I am often discouraged and troubled when I see people that I love distance themselves from the truth. There is a knee-knocking, stomach-knotting decision that I know I need to make. I need to have that crucial conversation and challenge them to come home.
The verb translated in 5:19 as "bring back" is epistrepho; it is the same verb in 5:20 as "turns." It can mean "convert," but there is no distinction made here between evangelizing a non-Christian and discipling one who believes. In either context, James wants his readers to see the urgency of bringing people to repentance.
This is what Douglas Webster calls "the work of spiritual direction". It is a ministry of cutting through the deceptive complexities of a relativistic culture and setting before others a clear path of obedience. It is a ministry that simplifies and clarifies life by defining godly commitments and directing people toward maturity. It is a ministry of mutual discipling in the church, and it is based on one of the most crucial principles for effective church discipline: that the whole church is called to exercise discipline, not just pastors or elders. "For while God has given different gifts, the most basic training he gives is meant to come from fellow Christians in everyday encounters. Church discipline is the training of the church by the church. Trained professionals have their place, but they cannot and never were meant to be a substitute for the whole body".[i]
Spiritual directors are not just formally trained priests or pastors that you make appointments with. This is the common work of the church. Can you imagine such a group of people where everyone walks in humility and respectfully helps each other to change?
Those of you who walk humbly with God’s Spirit, please become that church. Gently restore others. Convert one another to the grace of God and do not be afraid. Encourage each one to follow Jesus, just as you are endeavouring to do so yourself.
People will not think that your arrogant and hypocritical unless you get pushy and insensitive. Use your gentle words, but tell the truth. Who will enter into this ministry of recovery?