3 Circles: A versatile tool for ministering the gospel to a variety of cultural contexts

July 15, 2019

The 3 Circles is a versatile tool to communicate the gospel in a variety of cultural contexts. The reason for its inherent flexibility is due to a variety of factors.

To begin with, it’s a framework, not a method. Previously, many Western evangelistic trainings taught step-by-step methods to help guide the learner through conversations. These trainings bore fruit for numerous reasons — one being that there was some familiarity with the biblical story in our culture. Assumptions could be made that when words were used, a collective understanding was present. However, when working cross-culturally, or in the current U.S. climate, that simply is no longer the case.

Having a tool to communicate the gospel that functions like a framework provides many advantages. First, the 3 Circles provides space to go as long or short as needed. I’ve seen children draw the three circles with sidewalk chalk in three minutes and I’ve seen a conversation around the 3 circles last more than two hours. The flexibility allows the appropriate space for understanding, not mere presentation.

The framework also encompasses, literally, the entirety of Scripture –providing access to as many, or as few, biblical stories/verses as you know. This helps because there will always be disciples at varying stages of their walk with Jesus. The framework gives space for the Holy Spirit to lead the conversation by allowing the disciple to connect the Word with the content of the conversation.

Additionally, the 3 Circles tool frames the conversation with the major questions of any worldview — questions of origin, purpose, problems and hope, among others — that can flex depending on the person you are conversing with. These core questions drive behavior, shape hopes and fears, and ultimately provide the content needed to see any person’s object of worship.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Any Christian with a Revelation 7 vision has bumped up against linguistic challenges in communicating the gospel. The 3 Circles tool can be communicated with pictures. For example, instead of writing the word “sin,” I’ve seen people draw a picture of someone running away from God. Pictures engage the imagination in a way that helps fight through one of the most difficult things of cross-cultural communication: that words and phrases do not translate into other languages seamlessly. Pictures provide an opportunity for translators and hearers to work through concepts in their own culturally appropriate ways and terms to aid in understanding.

The versatility of the 3 Circles tool also provides an expandable framework that can encompass all of life and all of the Bible. This is absolutely crucial in building trust with disciples of any culture. If done well, a disciple’s interaction with the Word, and with their world, will always be framed by what they heard from the beginning. So when someone is studying the book of Ecclesiastes, it fits into the bigger story that they first heard with the 3 Circles. When a couple struggles through a miscarriage, it fits into the bigger story that they first heard with the 3 Circles. And when people are disowned by their family because of their obedience to Christ, it fits into the bigger story that they first heard with the 3 Circles.

But remember, the 3 Circles tool is just that — a tool. Apart from prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit, this tool will be weak in the face of unbelief. But partnered with prayer and the Holy Spirit, this tool can bear much fruit.


by Josh Reed  
Adult Evangelism and Discipleship  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

The beauty in honoring our aging parents

“Honor your father and mother — which is the first commandment with a promise — so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3). Trying not to become frustrated at the sluggish traffic, I turned up the volume on my radio. There must...

NC Baptists provide dental care to remote island of Ocracoke

It started with a hunting trip. A young man went hunting in Ocracoke a few years ago, and while there he learned there was no dentist on the island. So he told his father, who volunteered as a driver for Baptists on Mission’s (BOM) dental bus. Last month, a team of volunteer...

MLK’s legacy fueled by hope in Christ

The black and white photo of Martin Luther King Jr. laying on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, with several people pointing toward the direction of the gunshot that killed him, has always been seared in my mind. My grandfather, James Hampton, first showed me the photo when I was...

Meet the Directors: John Butler

As a movement of churches on mission together, the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is organized into five groups, each headed by a director of that ministry area. The five groups that make up the convention’s structure aim to connect churches and...

Meet the Directors: Seth Brown

As a movement of churches on mission together, the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is organized into five groups, each headed by a director of that ministry area. The five groups that make up the convention’s structure aim to connect churches and...

Ser socios ha dado por resultado el plantar una iglesia hispana al oeste de Carolina del Norte

Hace dos años que una iglesia al oeste de Carolina del Norte y un creciente estudio bíblico en un hogar comenzaron una asociación de la cual surgió Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church en Español. «Me entusiasma saber que estaré haciendo la voluntad de nuestro Señor», dijo Carlos Pérez, el...

Partnership leads to Hispanic church plant in western NC

Two years ago, a western North Carolina church and a growing home Bible study began a partnership that led to the recent launch of a Hispanic church plant, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church en Español. “I am excited to know that I can do the will of our Lord,” Carlos Perez, the new...

Meet the Directors: Kathryn Carson

As a movement of churches on mission together, the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is organized into five groups, each headed by a director of that ministry area. The five groups that make up the convention’s structure aim to connect churches and...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!