Acts 8:1b
Breakout: Comfort Zone
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
July 20, 2008

Our Lord did not let the Jerusalem Church stay in its comfort zone. He had told them their duty was to not only Jerusalem, but also Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost. Ignoring the latter command, they grew complacent and stayed home.

Acts 8:1b (Holman) On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.

God had to use Saul’s persecution and Stephen’s execution to force the Jerusalem Church to break out of its comfort zone. We still need to break out of our comfort zones, to venture into a land we little know: the land of lostness.

To lead unbelievers toward Jesus, we first of all need to be able to pinpoint precisely where they are. We are aided in this effort by a spiritual decision scale devised by Missiologist James Engel. He felt every person, as they journeyed toward repentance and faith, progressed through this series of -8 to -1 stages.

The Engel Scale

-8 Awareness of Supreme Being – no knowledge of the Gospel
-7 Initial awareness of the Gospel
-6 Awareness of the fundamentals of the Gospel
-5 Grasp of the implications of the Gospel
-4 Positive attitude toward the Gospel
-3 Recognition of personal problem ( need of the Gospel
-2 Decision to act
-1 Confession, repentance, and faith in God through Jesus


+1 Post-decision evaluation
+2 Incorporation into the church body

+3 Conceptual and behavioral growth
+4 Communion with God
+5 Stewardship
+6 Reproduction
+7 Internal maturation, spiritual gifts discovered and developed
+8 External maturation (witnessing, social action, missions, etc.)

Every unbeliever is somewhere on this -8 to -1 continuum. Our job is to discover where each of them is, and to urge him or her to the next level. Sometimes the progress is rapid, other times it may take years to go from one level to the next.

The best way to help move people along is to know them well. This is why we need to be developing personal relationships with unbelievers.

At the same time we are trying to determine where unbelievers are spiritually, we need to evaluate ourselves to determine accurately where we believers are. Where do we find ourselves on this soulwinning pilgrimage exam?

Soulwinning Pilgrimage Exam

Step 1: The Lord is changing my attitude toward unbelievers. I am becoming concerned about my lack of interest in unbelievers.
Step 2: I have begun praying for a specific prechristian to become a Christian.
Step 3: I regularly invite prechristians to attend church with me. Walking across a room to invite someone to church has become exciting to me.
Step 4: I truly desire to learn how to personally win someone to Jesus.
Step 5: I daily pray the Holy Spirit will lead me to verbally witness to someone today.
Step 6: I am willing to be inconvenienced to take time to build relationships with lost people in order to win them to Jesus someday.

I once surveyed a group of our Second Baptist Church leaders, and asked them, why do our people at Second not witness more? Their answers fit into four categories.

One, fear. We fear rejection, losing status among friends. We are afraid of being called a fanatic. We fear retaliation, witnessing may cost us something.

Fearing failure, we feel inadequate. We fear the lost won’t understand our terminology, or we won’t know all the answers, and may drive them further away.

Two, indifference. We don’t care. We have no burden for the lost, and are not concerned about the reality of Hell. Apathy is hard to overcome.

Soulwinning is not glamorous, it has little personal glory in it. We sometimes receive no support and no encouragement, plus, accountability is hard to find.

Three, ignorance. Some believe living a Christian lifestyle is witness enough. But this brings glory to us rather than to Jesus. Often we don’t realize we are relying on our own strength too much, and don’t pray enough.

Four, busyness. We don’t know lost people well because we don’t take time to develop relationships with them.

We become frustrated at not being the reaper. We fail to value the fact that at any point where we influence an unbeliever, we are putting an important piece in a much larger puzzle.

A vital part of winning outsiders is to identify ourselves, to let them know we are Christ-followers. There are many ways to do this. Tell your restaurant servers you will be praying over the food and asking God to bless them.

Telling an unbeliever, “I’m praying for you,” identifies us spiritually. About 90% of USA Americans believe in prayer. Use this to our advantage.

Ask a new move-in, “Have you found a church yet?” “Do you attend church?” is a non-threatening question to open the door to a spiritual discussion. If the person says “No,” ask if they ever attended church. This may open the door for you to ask them why they quit attending church.

When the door to share the Gospel is opened wide, a simple Bible plan to use is what is commonly called the Roman Road. This plan is the heart of Billy Graham’s soulwinning tract, “Steps to Peace with God.” This tract is good to use due to its excellent content, and because Graham is highly esteemed in the USA.

All of Graham’s four steps include a verse from Romans. Step one is “God’s Purpose: Peace and Life.” God loves us and wants us to experience peace and life. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Step two is “Our Problem: Separation.” God did not make us robots to automatically love and obey Him. He gave us freedom of choice. We chose to disobey God and go our own way. We still make this choice.

The result is separation from God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This leaves us in a serious dilemma. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Step three is “God’s Remedy: The Cross.” On the Cross, Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Step Four is “Our Response: Receive Christ.” We must trust Jesus and receive Him by personal invitation. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Graham goes on to add a verse of assurance. “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Our call as believers is to break out of our comfort zone. Determine where a lost friend fits on the Engel Scale.

Take the soulwinning pilgrimage exam. Pray to move your friend and yourself along on these continuums. If a door opens, share the Gospel.