“3D1” describes a process of relationships. The three “D’s” stand for develop, discover and discern. Develop a relationship. Discover stories. Discern next steps. The “1” stands for one life or one relationship.
“One Life” is the strategy for spiritual influence that we are using at Mount Pleasant Christian Church to help Christians in what has traditionally been called “evangelism.”
However, what we have found, is that the 3D1 process works not just between a Christian and a Seeker, but also between a person and God and between a Christian and another Christian. This is simple, but not easy. And because it is simple, it should be a helpful tool for you and a Christian middle schooler.
3D1: Person and God
If we want students to represent Jesus, they need to be following him themselves. So the first step is helping them develop a relationship with Jesus.
The best way to do that is by reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are known as the “Gospels” and are the four biographies of Jesus found in the Bible. Matthew and John were two of his disciples. Mark and Luke put together their accounts from eyewitness testimony. All four will help them know the person of Jesus.
Here are some helpful reading plans on YouVersion:
Follow the Rabbi – A 30-day journey with Jesus by Dave Adamson. Want to transform your faith this year? Disciples in the 1st century were transformed by spending as much time as possible with their rabbi. This devotion will help you do that by taking you through all 4 gospels in a month. As you spend time with Jesus—your rabbi—you will become more like him.
Matthew – This simple 14-day plan will lead you through the Gospel According to Matthew from beginning to end.
Mark – This simple 8-day plan will lead you through the Gospel According to Mark from beginning to end.
Luke – This simple 12-day plan will lead you through the Gospel According to Luke from beginning to end.
John – This simple 10-day plan will lead you through the Gospel According to John from beginning to end.
The Bible Project | Gospels – This plan takes you on a journey through all four Gospels in ninety days. Each book includes videos specifically designed to enhance your understanding and engagement with God’s Word.
The second step is to discover the stories – true stories – of Jesus.
The best way to do that is to read these four biographies as if they were reading four different books. Pay attention to what Jesus says and does. Record what they observe, what they have questions about, what they need to put into action in their lives, and what surprises them about Jesus!
If they want to go beyond that, then read Acts – how the early Church got started – and the letters of the New Testament. This will help them see how early believers put into practice the teachings of Jesus, weaving his life into their everyday life – being salt and light. It will also help them see how many struggles and problems the early Christ-followers had to know that they are not alone, don’t have to be perfect, and have great help from Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and others to help them with everyday life.
But I always to back to these four. Reading these over and over again will be more beneficial than anything else they read if they really want to get to know Jesus.
Once your middle schooler – or anyone – gets to know Jesus, it’s time to make a decision and discern what the next step is in their relationship.
For some, the next step would be to begin following Jesus and be baptized or immersed.
For those who have already been baptized and are following Jesus, the next step might be to participate in community, which means being dedicated to weekly participation in church services and a small group of peers.
And for those who have been baptized and are involved in both church and a small group, the next step might be serving in a weekly ministry.
These two books are highly recommended resources. S.H.A.P.E. is definitely written for adults. Congratulations… is written for teens, but it would still be good for a preteen to read and begin thinking about. Both use the acrostic Erik developed to help you see how uniquely God has made, and is shaping you. This is very helpful from figuring out where to serve to understanding life’s calling.
The next round of 3D1 involves developing friendships. This should be happening both with a circle of Christian friends and a circle of seeker friends – those who don’t follow Jesus…yet.
Middle schoolers have to be connected to Christian peers in order to have the accountability they need to make wise choices and live more and more in every way like Jesus.
However, they won’t be able to be salt and light if the only friends they have are Christians. They need seeker or non-Christian friends so they can provide the salt and light spiritual influence for them. These are not projects to be accomplished but genuine friendships with the hopes of one day helping them follow Jesus.
And . . . for anyone nervous that the non-Christian friends might negatively influence Christian middle schoolers . . . a couple notes.
1) Christians middle schoolers are still middle schoolers and make their share of mistakes and sins. They don’t need non-Christians to make that happen.
2) If your middle schooler has a small group they meet with weekly and 1-2 close Christian friends to walk with them in those circles of non-Christians, then they’ll have the accountability to live wise.
So often as middle schoolers and adults we just know surface stuff about our friends, usually what is talked about most when we’re together and what gets shared on social media. However, we are all much more complex and deeper than that.
The only way to truly discover a friend’s story -whether they are a Christian or not – is to learn how to listen.
Challenge your middle schooler to try listening without having to respond, comment, add-to, correct or share their own story. If they can accept this challenge, they will truly be a better friend and get to know their friends on a much deeper level than they ever have before.
Once your middle schooler gets to know their friends more deeply, now it’s time to discern what the next step is with that friend.
If the friend is a Christian, but they are not accountability partners, they should discuss doing that. Especially in the world of digital temptation leading to real sin, having someone to hold you accountable is so important!
If the friend is not a Christian, there are a wide variety of next steps. Maybe when you talk about what you did over the weekend, you include church in that conversation. Or maybe you talk about some of your beliefs with that friend. And maybe, just maybe, you bring them to church with you. If you have developed a friendship and discovered stories so that you know more about your friend than just what they did this weekend or their latest post, you’ll know which step would be best to take next.
Keep in mind that this 3D1 process is going on simultaneously with all three relationships your entire life – and the life of your middle schooler!
As you follow Jesus, you keep repeating the 3D1 process to get to know him better and live more like him. Reading the Gospels leads to discovering stories about Jesus which leads to discerning what I need to do to live more like him. Then I repeat.
As I grow closer to Christian friends, I continue to develop my relationship with them, listen well to discover their stories – especially because so many stories are still being written – which leads me to discerning what the next step in our friendship is to help each other live more like Jesus.
And for the non-Christian or seeker friends, we may develop a close friendship and spend large amounts of time discovering their story, with seemingly no “big” next step with that person and Jesus. That’s ok. Being a persistent friend shows that they are not just a church project for you. Keep repeating this process intentionally, but with patience. You’ll be able to discern when they are ready to be introduced to church and Jesus.