Why Jesus Shaped People is like using a slow cooker.

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As I sit at my desk writing this piece, I can smell the gently simmering joint of beef in the slow cooker in my kitchen...

It’s already been cooking for a couple of hours. It’s got about three hours to go. And by the time my children come for a family roast meal this evening it will be so tender that carving it will be like slicing a hot knife through butter.

Now, what has this got to do with Jesus Shaped People, I hear you ask?

Well, a couple of weeks ago I was part of the JSP Introduction Session in the parish of St Mary’s Nantwich. During the discussions one of the church leaders made a comment about the length of the 15-week Jesus Shaped People programme.

‘15 weeks!’ he was heard to exclaim. ‘That’s an awful long time. How are the congregation going to react to a course that goes on for 15 weeks?’

It got me thinking (Quite a feat at that time on a Saturday morning…) about the viability of a 15-week programme.

And I came up with two instant reasons why JSP needs to be longer…

  • It covers a LOT of ground. Jesus did quite a bit of stuff in his three-year ministry. JSP still leaves out quite a bit of it… despite being 15 weeks.
  • It comes at the material through different themes. There are five key themes in JSP – each one equally important and biblical. Three weeks on each theme. A whole theme of the Gospel in three weeks doesn’t exactly scream overkill…

But despite being good reasons, I still had that nagging thought that maybe there was still a case for making it shorter? After all, the themes could maybe just about get covered in two weeks rather than three. Or we could omit one of the themes, just like we chose to omit other parts of the Gospel story.

It was the slow cooker that convinced me otherwise. Let me explain how…

I could cook a joint of beef in two hours in the oven. I could grill pork chops. I could fry some chicken breasts in fifteen minutes on the hob (Jamie Oliver made a best-selling book out of doing meals in 15 minutes!).

But, on balance I still prefer the slow cooker. Why? Because you I wouldn’t get that lovely tender meat from a quick blast in the oven. I wouldn’t get the flavours that I get from having herbs or spices in with the meat for hours. And I wouldn’t get left with the basis of the yummiest and tastiest gravy …

Yeah, OK, I can bang some meat onto the grill and ‘get the job done’. And, sometimes, if I’m in a hurry, that’s fine. But it’s NEVER quite as tasty that way.

It’s the same with Jesus Shaped People.

Yes, you could whizz through a whistle-stop tour of Jesus’ life in 10 weeks, 7 weeks - or even 5 weeks.

Heck, given a following wind, I could probably make a decent fist of doing it in 1 week!

But, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be as good, as fulfilling, as transformative as taking the time to get fully immersed in the life of Jesus.

And that last point is key.

Transformation.

See, Jesus Shaped People is not just another course. In fact, it’s not really a course at all. It’s more of a process. It’s a process of changing and transforming the culture and ethos of a whole church. And, frankly, you can’t do that overnight – or even in a few weeks.

In fact, it’s better to forget about the 15-week programme as an end in itself. Think of ‘the JSP programme’ as the whole period from when the church first decides to adopt Jesus Shaped People right through to the time when the church actually becomes Jesus Shaped!

And, that’s going to take a lot longer than 15 weeks!

Viewed from that perspective, Jesus Shaped People is something that starts, but never really finishes.

The 15-week ‘programme’ is simply a component part of a much longer – and ongoing process - that will take place before the 15-week programme, during it, and for many months and years beyond…