Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The New Altar Thrall

Jim Engel is our "stairway to heaven" hero! James F. Engel is the founder of Development Associates International, taught at Wheaton College for 18 years.  At Wheaton her founded the Billy Graham graduate program in communications. Beside a highly successful secular career in marketing research, he served as a trainer and consultant to over 250 Christian organizations in 60 countries. Dr. Engel was a member of the Communications Working Group of the Lausanne Movement, adjunct faculty at Daystar University in Kenya, senior faculty member of the Asian Institute of Christian Communication, faculty associate of the Haggai Evangelistic Institute in Singapore, and a member of the Long Range Planning Committee of the World Evangelical Fellowship. He also formed the the Center for Organizational Excellence at Eastern University.

The Engel Scale (click here to see the scale) was developed by James F. Engel as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God through to spiritual maturity as a Christian believer. The model is used by some Christians to emphasise the process of conversion, and the various decision-making steps that a person goes through before they become a Christian. The original model was developed by James F Engel and Viggo S√łgaard, although this was later refined by Engel, who added several ideas from behavioural science, and published it in his 1975 book What's Gone Wrong With the Harvest. According to this model, everyone is somewhere on this scale. The Engel Scale has been criticised for its fixed linear approach and a number of people have since introduced modifications. There are 4 breakthrough ideas in the scale, they include;

First, it showed us that apart from the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, no listener can understand or respond to the gospel, no matter how great of a sermon it is.

Second, it shows that the Spirit of God and the communicator work in harmony to bring the listener to an understanding of the gospel and to the point of personal decision. A delicate waltz between the evangelist and God, with the evangelist no longer being able to claim and store up heavenly brownie points for each conversion.

Third, this chart shows us that different people have different levels of spiritual understanding and interest in the gospel. You can't convict all of the people all of the time but you can convict some of the people some of the time. This explains the mass conversions, yet little actual fruit at Promise Keeper events. Organizations like BGEA, Promise Keepers, Young Life and Campus Crusade had to release adjusted conversion figures after they completed the Engel audit.

Finally, this chart gives us insight into the sequence of decision steps leading to the actual event of conversion/regeneration. In the past it was considered a win for the team if someone just raised their hand, now we understand the big picture. We have modified the original model below to show how modern media plays a role in the initial process.


  1. I don't think the Engel scale is still relevant. Anyone can have a "damascus road" experience and instantly move to a "decision." Bill Bright used to say that it would take someone hearing the Gospel 8 times before it would make sense to them. That's ludicrous! What about death bed conversions and the thief on the cross?

  2. I was a student of Jim Engel at Wheaton Graduate School in the 1960's. His teaching transformed my evangelism ministry. Today at 83 years of age I am still publishing the gospel. For many years this was via the printed page. Since 1998 it has been via e-Mail and the Internet. See
    Dick Innes