The Rainer Scale is basically a “gospel receptivity scale”. Named the Rainer scale (see below), after head researcher Thom Rainer, it features a scale of 5 different "faith stages" - U1 to U5, where "U" stands for the unchurched, referring to those who go to church less than five times each year. Every stage within the scale represents a group of people with similar levels of receptivity toward the gospel. (1)

*In this study we will be particularly looking at categories U5 and U4 .

Rainer, in his research with the unchurched, came up with nine surprising observations. (2)

  1. FEMALES are likely to be either the most antagonistic or the most receptive to the gospel. They are predominant in the U1, U2 and U5 categories. 
  2. The unchurched feel INTIMIDATED by the church. They don’t think they can fit in and fear that they will feel out of place. They are uncertain of church traditions and are unfamiliar with how to “behave” during church ceremonies. 
  3. 82 percent of the unchurched are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to attend church if they are INVITED . That means 8 out of 10 unchurched persons would come to church if they were invited and personally brought to the church building. Yet, only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. 
  4. Very few of the unchurched have had someone SHARE with them how to become a Christian. And Christians have not been particularly influential in their lives. 
  5. Most of the unchurched have a positive view toward PASTORS and the CHURCH . And the vast majority of the unchurched feel that the church is still relevant today! 
  6. Most “ COLD-CALL evangelism” efforts are not effective. The fact is, most of the unchurched don’t like Christians showing up at their homes uninvited. Neither are they particularly thrilled to be witnessed to by total strangers on the streets, or on the telephone. 
  7. The unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere RELATIONSHIP with a Christian. Most of the unchurched would respond positively to a “genuine” Christian who is willing to spend time with them in a gentle, non-judgmental relationship. They are looking for Christians who really care. 
  8. The ATTITUDES of the unchurched are basically the same regardless of their location, gender, ethnic or racial background.
    There is only one thing that stood out - income. The survey found that the higher a person’s income, the more resistant to the gospel he or she is likely to be. (Matt. 19:23-24) 
  9. Many of the unchurched are far more concerned about the spiritual well-being of their CHILDREN than of themselves. Even if the unchurched don’t seem very religious, they have a deep concern about the morality and spiritual welfare of their children. 

The U5 Persons 

Research shows that the U5 person is typically the most resistant and antagonistic to the church and to the gospel. 
Encouragingly, the U5’s make up only 5% of the unchurched. Research showed that this group of people are the wealthiest unchurched people; the most educated among the unchurched; likely to be over fifty years of age; not likely to ever attend church; they do not pray; they have a condescending view of the Bible; a negative view of the church and are less likely to believe in the existence of heaven and hell. The research team discovered the following five key issues in reaching U5’s.

Understand that a U5 is not a typical unchurched person (focus on moving the U5 along their faith journey to becoming a U4, U3, etc and eventually saved). Apologetics can be effective with U5’s (given that this person is educated and does not believe in the Bible, an explanation or defence of Christianity is an effective approach). Many U5’s are ignorant about Christianity (they are the most “never churched” of the unchurched and often have an incorrect view of church and the Bible, with gentleness and wisdom you can correct these misconceptions). Understand that you are often dealing with hurt and angry people amongst the U5’s (many have had a life experience where God or church has been blamed. Pray, encourage and serve these people, your Christlike attitude may nudge them along the Rainer scale). Long-term relationships are a key (many U5’s cited that the reason they came to faith was because of a long-standing friendship they had with a believer).

The U4 Persons 

When considering the U4 person, we must understand they are not like the U5’s. U5’s are a category that stands alone, all other categories change in degrees. The differences between U5’s and U4’s are quite dramatic. U4’s believe in heaven, though not an orthodox view. Many believed in hell, although research showed that U4’s found hell not to be as believable as heaven. U4’s are a pluralistic group; they will affirm all religions, preferring not to discriminate against another. Again the U4’s view on God is not orthodox as Christians understand. U4’s had trouble articulating who Jesus is, with reticence to see Jesus as the unique Son of God. When it comes to the Bible, U4’s have a wide range of views on this text, but most have some level of respect for God’s Word. Whereas only 13 percent of U5’s prayed, this is lifted to 46 percent amongst U4’s. Prayer was used mainly during times of great need and although the U4 was not convinced if anyone was listening, they had nothing to lose anyway! Although U4’s are resistant to any presentation of the gospel, 48 percent indicated they were somewhat likely to attend church if invited. Classically U4 are resistant but NOT antagonistic like their U5 friends.

Although the U4’s have some strange if not weird viewpoints on Christianity, they are open to spiritual matters. This in itself gives the Christian a great opportunity to connect. Their viewpoints give a starting point from which the Christian can engage and share the gospel. Discussions on the afterlife are a great opportunity with this group. The challenge with this group is not to think they are so left of centre that they cannot be reached! They are a far cry from the antagonistic U5, remember they are resistant NOT antagonistic!

Sample Discussion Questions 

  1. Discuss the nine surprising observations, which ones are the most interesting to you? 
  2. Discuss methods that would be appropriate and inappropriate in reaching U4’s and U5’s. 
  3. Have the group share stories of U5 and U4 people they may know or have known. What was proven to be most effective with these people? 
  4. Finish with prayer for friends, family members or work associates who are not Christians. 

(1) From LifeGroup Study, Reaching The Unchurched Next Door by Mark Conner, February 11th-12th, 2006

(2) Rainer’s Research was presented by Kong Hee from City Harvest Church in a seminar entitled, The Church Without Walls,
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