The origin of the ‘3 Circles’ and why it’s relevant to your ministry

It didn’t take Jimmy Scroggins long to realize that he was no longer in the Bible Belt.

Shortly after being called as pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., (now known as Family Church) in 2008, Scroggins started a marriage preparation class as a ministry and outreach to young couples. After all, he had a similar ministry while serving as a pastor in Louisville, Ky., and saw great results.

“We thought we knew what we were doing,” Scroggins said.

His first class in South Florida filled up fast. But as soon as the couples shared about themselves at the first meeting, Scroggins quickly learned those attending didn’t just need gospel-centered marriage principles. They needed the gospel.

Scroggins said seven of the eight couples in the class were living together. None of them were married. None of them were Christians. Some had been married and divorced multiple times. One was raised a Buddhist and had never been in a Christian church before. He learned later that others had been abused and at least one had been raped.

“I realized, ‘You’re not in Kentucky anymore,’” Scroggins said. “This is a different world.”

Against this backdrop, Scroggins developed the framework for what became the “3 Circles” evangelism tool, which has become a widely used resource. Scroggins shared the background and details about how “3 Circles” was developed with more than 700 attendees at the 2020 N.C. Baptist Disciple-Making Conference, held Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Green Street Baptist Church in High Point.

“The ‘3 Circles’ really didn’t start by somebody sitting around going, ‘Hey, let’s come up with a way to share the gospel,’” Scroggins said. “It started with somebody sitting around going, ‘How am I going to talk to these people who don’t know the Bible verses and Bible stories, and they’re far from God?’”

Scroggins knew he couldn’t pull a bait-and-switch move, because the couples had come to learn about marriage. He asked God for wisdom, then it hit him.

“That week, I came up with the idea for the ‘3 Circles,’” Scroggins said.

God’s design
The couples had come to learn about marriage, and Scroggins knew that marriage points to the gospel. The challenge was how to explain it to a group who had no biblical foundation whatsoever. Scroggins explained to the group that God has a design for marriage, relationships, communication and more. God has a design for all of life, and it’s found in the Bible.

God’s design became the starting point for the ‘3 Circles,’ which is a visual, interactive and engaging resource. It allows someone to draw three circles with different headings on a piece of paper or back of a napkin as a way to share the gospel in a casual and conversational manner. The remaining two circles and headings are filled in during the natural flow of a conversation.

Scroggins demonstrated how a gospel conversation might flow using the “3 Circles” by sketching it on a whiteboard as he spoke at the conference.

The kind of change we need doesn’t come from inside us. It has to come from somewhere else.

Brokenness is the second of the three circles, and it is what results from not following God’s design, Scroggins said. People try to escape or numb the pain of brokenness in a myriad of ways. Brokenness causes us to realize that something has to change, yet the changes we try to make are superficial and short-lived.

“The kind of change we need doesn’t come from inside us,” Scroggins said. “It has to come from somewhere else.”

Our brokenness separates us from God because of sin, Scroggins said, but the Bible gives us good news.

“The Bible word for good news is gospel,” Scroggins said, which is also the heading for the third of the three circles.

That good news is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, came to earth and lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead after three days.

“When you believe the story of Jesus … God comes into your life and helps you pursue God’s design for your life where you are right now,” Scroggins said.

For sinners and saints
The beauty of the ‘3 Circles’ is that it is a resource that can be used to share the gospel with unbelievers, as well as encourage believers in the gospel.

“This is a great way to talk to people who are far from God,” Scroggins said. “It’s also a great way to talk to people who are close to God. Because this pattern still repeats even after you are a believer.”

Scroggins said Jesus’ own life and ministry reflects this approach.

“Jesus had a way of having these kinds of conversations with people who should know God’s design and with people who were far from God,” Scroggins said.

In the account of the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and brought before Jesus in John 8:2-11, Scroggins said while the religious leaders sought to condemn her, Jesus chose to forgive her because a short while later He would be condemned in her place by dying on the cross.

Jesus died for the sins of the woman. She was broken. Just like the couples in Scroggins’ group. Just like all of us. And those around us, no matter where we live.

“Don’t you think there are broken and hurting people where you live?” Scroggins said. “Jesus came to heal the broken people from every neighborhood, and every place and every race. He doesn’t leave anybody out.”

“What if we stopped pushing them out and focused on pulling them in, lifting them up and pointing them to Jesus?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a recap of Jimmy Scroggins’ opening address at the 2020 Disciple-Making Conference. To watch his closing address, click here.