The Alpha Course is sometimes said to be helpful not just to someone new to Christianity, but also to one who has been a Christian but hasn’t quite gone through the basics of what Christianity entails.
Several months ago, before my local church started another series of Alpha Course, I picked up a copy of an Alpha course publication which has the contents of the course. I thought I needed to be familiar with the contents. It appears to have the basic points but somehow shies away from a narrative of why man needs God and will be condemned (according to the Bible, not me or the church) unless he believes and accepts what Jesus has done on the cross. In this sense, the Alpha Course appears to be a useful introductory material for someone who is searching, but probably short in terms of completing the message. Some form of follow through is essential and this is from the perspective of someone new to Christianity.
For someone who is already a Christian, why does this introductory level material appeal and what learning does this person derive from this course? It would seem the whole event – the meals, camaraderie, spending a weekend away, the open forum for people to speak their minds – is the appeal, not the content proper. In other words, a Christian who finds Alpha beneficial lacked fellowship, more than teaching. It wasnt teaching that attracted, most probably, but the forum for fellowship and interaction generally.
I’m not sure therefore if Alpha should be the vehicle to bring the church together in that sense.
From this perspective, a more substantial and therefore beneficial tool appears to be the “Course of Your Life“, written by Tony Payne of Matthias Media.
Yes, I am very partial to content produced by this mob and I have relied heavily on CD‘s and books from them for my learning, in particular those by Phillip Jensen.
All this should however, be secondary to the consideration of the content and logic of this course. Course of Your Life appears to have all the basic substantive stuff in a narrative which completes the core message of the gospel of God’s plan for salvation – something Alpha Course skirted around at best. It appears also to have the rigours of basic biblical exegesis and a logic to the content organisation and flow which extracts core points to plot what God’s plans for HIs creation (and us) entails. It appears a lot less lazy, and cuts through the soft core approach of alternatives like Alpha. It appears to be well written in an attractive manner, without sacrificing any elements of the message of the bible.
Also, I like the fact that for the equivalent of the weekend away for Alpha, it suggests ways which pre-empts the need to get away on a Sunday. It doesn’t take a believer out of the fellowship of other believers by taking them away in order to find God (or more accurately, the Holy Spirit). It encourages believers to spend time with God’s family, not take them out of such fellowship and time.
In this regard, I have come to view programs and courses which take participants away on a Sunday, with dismay and disappointment. In particular, course, seminars, conferences and programs which take leaders away from their congregations on Sundays. Somehow organisers who think it is acceptable for ministers and leaders to be away from their wards on the ground of personal learning and development, dont rank highly in my esteem. COYL recommends a Fri/Sat get away or even 2 consecutive Saturdays – not a Sunday get away. This ranks highly for me. It shows the writers value the time spent on Sundays between Christians and only exceptional circumstances should take this blessing away.
I am certainly going to look at COYL a lot closer, and see if a group may be interested. At the moment, kudos to Tony Payne and Matthias Media for coming up with another useful tool to make disciples.
- Alpha Material (godsmustardseed.com)
- Do Alpha Courses reach the unchurched? (revdlesley.net)
- Alpha – Christian Fundamental Propaganda Magic Show (intellectualvermin.wordpress.com)
- Changing the Face of Christianity Inc Announces Christian Small Group Survey to Research then Solve Challenges Within Church Community Groups (prweb.com)
- The Christian Dilemma (media4lifeministries.wordpress.com)
- Alpha: Back to FUNdamentals! (johndborra.wordpress.com)