A senior Church leader recently gave me 30 seconds to describe what Jesus Shaped People does. I said, ‘We help churches make the things that matter to Jesus, matter to them’.

In John 14 Jesus did not indicate that he ‘knows the way’ or even that he, ‘shows the way’ but rather that he is the way.  This key strategic statement forms the background vision for JSP. Faithful discipleship requires churches identify and own the vision and ministry priorities of Jesus and make these the foundation principles for their work and witness.

JSP did not begin in privilege but rather at the very bottom of our social pile in Holme Wood, a denigrated post war housing estate in Bradford, West Yorkshire, 2006. We have been operating, as a charity, for eight years now with a staff team of four, overseen by 10 Trustees, and we have supported more than 200 churches around the UK who have completed JSP.

Our vision is a Church shaped around the same priorities that Jesus lived by in the gospels. Jesus Shaped People is A Whole Church Discipleship Adventure, not just and much more than a programme. We see the JSP approach as innovative and timely evidenced by the continuing interest in our work, especially as we all try and do more with less of just about everything. Arguably in the post-Covid era determining what our priorities should be has never been so crucial.

We focus on the ministry of Jesus and his ways – using resources and stories accessible to everyone. JSP explores the ministry of Jesus as a vision and model for our own life and discipleship, and for reshaping church missional priorities and promoting church growth. The guiding principle of JSP brings into sharp focus the five core priorities of Jesus as foundation blocks to our understanding of discipleship.

We identify these five core priorities as:

People: Jesus’ heart for people as someone who went out from religious institutions and met people where they were. The inclusion of the marginalised and relationships are key.

Teaching: Jesus teaches people in a down-to-earth practical way. Using illustrations from recognisable local life stories that touch hearts; his teaching is challenging, but not condemning.

Team building: Right from the start Jesus was looking for a group of people with whom he could share his life and mission. And he gave quality time to that group, equipping them for what was to come. The development of local lay leadership is a key element of JSP.

Prayer: Despite relentless demands Jesus made a priority of carving out time for prayer. And he spent time teaching and showing others how to pray. Renewed spirituality is at the heart.

Prophetic challenge and witness: Jesus often spoke truth to power; churches finding ways to bear prophetic witness, especially in disadvantaged areas.

We’ve discovered that even churches who already have a strong outreach ministry into their community gain a fresh grasp of mirroring the ministry priorities of Jesus creating new passion.

We have a number of resources; our main resource runs for 15-weeks. We provide materials for the whole church community: notes for interactive small groups, a range of materials for use with children and young people, intergenerational ideas, sermon outlines, prayers and worship resources. Additional support is provided, via the Children, Young People, and Family Champion, for those churches who have no or very few children, to help grow a cohort of young people.

Dave Roberts, Hounslow, West London, said, ‘We found ‘Jesus Shaped People’ a fruitful phrase which helped us ask both, ‘how can we let Jesus shape us’ and ‘how should our lives be shaped’. The material gave us a shared language for discipleship which continues to be really helpful. Practically, the material allowed us to enter into the gospel narratives; it helped people who had never led anything to lead with confidence while letting the quieter people in the group ask questions and share fantastic testimonies.’

Horfield Baptist Church in Bristol has started JSP in late 2022. The church has just embarked on a new chapter in its life and mission after swapping its building with a nearby Anglican church in March. 

‘We are excited about the future and we now have to discern what God is calling us to do in our new premises,’ said minister Sarah Phillpot.

‘Jesus Shaped People has been a really helpful element to allow the whole church to see our blind spots, and explore our future through teaching, preaching and small groups.’

This article was first published by The Baptist Times and is reposted here with their permission

Find out more at jesusshapedpeople.net

Brendan Bassett

The Revd Brendan Bassett is a Baptist minister based in the West Country. For 25 years he pastored two churches, the first in Shropshire then in South Bristol before becoming the national leader of Jesus Shaped People in 2020.