The Gray Matrix has three principle uses. In simple terms they might be described as Understanding, Diagnosing and Planning as they apply to Christian witness and discipleship.


The suggestion here is that we can be more purposeful in our attempts to share the Good News about Jesus if we understand where people are at in their spiritual pilgrimage. As we have shown the Gray Matrix goes beyond defining this on the basis of how much they know about the Gospel. Knowledge alone is not the basis for belief. It also requires an openness of heart and mind. It calls for relationship at many levels. While it is helpful to know how much a person knows and understands it is also helpful to know their openness to the Gospel and their willingness to change.

The Gray Matrix essentially is divided into four parts each with its own characteristics. Quadrant A is the area which describes people who have little knowledge of the Gospel and who are not open to change.  They don’t know and they don’t show any real interest in knowing.

Matrix quadrants

The second quadrant (B), however, includes people who may not know very much but show increasing interest in learning and knowing more about God and His Word. In Bible terms we might describe them as a ‘ripe harvest field.’

Quadrant C describes where we would like people to be – the top right. This describes those who have gone through some kind of conversion experience and have come under the lordship of Christ (as some Catholics like to describe it). They are those who have experienced the joy of sins forgiven and are now in fellowship with Jesus Christ. They are members of God’s Kingdom. They now continue to grow in their discipleship as they strive to live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We shall come back to talk about quadrant D at a later stage.

We now have a graphical way of understanding where our intended audience might be in terms of these three areas. Note that in each case the further from the centre point the more extreme their condition.

Click here to learn more about Understanding and how we might measure it.


It is easy to fall into the trap of not really caring about how well our programs are doing and what impact they are having. Even worse, when they are not producing any visible results and we are content to not even ask “why?”.

Is is not far better to look more critically and objectively at our ministries? We may even have our suspicions but have not known how to go about them in a constructive way. That was my experience – until I encountered the Engel Scale and it suddenly let in much light!

The Gray Matrix is a great help here – provided we are prepared to be open and honest with ourselves about what we are doing already!  We need to allow it to examine us… Once we have applied the Gray Matrix to help our understanding we then can take the exciting (hopefully) step of overlaying that plot with another that represents our various programs – or our ministry generally.

We need to look at what we are doing in terms of the following key elements:

  • Language/jargon: are we using words that the intended audience will easily understand – and find appealing?
  • Subject matter: Is the core topic one that will be of interest or value in their present circumstances?
  • Style/format: Is it an attractive or compelling program suitable for their socio-economic position?
  • Biblical/spiritual awareness: Are we assuming too much basic knowledge without understanding where they are coming from?
  • Attitude: How are we positioning ourselves? Are we coming alongside them? Or are we taking the ‘high ground’ saying in effect that we have something to tell them? (In some instances this approach might work)

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Once we understand where our audience is at, and then where we are at, we are in a good position to start planning. The number of programs we shall need depends on our budget and availability of resources. But it should be clear that we shall possibly need at least three types of program – one for each of the A, B and C quadrants and the people they represent. This is a broad generalisation, but it does fly in the face of the “one size fits all”  approach that some have chosen to adopt – possibly without thinking. As one old-time media specialist observed “we sometimes put an un-warranted strain upon the sovereignty of God.”

Planning any form of ministry requires that we have a good understanding of our audiences. Diagnostics may reveal that although we have a variety of programs on offer they may all be appealing to people in just one of the quadrants. It has been known that so-called “evangelistic” outreach is in fact only being listened to and enjoyed by those in the top right sector – quadrant C – to reaffirm what they already know and believe.

How can we know – objectively – if our programs are well-suited to their audience? There are a number of tools that we could use but the most common is through focus groups. Their purpose is to try out sample materials among small groups of people who are representative of the intended audience. Find out what they like, what they don’t like, what interests them, where they show heightened interest (or little interest), what makes them laugh, etc. This may be through group discussion, through questioning, through observing.

Once you have done your planning run some trials – or agree to try something for a fixed period and then evaluate it against its objectives. Having done that be willing to face up to the reality (or perceptions) and modify, improve or dump accordingly. A good program delivers positive results in line with its objectives.

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