Thoughts on Alpha

For a long time I’ve had ambivalent feelings about Alpha courses. They seem from all the figures and accounts to be very effective tools for evangelism. But, some people suggest the scheme works best in places with a residual Christian Culture (like the UK) or for Anglicans in NZ (who have a higher pool of people with a nominal or loose family connection). When our previous church ran Alpha we were way too busy to be involved, so my only impression was from the short promo videos. These gave the impression of something like Open Air Campaigners with ardent Christians being encouraged to accost strangers on park benches and ask “If you died tonight would you go to heaven?”

Now South City are running Alpha (and I’m running Know and Love Your Bible alongside so there is something for newer Christians as well) I’ve been going to the training sessions. The way these sessions present Alpha is quite different. The only “hard sell” is the video people watch and if Nicky Gumbel’s style there is anything like the training videos that will hardly be OAC stuff. Then in the small groups the host and helpers are asked/expected to keep quite and respond to questions and even rabid atheist attacks with things like “That’s interesting, what do others think?” Basically as the training videos present it Alpha is a scheme to allow and encourage a bunch of seekers and atheists to persuade each other with the help of the Holy Spirit into faith.

But, I imagine you asking, about the need to either badger my friends into attending, like some spiritual Tupperware party, or hardly better jumping on unsuspecting strangers? Basically Alpha NZ (at least) recommends a much lower key approach, a low demand we are doing this would you like to try the first week…

Operation Starfish: Tessa’s Story, Inviting Friends To Alpha from Alpha New Zealand on Vimeo.