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The practice of church discipline as a New Testament ideal is generally and quietly ignored by most of us. Only a crisis made me take my first disciplinary action as a pastor. I did not start with a mental blueprint for how to go about it, and I still feel that sensitivity and flexibility are essential. However, I believe several principles apply to all cases.

1. We must examine our own spiritual well-being. Paul instructs in Galatians 6:1, "You who are spiritual should restore . . . gently." There is no substitute for spiritual stability and dependence on the Holy Spirit to provide us with the grace to remain firm but gentle.

When Sharon stuck her finger in my face and said, "I'll ruin you," I felt genuinely frightened-perhaps more frightened than, looking back, seems realistic. Only by leaning heavily on the Lord could I stand firm while rejecting the temptation to abandon gentleness and respond to her in kind. The cultivation of humility and brokenness before the Lord can guard us from ...

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