Bear Grylls in a recent advert says, “Got questions about life? Try Alpha.” He is not alone. More than 29m people have tried Alpha in 169 countries.
Now after a busy period of mission and harvest festivals many local churches are running Alpha courses or something similar.
It means giving people the chance to explore the Christian faith, ask questions and share their point of view. Typically run over 11 weeks the Alpha course is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. Each session is designed to create conversation and is run in cafes, churches, universities, homes, bars. I even explored the possibility of running one at the top of the Pennine Tower in the motorway service station.
Each course has three key things in common: food, a talk and good conversation. Trying to unpack issues around faith and the basics of Christianity there are titles such as “How can we find faith?”, “Who is Jesus?”, “Why and how do I pray?”, “How does God guide us?”
I have been involved in courses for adults, for men, for 18-30s, for those with special needs and there is a lively Youth Alpha. There is also a “Business Alpha” designed to be used in a lunch hour break.
Let me mention some highlights from these courses. First of all I did not know how it would work with a group of people with special needs. Irene has Down Syndrome and yet she showed me that was no barrier to a route into the heart of God. Perhaps it was the lack of sophistication and inhibition but the special needs group seemed more open to God working in their lives.
Secondly John wrote this for me, “I would leave church with a feeling of emptiness and I felt alone and unloved. But all that changed, when I went on an Alpha course. I experienced the presence of God’s Spirit for myself through prayer. I had feelings of such love, peace and confidence in God.
And finally Greg in his Alpha course was amazed to discover so much historical evidence for the early Christian documents. It surprised him and led him to take them more seriously in his quest for answers.
Look out for an alpha course, www.alpha.org, near you especially if you have questions and are interested in finding answers.