Something unusual, surprising and encouraging happened a couple of months ago. Since I arrived in Sarisbury we have had a church Alpha course most years starting in January. It has happened following the traditional pattern of Alpha. A meal together, Nicky Gumble on DVD, coffee and then a chat about the talk and anything else that comes up. They have been great, and we have a number of people who are now regular members of our church community who came to faith, or whose neglected faith was renewed through Alpha.
I was encouraged and excited over the summer with the possibility that an Alpha course might happen that I wouldn’t lead. There was one person who I knew would be interested plus others who had friends who might go. For various reasons this didn’t happen and I was left with the question of what to offer the one person I personally had contact with who was interested. The offer I made was, rather then you coming to our church Alpha course, why don’t I come to your home and we’ll listen to the DVDs together?
I now have the privilege of spending an evening each week in his home talking together about the Christian faith. And, here is the BIG and, he has been joined by his family! So instead of one person coming to ‘our’ church Alpha course, there is a whole family together exploring the Christian faith. WOW!
There’s no meal, but there are drinks, nibbles, cakes and one week I had the privilege of sharing in a family birthday cake! We watch the Alpha DVD which is either Nicky Gumble or the Student Alpha talk and then we chat.
The privilege of leading the Alpha course is amazing. Each time I have led one I have sat alongside people exploring faith and coming to a real, living relationship with Jesus for themselves.
Instead of saying ‘come to us’ I’ve ‘gone to them’ and the difference is great. This has led me to ask myself how we use Alpha in the future. Should we run ‘come to us’ Alpha courses? Maybe. But maybe we also need to free Alpha from the constraints of arranging meals and from the constraint of the vicar being involved?
Here’s what I’m thinking. Do you know friends, family, neighbours, colleagues or other acquaintances who might be interested in spending time with you to explore the Christian faith? Why don’t you do Alpha with them yourself, or maybe with your friends in the church community? Run Alpha as a small group for the people you know. Do Alpha with your own friends. Go to them and don’t expect them to come to you. Do it over a beer or glass of wine in an evening. Do it in the morning with some mums after they’ve dropped their children at school. Do it at lunchtime with colleagues at work. And when they say yes to your invitation ask them if they know anyone else they could invite to join you as well.
You won’t have all the answers, neither have I! One thing I can guarantee – you will grow amazingly in your own faith as well as introducing others to Jesus. We’ll provide the material and the support, all you have to do is dare to ask others if they’d enjoy doing Alpha with you. Don’t wait for the next ‘church’ Alpha course, it may not happen again! Go for it yourself.
Before you jump in with both feet, and I really, really hope some of your will, here are three things to consider. Firstly be prepared to grow as a Christian yourself. One of the greatest ways of growing in our own faith is to share it with others, the more you give the more you’ll grow. Be prepared after the Alpha course has finished to continue to journey with your friends as they explore the christian faith and get to know Jesus. And lastly have someone else with you or supporting you. When Jesus needed a donkey even he sent two people! Do Alpha with other christian friends, as well as the friends who are exploring, or have someone who regularly prays for you and who you share how things are going with.