The Alpha course is a ten week
practical introduction to the Christian faith. It is designed primarily for non-churchgoers and those who have recently become Christians. It was established at Holy Trinity Brompton
twenty years ago and there are now more than 5000 Alpha courses all over the UK and overseas.
Meant as a non-threathening introduction to the Gospel
, this course, based on ex-atheist
Nicky Gumbel's books, is used by churches around the world.
The Alpha program calls for congregations to rethink their approach to evangelism. Instead of offering church-based community events or services that might expose nonbelievers to a congregation, Alpha instructs leaders on how to use an invite-your-friends model to stimulate interest in Christian doctrine.
''We don't try to get people who are not interested,'' Gumbel says. "The reason they have an interest is not because they have an interest suddenly in Christianity, but because of what happened to their friend on the previous course."
The Alpha system at first blush seems overly simplistic. The acronym stands for: A—Anyone interested in finding out more about the Christian faith; L—Learning and Laughter; P—Pasta (eating together gives people the chance to know each other); H—Helping one another (small groups are used for discussion of issues raised during the lectures); A—Ask anything. No question is seen as too simple or too hostile.
However, Alpha, in the hands of skilled church leaders, has succeeded in many cases in turning faithful churchgoers from an inward focus on church work to an outward focus on evangelistic outreach through relationships, networking, and invitations to Alpha events. In Gumbel's words, Alpha stimulates a ''virtuous circle'' that spreads outward, allowing churches regularly to break into new networks of unchurched, unevangelized people.
The growth of Alpha worldwide is remarkable. In l991, the first year for the course anywhere, four classes were conducted. By 1995, 2,500 classes were taught and last year, that number reached 6,700. By the end of 1998, officials and leaders with the Alpha Course estimate as many as 1 million people worldwide will have completed the course.
Some of the objections to this popular course include
- that it has a decidedly Charismatic point of view,
- that the course was created by England's home of the Toronto Blessing Movement (and thus exposes Christians and non-Christians alike to all the excesses - including unbiblical teachings and practices - of that movement)
- that the course may be too easily adapted by non-Christian movements and/or cults of Christianity:
, a senior professor of theology and philosophy at Denver Seminary, applauds Alpha's methods and much of its content. Yet he wishes Alpha emphasized salvation through grace alone, and the Bible as the only inerrant Word of God.
''I am concerned that the Catholics
could add tradition, the Mormons
could add the Book of Mormon, the Christian Scientists
could add Mary Baker Eddy, and the Seventh-day Adventists
could add Ellen G. White,'' Lewis says.
What People Say About The Alpha Course
Every lively church needs a maternity ward! It needs a setting in which new Christians can be made and Christians can be made new. The Alpha course has proved itself to be a marvelous vehicle for this purpose, and it can be adapted to a very wide variety of cultures...
The Rev. Dr. Michael Green and the Rt. Rev. Michael Marshall, advisors in Evangelism to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
» See also the articles in our news articles database
Some of the ''contra'' articles are well-reasoned and well-documented. Others are not quite as balanced. As always, use discernment (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
(PRO) Good background information
The Alpha-Brits Are Coming
(Neutral) Christianity Today
: ''A British course for non-Christians aims to transform North American evangelistic outreach.''
, Feb. 9, 1998
The Alpha Course Analysis
(Contra) An in-depth analysis, based on Nicky Gumbel's book, 'Questions of Life.'
The Alpha Course Examined
(Contra) By Tim Chapman
Alpha Course: Final Answer or Fatal Attraction?
(CONTRA) by G. Richard Fisher, of Personal Freedom Outreach
The Alpha Course: Friend or Foe?
(Contra) Online booklet.
The Dangers of the Alpha Course
Is The Popular Alpha Course Leading People Astray?
(CONTRA) by pastor Chris Hand (Grace Baptist Church, South London)
Looking At The Alpha Course
(CONTRA) by Tricia Tillin
Observations on the Alpha Course
(Contra) This article, ''provides an in-depth review of Nicky Gumbel's book 'Questions of Life', which forms the foundational text of the Alpha Course.''
What's Wrong With Alpha?
(CONTRA) by The Rev. John Richardson, Chaplain at the University of East London
The Alpha Course
(PRO) Official site of the Alpha Course.
(Pro) Official US site.