Recognize Receptivity Levels

By Joel Comiskey, Share: Make Christ Real to Others, 2023

Everyone is at a different stage in the journey of life. Some are very close to receiving Jesus; others, however, have a long way to go. The essence of evangelism is moving people along on their spiritual receptivity level, trusting in Jesus to work in them.

So often, Christians think that evangelism is only successful when someone prays to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Yet, the only way a person can receive Christ is if the seed has been planted and watered—then the harvest is ready. Trying to pick fruit before its time is like a farmer pulling up a plant when it has just begun to sprout. 

Dr James Engel, director of the Billy Graham graduate program in communications at the Wheaton College Graduate School, developed a model of the spiritual decision-making process. This scale depicts the spiritual state of a non-Christian or Christian in the journey: 

-10Awareness of the supernatural
-9No effective knowledge of Christianity
-8Initial awareness of Christianity
-7Interest in Christianity
-6Awareness of basic facts of the gospel
-5Grasp implications of the gospel
-4Positive attitude to the gospel
-3Awareness of personal need
-2Challenge and decision to act
-1Repentance and faith
0             A disciple is born
+1Evaluation of decision
+2Initiation into the church
+3Become part of the process of making other disciples
+4Growth in understanding of the faith
+5Growth in Christian character
+6Discovery and use of gifts
+7Christian lifestyle
+8Stewardship of resources
+10Openness to others/effective sharing of faith and life

Each person is on a different spiritual level in the Engel’s scale. The challenge is to move people further along toward maturity in Christ. If your witness to an atheist moves him or her just a little bit further along the Engel’s scale, you’ve succeeded in evangelism. Or if you have the privilege of praying a prayer with someone who has already been prepared to receive Jesus, you’re equally successful. This concept of evangelism helps us to realize that God has been at work in the person’s life since birth and that our job is to help in the process.

I recently shared my testimony with a Chinese student who sat next to me at a wedding reception. Max’s background was Buddhist, but he was open to “other religions.” I shared the good news of Jesus Christ and His work in my own life. I planted a seed in Max’s life and hopefully moved him one-step further to actually receiving Jesus.

The goal is not simply to get a person to “accept Jesus.” Jesus wants people to move to +10 and become fully devoted followers.