Pastors use 3 Circles tool to share gospel, train members

August 22, 2014

By Tobin Perry

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – As Alabama pastor Derek Staples (@harleydreamer) prepared for a July mission trip to Honduras, he was on the lookout for a visual way to express the gospel in a pre-literate environment. The church mission team would be setting up a medical clinic at a local school and sharing the gospel to those who came for help. He also had nearly 40 opportunities to preach during a three-day period.

“At the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the North American Mission Board presentation, I watched Pastor Jimmy Scroggins share the 3 Circles,” said Staples, the lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Ala. “Most of the people in Honduras can’t read or write. I thought it was an incredible visual representation of the gospel.”

During his time in Honduras, Staples preached 37 times using the 3 Circles as an outline and saw 593 people trust in Jesus as their Savior. He now plans to train members of his congregation how to use the tool to share their faith back home in Alabama.

“I’m always trying to give my people as many tools as possible to help them effectively share the gospel,” Staples said. “This is a memorable, easy way to explain how anyone can have a personal relationship with Christ.”

Staples is among a growing list of Southern Baptists using NAMB’s 3 Circles evangelism tool to share the gospel through personal evangelism and preaching, and to train others in its use. Scroggins (@jimmyscroggins), the lead pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., developed it to train and mobilize his congregation for personal evangelism in a post-Christian environment.

The tool helps people use three circles that represent God’s Design, Brokenness and the gospel—which can easily be drawn on readily accessible materials, such as a napkin during lunch—to communicate the gospel. NAMB has produced a variety of resources to help support pastors who want to train their churches to use the tool, including free Apple and android apps, a conversation guide, a PowerPoint presentation and online videos. The 3 Circles tool is part of a larger set of resources NAMB is releasing this year around the “Life On Mission” theme—centered on mobilizing all believers for the mission of God.    

David Burton (@DavidBurtonEv), the director of evangelism at the Florida Baptist Convention, believes the tool will be of great value to Florida Baptists. Earlier this summer he trained 700 youth at the state’s Super Summer camp. He notes that students particularly liked the fact they could use their smartphones as part of gospel presentations.

Burton typically teaches evangelism at two conferences and one church each week and says that the 3 Circles tool will be a staple of this teaching.

“I think 3 Circles is going to be something that people will catch a hold of because you don’t have to have an app, you don’t have to have tools, you don’t have to have your Bible to do this,” Burton said. “As Jimmy says, you just need to have a napkin or a piece of paper or the back of your hand.”

Ohio church planter Randy Chestnut (@rchestnut), who started Hope Community Church in Dayton, used the tool recently to lead a teenager he had been witnessing to for two years to faith in Christ. After listening to the 3 Circles presentation at the SBC annual meeting, Chestnut says he asked two teenage brothers to listen to “something interesting” he had recently heard. Following the presentation, one of the boys committed his life to Jesus.

“In my context [in downtown Dayton], we can talk about what brokenness is and the evidences of it all around—poverty, crime, drug addiction,” Chestnut said. “You can start with that second circle and then go back to the first circle and say, ‘Well, that wasn’t a part of God’s design.’”

Pastor Chase Smith (@chasemsmith), who leads Fellowship Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ill., recently taught a three-week series on evangelism called “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” The final sermon in the series focused on how to share the gospel. He says he discovered the 3 Circles tool through Twitter. Smith gave the congregation copies of the 3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide before the training.

Smith says that one of the things he appreciates about the 3 Circles tool is that any size church can incorporate it into what they’re doing.

“This is something every church can do,” said Smith, whose church averages between 50-60 on a typical Sunday. “You can present it in a way that’s easy. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in a seminary class or you’ve only been a pastor for a short time, you can talk about each of these circles without much prep work. As a small church pastor, I love that it’s so easy to do.”

Pastors of several large SBC churches either have incorporated the 3 Circles presentation into their sermons or plan to do so in the near future. Former SBC president Johnny Hunt (@johnnymhunt), pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., led his congregation through the tool on August 10. Bryant Wright (@bryantwright), senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and also a former SBC president, shared the tool in a sermon August 17. Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd (@ronniefloyd) plans to preach through the circles Aug. 24.

For more information about 3 Circles and the tools NAMB has created to help churches teach the method to their members, visit

Tobin Perry (@tobinperry) writes for the North American Mission Board. 

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