Spiritual Food for the Family: 3Circle Church

3Circle Church: ”When you feed people good stuff, they grow.”

The man who opens his black leather Bible to talk about the Holy Spirit’s peace also knows how deep distress feels. Tod Gail, just a year ago, felt angry with the world. “I realized that I was really missing something,” says Gail, who now attends 3Circle Church, where he learned that he can actually feel God’s presence.

After decades away from church, he was drawn to the biblical focus at 3Circle Church in Alabama. He hears leaders there start their teachings with: “In the Bible, this is what it says.” In other churches he visited, it’s totally different.

“If you come to one of our services, you’re hearing the Scripture,” Pastor Chris Bell says. “And we think people can handle depth, by the way.”

They’re family, after all, and viewing congregants that way, as well as giving them truth, are two reasons why their numbers multiply. “We’re totally out of space,” Bell says of their main campus in Fairhope, which is one of their four sites.

But spiritually speaking, they really are family, and expectations are high among kin: Serve, invite others and love one another. The family view attracts people because everyone longs for true community, Bell says. At 3Circle they often say: “Church is not an event that you attend; it is a family into which we are born.”

“By saying that all the time, we teach people that they are not consumers,” Bell says. He wants to rid the consumerism mindset of merely attending church. Do that at 3Circle, and you’ll be very uncomfortable “because everyone is doing stuff,” Bell says with a laugh.

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Indeed. Its very name stems from the outreach mentality of Acts 1:8: “[…] and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They have three spheres—or circles—of influence, with a mission to “lead people to a growing relationship with Jesus—locally, regionally and globally.” That covers a lot of ground, including two low-cost Alabama clinics offering medical, dental and counseling services; and also a daily feeding center in Honduras.

“We treat thousands of patients who depend on us,” Bell says. “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is pull a tooth that’s hurting someone.”

Sometimes, though, as in Gail’s situation, the hurt is more generalized. For Gail, 3Circle Church is the place where he learned about righteousness, salvation and how to serve the Lord, his family and church. “I was a distressed person … needing to find the truth,” he says. Now Gail says he’s found the Lord, “and I am at peace, finally.”

But lessons go deep; Bell doesn’t believe in “spoon feeding.” “When you feed people good stuff, they grow,” Bell says. “They just do.”

Fairhope, Ala.
Senior Pastor: Chris Bell
Twitter: @PastorChrisBell
Website: 3CircleChurch.com
Founded: 2000
Affiliation: Southern Baptist
Locations: 4
Attendance: 2,469
Growth in 2014: +320 (15%)
Fastest-Growing: 55