse- or mule-drawn plow.

Clarence Jordan, the Bible scholar and theologian who founded the Koinonia Farm near Plains, Georgia, once remarked, “Following a plow under the hot sun on a red Georgia hillside has called many a man into the ministry.” (Or something like that; I couldn’t find the exact quote.) And while I felt called into the ministry when I was a teenager, it was not because of following a plow under the hot sun on a Missouri hillside.

I have long been an admirer of the just-mentioned Clarence Jordan. After finishing his doctorate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is also my alma mater, in 1942 he and his wife Florence established Koinonia Farm as a community seeking to follow Jesus’ teachings as thoroughly as possible. It was devised as a “demonstration plot” to show how to put the teachings of Jesus into practice.

Others previously had sought to do the same sort of thing, and the Jordans doubtlessly knew about and learned from them. For example, there is similarity between the Jordans and the Anabaptists, who broke away from the dominant church of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1525. More particularly, there is considerable affinity between the Jordans and the Anabaptist group known as the Bruderhof, a Christian community founded in Germany by Eberhard and Emmy Arnold in 1920. Even though they had five children and little money, the Arnolds started that “demonstration plot” 96 years ago, and it is still going in several other locations.

Eberhard Arnold, who was born 133 years ago (on July 26, 1883), died in 1935. But even before his death, some of the men of Bruderhof (literally, “place of brothers”) had to leave Germany because of their pacifism. Eventually, most of the community moved to England, then to Paraguay, and finally in the 1950s to New York, about ninety miles north of New York City. Eberhard and Emmy’s son, Johann Heinrich Arnold (1913–82) led the Bruderhof from 1962 through 1982, and J. Heinrich’s son Johann Christoph Arnold was their leader from 1983 through 2001.

From the beginning, the Bruderhof published books and articles, long using the name Plough Publishing House. Now simply called Plough, they recently began publishing a very attractive, and challenging, magazine called Plough Quarterly, which claims to be “breaking new ground for a renewed world.” (Outside North American plow is usually spelled plough.) The theme of the Summer 2016 issue is “Living in Community,” and I have found it very worthwhile. In addition, Plough sends an email called “Daily Dig” to anyone who asks, and I enjoy reading those words of wisdom each morning.

So while I have not had experience of following a horse-drawn plow (plough), I am now following (reading) the Plough. As Philip Yancey, the Christian author some of you know of, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the latest issue, “Plough Quarterly is the richest publication I get these days. . . . The entire magazine is beautifully conceived and professionally executed.”

For you who use the Internet, is worth checking out, and perhaps some of you would like to sign up for the “Daily Dig.”

{This was originally written for, and published in July 2016 by, The Times-Tribune, my weekly hometown newspaper in Grant City, Missouri.}

About Leroy Seat

* Born in Grant City, MO, on 8/15/1938 * Graduated from Southwest Baptist College (Bolivar, MO) in 1957 (A.A.) * Graduated from William Jewell College (Liberty, MO) in 1959 (A.B.) * Graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY) in 1962 (B.D., equivalent of M.Div.) * Received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology from SBTS. * Baptist missionary to Japan from 1966 to 2004. * Full-time faculty member at Seinan Gakuin University (Fukuoka, Japan) from 1968 to 2004. * Adjunct professor at Rockhurst University from 2006 to 2014.
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