I think Goodliff is basically right as far as he goes (and I have not read his whole blog). Churches should be “communities of character”. In its best form this involves submission to deliberate character building through community discipline and accountability. Hauerwas is right to say:
Hauerwas' complaint that the free church understanding of church has ceased to be distinctive and offer opportunities to create disciplined communities … instead they mirror society in practising church as autonomous individual persons who resist any notion of authority or obedience in the name of a skewed understanding of rights and freedom.
I would add to Goodliff’s “communities of character”, that the church ought also to be a “nexus of doing” bringing about the Kingdom on earth in ways small (helps to marginalized individuals/families) and large (political action to restore government to being for
the people). That actually completes and validates the character building.
The complaint is often raised that this gospel of “doing”, is "works righteousness”. To that I will counter that the "works righteousness" that Paul was so against was that of the Judaizers who believed that fulfilling the OT laws (and extensions thereof) is what God calls for. This results in a legalistic checklist of do’s and don’ts and can mask how God really calls us through the Spirit.
Getting back to Blake’s linked article, Brueggermann makes good points about discipleship:
Discipleship is not just a nice notion of church membership or church education, but it entails a resituating of our lives. The disciples of Jesus are the ones who follow their master and who are able to follow their master because they have been instructed in his way of life, both his aim and his practice of embodying that aim. Note well that the disciple is one who is in sync with the master-teacher, a profoundly undemocratic notion, for the relation consists in yielding, submitting, relinquishing to the will and purpose of another.
Discipleship fundamentally entails a set of disciplines, habits and practices that are undertaken as regular, concrete, daily practices. Such daily disciplines are not very exciting or immediately productive, but like the acquiring of any new competence, require such regimen, not unlike the learning of a new language by practicing the paradigm of verbs, not unlike the learning of piano by practicing the scales, not unlike the maintenance of good health by tenacity in jogging, not unlike every intentional habit that makes new dimensions of life possible. The church is a community engaged in disciplines that make following the master-teacher possible and sustainable'
But Brueggermann veers dangerously off course by suggesting what those disciplines should be.
Brueggemann offers this as a possible set of disciplines: teaching (catechesis), fellowship, eating together, prayer, fasting, recovery of Sabbath. He goes on to say that first, 'it is clear that these disciplines, if taken seriously, are immensely inconvenient ...
If offered as suggestions that is OK, but it can easily grow into:
1) that checklist mentality much like the “judaizers” that Paul fought with
2) doctrinal lists of theological points that we are pushed to give assent to (if the teaching (catechesis) reverts in that direction).
In sum - Listen and be attentive to the Spirit, be immersed in Jesus’s exemplary life/teaching, be in community to assist in deliberate "character building" and “doing” helpful acts (small and large, by ourselves and jointly). This usually is “inconvenient”, as Brueggermann says, until that character is completely built; in which case it becomes “second-nature”. I know I’m not there.
Excellent blog. Thanks Blake.
Informed by Data.
Driven by the SPIRIT and JESUS’s Example.
Promoting the Kingdom of GOD on Earth.