Introduction 

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 U3 and U2 .

The Engle Scale 

The Rainer Scale was formulated after looking at what is referred to as the Engle Scale. The Rainer Scale is a simplified version of the Engle Scale. The Engle scale seeks to show that people are on a journey in coming to know Christ and pass through specific levels on this journey. A person in the level -12 is very distant from conversion whilst a -3 indicates someone who is aware of their personal need of Christ (see diagram below). (2)

Level Description                                                       God Is                      Man's Task 
-12 No God framework                                               Confirming              Prayer 
-11 Experience of emptiness                                                                       Presence 
-10 God framework                                                     Revealing 
-9 Vague awareness and belief in God 
-8 Wondering if God can be known                                                            Preparation 
-7 Aware of Jesus                                                         Guiding 
-6 Interested in Jesus
-5 Experience of Christian love                                                                    Proclamation 
-4 Aware of the basic facts of the gospel                 Convicting 
-3 Aware of personal need 
-2 Grasp the implications of the gospel                                                      Power 
-1 Challenged to respond personally                       Converting 
0  Repentance and faith 
+1 Holy Spirit and baptism                                        Transforming       Encouragement 
+2 Functioning member of local Church                 Empowering
+3 Continuing growth in character, lifestyle and
     service
+4 Part of Team Leadership                                                                          Support

The Engle Scale and now the Rainer Scale teach us to consider evangelism in a new light. Evangelism is a process and not an event in people’s lives. As we approach discipleship, so we should approach evangelism. We understand clearly that discipleship takes time. We grow in Christ and are transformed into His image over time, often a lifetime. The same mental approach is needed when we consider the work of evangelism. It takes time; people come closer and closer to a personal relationship with Jesus as time goes by. Often wrong concepts, fears and bad experiences hold people back from Christ. Over a period it is the work of the person of the Holy Spirit who gently reshapes mindset, removes fears and illuminates people’s need to salvation. As believer’s we are to be wise in recognising where people are at (using such tools as the Rainer and Engle Scale) and ministering accordingly.

The U3 Persons (3) 

The key word when considering the group defined as U3 is ‘ neutral ’. U3’s are not overly interested in the gospel or church yet they also show no animosity. They are a non-committal group, when asked questions about faith and church they have the tendency to give short answers yet they are willing to learn. They are not antagonistic or resistant. Of all unchurched people, the U3’s are the largest group that we deal with in society. Most U3’s would indicate a belief in God yet their understanding of basic Christian theology is little less than weird (heaven could be a place that you create for yourself, so could hell for that matter). The U3 believes in heaven and hell yet clearly not an orthodox view. Within the U3 category we have the ‘leaners’, some lean toward being a U2 and some lean toward being a U4. Some have moved away from the neutral response but are not typically open like the U2 and some have not yet arrived at neutral, however they are not resistant like the U2. We need to remember these two sub groups within the group. U3’s are very open to an invitation to church, research showing that 86% are somewhat likely to attend if asked. U3 also see the church as relevant , they are not saying church is irrelevant, the number one reason they don’t attend is time. Two thirds of this group indicated that they prayed regularly, suggesting they are quite a spiritual group. Praying to who and what is the main concern. Much to our surprise this group has a positive view of ministers and a significant number of them have at some stage attended Sunday school or small groups within a church setting. This group is eager to learn, they are willing to hear more about the Bible and faith so inviting them along to LifeGroup settings where Bible studies are held is often fruitful. They are willing to contribute and discuss matters of faith. Be proactive with this group, they are open to listen.

The U2 Persons (4) 

When considering the U2 person we must see the great openness they have to the gospel and to church. This is an exciting group to reach out to. It is interesting to note that a U2 is more likely to be a female than a male, with no conclusive reasoning. The typical U2 has a very orthodox view of Christianity, their beliefs in heaven and hell and the person of Christ are identical to most Christians. The income level of the U2’s is the lowest of all groups; it appears that materialism is correspondingly low. This is in sharp contrast to the wealthy U5’s. The downfall of this group like the others is that they still
have a ‘works’ mentality when it comes to salvation. Even though they espouse Christian doctrine, the concept of free salvation with the need of repentance is foreign to them. They sound like a Christian in many ways, yet they do not have a personal relationship with Christ. Many have been witnessed to by family and often grew up going to church yet had a negative experience causing them to drift. To effectively reach out to U2’s one must remember that they are keen to study 
the Bible; they desire to talk about eternal issues; they need a correct understanding of salvation (not one of works); family members have often witnessed to them; parents particularly had a great Christian influence; the negative experience of church needs to be ministered to and confidently one can invite these people to church. Research showed that 97% were very likely or somewhat likely to attend if invited.

Sample Discussion Questions 

  1. Look at the Engle Scale. Discuss how the Rainer scale relates, which levels relate to U5- U2? 
  2. Have the group share stories of U3 and U2 people they may know or have known. What was proven to be most effective with these people? 
  3. Discuss methods that would be appropriate and inappropriate in reaching U3’s and U2’s. 
  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) The Engle scale explained further at http://www.hazelden.org.uk/pt02/art_pt068_modified_engel_full.htm, accessed 21 February 2006.

(3) Rainer, Thom S. The Unchurched Next Door (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing, 2003),127-148.

4 Rainer, Thom S. The Unchurched Next Door (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing, 2003),151-171.
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