Monday, September 8, 2008

Is a New Engel Scale Needed?


Quite a number of years ago I was introduced to the Engel scale.  It is (and remains) a very helpful tool for remembering that coming to faith in Christ is most generally a process.  While the diagram above may be a bit fuzzy to see, it begins with the pre-Christian having only an awareness of a supreme being, but not effective knowledge of the Gospel.  The scale continues through awareness of the gospel and positive thoughts about it leading to a decision to receive Christ.  It then goes on to lay out the post-decision steps, of incorporation into a body, conceptual and behavioral growth, communion with God, stewardship, reproduction, etc. 

Part of the benefit of the Engel scale that in developing a relationship with someone you can see (roughly) where they are on the scale and thus have a next steps goal towards which you can direct them.  No scale is perfect, but I think this one has great merit.

I am beginning to wonder if there is a need for a new Engel scale.  Part of my question arises because of the huge cultural changes that we see today in western culture. 

I also would add into the mix the lousy job the church has done in demonstrating what discipleship entails.  There are too many unconverted "Christians" running around.  Often non-believers have to overcome their experiences with the church to be able to "see" Christ. Do we need to expand the Engle scale to involve those aspects of separating Christian hypocrisy from Christian truth?

Do we also need to add in something about the reality of truth and the it's objectivity.  For many, they can accept the factualness of the gospel, but believe that it is still irrelevant to their lives.  This is the multiple layers of truth or multiple centers of truth that is rampant in our culture.  Does there need to be, on the Engel scale, something about an understanding & acceptance of the reality of objective truth and its applicability to my life?


This pattern of thinking arises out of reading Zach Eswine's quote by Tim Keller in the Journal of Biblical Counseling ("Preaching to the Secular Mind").  Keller reminds us:

"In a Christianized, less secular culture, you can jump right to commitment...and go right to a gospel presentation...but secular people have many more stages to go through. Many of us are being forced to remember that one can be inconsistent in doctrine (like many of us), mistakes in some things (like all of us), and yet truly following Jesus one step at a time.  Sanctification is a process."

How familiar are you with the Engel scale?  Do you find it adequate?  Do you believe that elements may need to be added to it?  If so, what elements do you think should be included? Maybe someone already knows of some writing or research that has already been done in this area. 

Let me know your thoughts. 

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