My last post, needs an addendum. Not only does the situation with the individual I am sharing life with in our faith community prompt a discussion of differentiating between self-serving "felt needs", that are the chief concern of many churches as they seek to "appeal" to the spiritual consumers out there, and a contextualized message that reveals God's grace as it is poured out into situations of human suffering, it also raises a question of typical evangelical notions of conversion (what a long sentence!).
This person does not need, nor would he understand right now, lots of talk about personal sin, eternal consequences, and "conversion" to take care of all that. His need is more immediate - not in heaven by and by. As I explained, the Gospel to him right now is good news about hope, peace, and sanity through Christ which rescues him from a chaos that is a lifestyle. Sure it includes "sin" - but that's not the problem. It is life as he knows it.
He's 82 days clean and sober today. I'm discipling him, but right now that has nothing to do with understanding atonement. Instead it is about having a Savior from the chaos here and now. I don't even ask the evangelical "big question": Is he saved?
He is becoming more like Jesus - the Spirit doing alot in 82 days. Anxiety is down, paranoia is waning, peace and sanity are invading a disturbed life. That may not be the norm for evangelical conversion, but it is spiritual transformation.
Making disciples is all about sharing life with others so they find the God who is seeking them. If we quit worrying about who's saved and lost, and just start discipling everyone (the nations) we might actually start doing what Jesus was talking about. Discipling does not follow conversion. Discipling is everything; those who put faith in Jesus are those who have been discipled to some extent, though they, just like me, are still being discipled.
Evangelical patterns of making everything about conversion with discipling being a later stage tries to make orderly and neat what is a messy process. How all of this occurs will never follow a precise and predictable sequence. Trying to make every person start at the same point and journey according to some formula only means we often miss the prevenient discipling of the Spirit in those we encounter because we were wedded to our own flow chart. Unlike Jesus, we have the same conversation with everyone, while he had personally relevant conversations with people as recorded in the gospels. Seems like Jesus was discipling everyone - richman, poorman, beggarman, thief (or adultress).