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Gray’s the color of life

Understanding the Gray Matrix

Engel promoted a revolution. Not Engels the Marxist thinker, but James Engel the missiologist. He first outlined what has become known as the ‘Engel Scale of Spiritual Decision’. This describes the way in which an individual, or by extension a whole group, progress in their understanding of the Gospel, as God’s sovereign grace begins to illuminate their hearts. By understanding the way God communicates, we can become better co-communicators.

     +5 Stewardship
    +4 Communion with God
   +3 Conceptual and behavioural growth
  +2 Incorporation into Body
 +1 Post-decision evaluation
New birth
 -1 Repentance and faith in Christ
  -2 Decision to act
   -3 Personal problem recognition
    -4 Positive attitude towards Gospel
     -5 Grasp implications of Gospel
      -6 Awareness of fundamentals of Gospel
       -7 Initial awareness of Gospel
        -8 Awareness of supreme being, no knowledge of Gospel

Don’t be put off because it looks mathematical! For instance, when someone has come to realise they have a spiritual problem, they are at -3 on the scale. If we understand roughly where a person (or a whole target group of people) stand spiritually on this scale, we can adjust the way that we present the Gospel to them. [Detailed graphic of Engel Scale]

Others have suggested different refinements of the Engel Scale. Frank Gray of FEBC Radio, has proposed a horizontal axis of antagonism/enthusiasm to create the Gray Matrix. It is a remarkably simple but enlightening concept because it helps us to visualise important evangelistic concepts. Christian evangelistic communication has often failed to touch people who are low down the scale, because it has been presented in Christian language and thought-forms and has not engaged with those it was intended for. The tragedy is that so often, evangelism is only touching the ’once-churched‚ (those with some Christian background) rather than the ’never-churched‚ (those who know nothing of the Gospel at all). The lower-left oval shape represents a person or group of people who are fairly resistant and lack knowledge. The challenge to us is always to use approaches which reach down as far as possible into the bottom left-hand corner!

gray matrix

The lower-left purple oval shape represents a group of people who are fairly resistant and lack knowledge. Our challenge is always to use approaches which reach down as far as we can into the bottom left-hand corner!

Lessons from the Gray Matrix

Effective evangelism not only requires people to obtain more knowledge – they must also move from a position of antagonism/indifference to a more positive viewpoint. They are unlikely to wish to find out more until they view Christianity more positively.

These vital issues of how to communicate the Gospel to people at different levels of understanding, in a local church situation, are covered in several of our book recommendations.

It is also very important to understand the ways that people actually learn anything because these closely parallel the way people gain (or fail to gain) spiritual understanding. These principles have important implications for every sort of outreach including Web evangelism. An apologetic approach can be part of effective communication.

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