Jul25ThuJuly 25, 2019
Before our second Alpha Course in 2012, a local reporter interviewed me about the ministry. As we look forward to this year’s Alpha, I thought it would be good to update that interview as a reminder of what it can do for our community.
What do you like about the program?
Social media only goes so far. People long for real community. The Alpha Course brings people from all walks of life together and builds friendships. For eleven weeks we enjoy a meal together, watch a very interesting presentation on some aspect of the faith, break for coffee and desert and then have discussion groups for about 30-40 minutes. Even people who are not Christians enjoy it because of the relationships that are built.
Second, although there is no test and no college credit, it is a very educational course. Most Americans have a smattering of knowledge about the faith, but a surprising number don’t really know the basics. Anyone attending Alpha will come away with a much better, more comprehensive understanding of Christianity. Guests can ask any question they like, express any opinion they have, and they will not be ridiculed or scolded.
Third, while it does present the basics of the faith and encourages people to believe there is no pressure. The whole thing is very relaxed, encouraging and fun. I think that’s because the developer, British pastor Nicky Gumble, started out as an atheist and is very sensitive to the feelings of people who have a hard time with faith. The new videos, hosted by Toby Flint and Gemma Hunt, are all available online here, and are phenomenally well done.
Finally, the Alpha course is a way for the whole congregation to get involved in sharing their faith with their friends without putting them on the spot or asking them to act like salespeople or expecting them to be experts in the field of apologetics. Alpha has been around for over thirty years and is a worldwide phenomenon, so it feels like you are part of something big with lots of support.
Why are you doing it again?
The Alpha Course is meant to be an ongoing program. As such it builds on itself. People come on the course, find out about Jesus, become believers and get excited about sharing what they’ve learned. Then they naturally want to bring their friends to the next course. That’s how Christianity grew in the first place, not through crusades and revival type events.
How have attendees benefited from the course?
The first group that attended Alpha at our church was very diverse. One African American lady saw a bumper sticker on my car and asked me about it in the grocery store. She came and brought her sister. One man said, “I came to the course thinking I was already a Christian. But I had terrible anxiety, and anger, and depression issues. I couldn’t sleep at night. On the third week of the course I prayed along with the guy on the video and a huge burden lifted off me. I’ve not had those troubles since and I sleep like a baby. I believe I became a real Christian that day.” Another lady attended the course with her husband. Her understanding of Jesus completely changed, and she was baptized. Her husband, who had never attended a church, began to believe that not all Christians were nuts, and started attending regularly.
Has it drawn new members/attendees to the church?Yes, it has. Alpha reinvigorated what was already a healthy congregation. I recommend the Alpha Course to any church that is looking for a new spark.