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

Conference to emphasize ‘Gospel Above All’

There is nothing more important in life than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone needs to hear the gospel, and as followers of Christ, we never outgrow our need for the gospel. The message of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is both life-changing and life-altering....

“21st century Moses”

In 2004, God gave me a clear vision to raise up leaders who have the kind of faith Moses had. Just as God met Moses and sent him back to Egypt to bring his people to the Promised Land, God will meet immigrants today and send them back home to spread the gospel — we just have to...

Are our blindspots preventing racial reconciliation?

Are our blindspots preventing racial reconciliation? “Part of being human is having blindspots. My experience opens my eyes to some things yet blurs my vision on some other things.” Walter Strickland, assistant professor and associate vice president for diversity at Southeastern...

Two churches in one building

Five years ago, in a yearly planning meeting with the staff of Flint-Gloves Baptist Church, two simple and straightforward questions were posed that would radically change our church: 1. Are we being good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us? 2. Has God given us resources...

Room at the table

James, the brother of Jesus Christ, defines the fruit of true religion: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).Jan. 19 is Sanctity of Human Life...

Q&A: Jimmy Scroggins on leadership, vision, evangelism, church culture and more

Jimmy Scroggins is lead pastor of Family Church in South Florida. He is dedicated to building families in South Florida through a network of neighborhood churches that help people in their community discover and pursue God’s design. Scroggins will be the keynote speaker at this...

The Great Commission begins at home

It’s a fundamental truth that every person who walks through your church’s door on any given day was raised in a home by a family. The shape of their family and type of home will, no doubt, be unique to the individual. But, this fundamental truth still applies. The reason I share...

Embracing change is perilous and priceless

Embracing change is perilous and priceless “At a time when many Baptist churches are closing their doors, the testimony that has been repeated over and over is, ‘Our neighborhood has changed, but we didn’t.’” This was the observation of Mark Hearn, senior pastor of First Baptist...

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!