Jesus People USA (JPUSA)

Who Are Jesus People USA (JPUSA) and What Do They Believe?

Jesus People USA
Jesus People USA's Cornerstone Festival 2007. Steve White

Jesus People USA, a Christian community founded in 1972, is an Evangelical Covenant church on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. About 500 people live together at one address, pooling their resources in an attempt to imitate the first century church described in the book of Acts.

The group has more than a dozen outreach ministries in Chicago. Not all its members live in the commune. Jesus People USA says that type of life is not right for everyone, and because some members were homeless or had addiction problems, a strict set of rules governs behavior there.

Over the past nearly four decades, the group has seen many members come and go, has survived controversy, and has branched out into several community outreach ministries.

The founders of the organization intended to imitate the loving atmosphere and communal structure of the early Christian church. Opinions vary widely between the group's leaders and many of its former members as to how successful Jesus People USA has been at that goal.

Founding of Jesus People USA

Jesus People USA (JPUSA) was founded in 1972 as an independent ministry, an offshoot of Jesus People Milwaukee. After first settling in Gainesville, Florida, JPUSA moved to Chicago in 1973. The group joined the Evangelical Covenant Church, based in Chicago, in 1989.

Prominent Jesus People USA Founders

Jim and Sue Palosaari, Linda Meissner, John Wiley Herrin, Glenn Kaiser, Dawn Herrin, Richard Murphy, Karen Fitzgerald, Mark Schornstein, Janet Wheeler, and Denny Cadieux.


JPUSA's ministries serve primarily the Chicago area, but its annual Christian rock concert, Cornerstone Festival, held in Bushnell, Illinois, attracts visitors from throughout the world.

Jesus People USA Governing Body

According to JPUSA's website, "At this point we have a council of eight pastors in leadership. Directly under the council are deacons, deaconesses, and group leaders. While the primary oversight of the ministry is done by the council of elders, much of the responsibilities for the daily running of the community and our businesses are taken by various other individuals."

JPUSA is a nonprofit and has several businesses that support it, and while many of its members work in those businesses, they are not considered employees and are not paid wages. All income goes into a common pool for living expenses. Members who have personal needs submit a request for cash. There is no health insurance or pensions; members use public health facilities at Cook County Hospital.

Sacred or Distinguishing Text

The Bible.

Notable Jesus People USA Ministers and Members

Resurrection Band (aka Rez Band, Rez), GKB (Glenn Kaiser Band).

Jesus People USA Beliefs

As an Evangelical Covenant Church, Jesus People USA affirms the Bible as the rule for faith, conduct, and authority. The group believes in the New Birth, but says it is only the beginning on the path to maturity in Jesus Christ, a lifelong process. JPUSA conducts evangelism and missionary work within the community. It also professes the priesthood of all believers, meaning all members share in the ministry. However, the church does ordain pastors, including women. JPUSA stresses dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit, both in individuals and the church.

Baptism - The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) holds that baptism is a sacrament. "In this sense, it is a means of grace, so long as one does not see it as saving grace." ECC rejects the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Bible - The Bible is "the uniquely inspired, authoritative Word of God and is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct."

Communion - Jesus People USA beliefs say communion, or the Lord's Supper, is one of two sacraments commanded by Jesus Christ.

Holy Spirit - The Holy Spirit, or Comforter, enables people to live a Christian life in this fallen world. He provides fruits and gifts to the church and individuals today. All believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ came as the incarnation, fully man and fully God. He died for the sin of humanity, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, according to Scripture.

Pietism - The Evangelical Covenant Church preaches a life "connected" to Jesus Christ, reliance on the Holy Spirit, and service to the world. Jesus People USA members participate in a variety of ministries to the aged, homeless, ill, and children.

Priesthood of All Believers - All believers share in the church's ministry, yet some are called to be full time, professional clergy. The ECC ordains both men and women. The church is a "family of equals."

Salvation - Salvation is solely through the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Human beings are incapable of saving themselves. Faith in Christ results in reconciliation to God, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

Second Coming - Christ will come again, visibly, to judge the living and the dead. While no one knows the time, his return is "immanent."

Trinity - Jesus People USA beliefs hold that the Triune God is three persons in one being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is eternal, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

Jesus People USA Practices

Sacraments - The Evangelical Covenant Church and Jesus People USA practice two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. ECC allows both infant baptism and believer baptism to maintain unity within the church, because parents and converts come from varying religious and cultural traditions. While this policy has caused controversy, ECC feels it is necessary "to ensure that full Christian freedom may be practiced throughout the church."

Worship Service - Jesus People USA worship services include contemporary music, testimonies, prayer, Bible reading, and a sermon. ECC Core Values of Covenant Worship call for celebrating God's story; expressing "beauty, joy, sorrow, confession and praise"; experiencing the intimacy of a personal relationship with God; and forming disciples.

To learn more about Jesus People USA beliefs, visit the official Jesus People USA Website.

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