The “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide,” a tool for sharing the Gospel with people who have no church background, is gaining momentum throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, giving even new believers a way to move conversations about life problems to a conversation about the only solution.
The North American Mission Board is promoting the tool, which is available as a free app and serves as a companion resource to the book Life on Mission, which was released September 1.
Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, developed the evangelism method, which is as simple as drawing three circles and three arrows on a napkin at a restaurant.
Though Scroggins did not set out to create an evangelism tool, this one emerged when he found himself leading a preparation for marriage class for people who had no concept of biblical morality and knew nothing about God’s design for marriage and their families. Most of them already were living with their future spouses and already were raising children together. Many of them had caused problems in their lives they couldn’t escape.
Regardless of whether people have a church background, whether they believe in God, whether they know what sin is, “people do understand brokenness because they’ve been hurt,” Scroggins said during the North American Mission Board presentation at the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore.
“They understand what it means to feel cheap and empty and used. They understand what it means to have no sense of purpose. They understand what it means to be confused about gender, sexuality, family structure. And here they were in the room with us, and we began to have conversations,” Scroggins recounted.
The unbelievers who gathered to prepare for marriage would talk to Scroggins about the problems they were having in their relationships and with their children and their finances, he said. “And I knew that we had to find a way to turn conversations about problems into conversations about Jesus.”
He began by explaining that God has a design—physical and spiritual laws that govern the universe—and when people violate spiritual laws, there are certain consequences. Everyone departs from God’s design in different ways by sinning, leading to brokenness.
When people find themselves in brokenness, Scroggins said, they try to alleviate the pain by relying on their own strength and the instincts of their hearts, pushing them further from God’s design and deeper into brokenness, Scroggins said.
People know they need to change—to repent and believe—but they’re powerless and unguided. That’s why they need the Gospel, the good news that Jesus can help them recover and pursue God’s design.
“As I looked around the table, what they needed to hear was good news that God isn’t holding their past against them any longer, that they are free, that all things can pass away and all things can be made new in Jesus,” Scroggins said of the people in the marriage preparation class.
“What God wants from them right now is for them to begin to recover and pursue God’s design the best they can from where they are right now,” he said.
Hundreds of people at First Baptist West Palm Beach have been trained to share the 3 Circles method, and many of them have seen people come to Christ.
“I don’t want to act like our church is a soul-winning powerhouse—because we would like to see a lot more people come to faith in Jesus—but we have used this effectively with people who are far from God who don’t know much about the Bible,” Scroggins told SBC LIFE.
A good opportunity for sharing the 3 Circles is when someone mentions a problem or something painful going on in their life. That usually doesn’t take very long, Scroggins said. “It’s amazing how quickly our conversations move toward these kinds of experiences.”
The person’s difficulty, pain, or disappointment “gives us the entré to say, ‘I’ve had experiences like that too. I’ve had experiences that made me feel similar to the way you’re feeling now. Could I just show you something that somebody shared with me that helped me to think about it in a better way?’” Scroggins said. “Then you just draw the three circles or get your phone out and show them the app.”
Scroggins is quick to say he doesn’t believe the 3 Circles method is the greatest evangelism tool ever invented, and he remains a fan of the proven methods that have resulted in untold numbers of people coming to know Christ.
“It’s something the Lord gave us and we want to share it with others,” he said.
Even new believers have been able to grasp the three circles and three arrows concept quickly and use it to explain the Gospel to others.
“A lot of it goes well with your personal story—your personal testimony and what God’s doing—because all of us have experienced brokenness in different ways at different times, and we can all fit ourselves right in the three circles and share it,” Scroggins said.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said what he likes about the 3 Circles is that it’s an open tool.
“If you say, ‘I’d prefer to put something else in that circle,’ you can put whatever you want in the circle,” Ezell said. “It’s your napkin. Have at it.”
NAMB is encouraging pastors to preach a sermon using the 3 Circles guide, and resources are available at www.namb.net. The emphasis is another effort at mobilizing Southern Baptists to reach the world Christ died to save.
“We believe that the lost people are all around us, people who are far from God, people who don’t know Christ,” Scroggins said. “We know that the Gospel is powerful and effective to save, and so the missing link in all of this is us sharing and us being sensitive and being open and taking the risk of opening our mouths or taking out a napkin and drawing three circles or whatever it is.
“The issue isn’t the Gospel, and the issue isn’t a difficulty finding lost people. The issue is our willingness and desire to tell them about Christ.”
Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville, Tennessee, and a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.