Many people today, like the philosophers at Athens, are miles away in their thinking and their behaviour. A short presentation of the Gospel may be the first they have ever learned about Jesus. If they are to come to trust him, they will need to learn much more. Hopefully they will read the Gospels for themselves and will probably have to wrestle with many questions and issues. The seed is sown but may even take years to come to fruition. The Church Growth Movement has popularised the 'Engel Scale' which helps us to understand the different positions members of our audience may be in and how the Gospel may affect them prior to converting them.
10 Awareness of the supernatural
9 No effective knowledge of Christianity
8 Initial awareness of Christianity
7 Interest in Christianity
6 Awareness of the basic facts of the Gospel
5 Grasp of implications of the Gospel
4 Positive attitude to the Gospel
3 Awareness of personal implications
2 Challenge and decision to act
1 Repentance and faith
How you describe the stages is not the point. Some such evolving sequence happens to everyone who becomes a Christian. Some people have no idea about the Christian Faith and may perhaps be committed to some other creed. Others have imbibed Christianity from their earliest days but have never clearly understood the significance of Christ's death nor the response that they are personally required to make. Others again will have specific misunderstandings or doubts that need to be addressed before they can see the issues clearly. It may be a tremendous achievement to bring an atheist through to open agnosticism (perhaps from 11 to 7), or an agnostic through to grasp the implications of the Gospel (say 9 to 5). In neither case have they been converted but their understanding has leapt forward.
Neither must we rush people into the Kingdom of God as if our pressurizing can manipulate the power of God in their lives. Our task is to sow the seed and leave him who nourishes the hidden seed to bring it to fruition in due time.
"The Engel Scale" originates with a James F Engel, from the book 'What's gone wrong with the harvest?', co-authored with W Norton and published by Zondervan in 1975. The following links consider the scale further: www.angelfire.com