George Anderson is the Minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Moncton, New Brunswick.
We are doing our third Alpha course here at St. Andrew's and are finding each time that the Lord uses the course to bring both refreshment of church disciples of Jesus as well as conviction of nominal and/or non-Christians of their need for personal faith in Jesus.
The Alpha course is a very helpful renewal evangelism course because it seems to bring together so many spiritual growth principles related to the character and working of the Holy Spirit as evidenced in Acts 2 in the Jerusalem church.
Nicky Gumbel is the main teacher and, like Peter, is a very prayerful and Spirit-filled Bible teacher. It was very encouraging in our first course to see both mature Christians of thirty years standing as well as not-yet Christians who were being converted during the course, all being blessed by his teaching. The grace and joy of upbuilding humour is also an integral part of his teaching which is much appreciated by all.
Peter declared "God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." The Christocentric focus is excellent and the first part of the course leaves one in no doubt of why and how one can accept Jesus by faith. Many do and many others make a recommitment to Christ.
Acts 2:46 says, "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts." The weekly meal-time, while requiring carefully planned kitchen staff, creates a very strong friendship bond which over weeks enables the Spirit to work a loving unity. Jesus often met people in ministry over meals and this biblical principle of relational evangelism is well incorporated into the Alpha philosophy of ministry.
Further fellowship bonding takes place in the weekly sharing groups and in nearly every group we have found people sharing very personally and learning both to open up honestly as well as minister to one another in a loving and accepting atmosphere. Doctrinal correction is discouraged as people are helped to talk through their questions.
The "forgotten member of the Trinity" is not forgotten in the Alpha course and a strong, book of Acts teaching on being filled with the Spirit is taught on the Holy Spirit day or week-end. Many of our members who have come through the course have a much clearer grasp of the work and ministry of the Spirit because of Alpha biblical teaching and experience.
After attending a course once, participants are asked to bring friends and family to the opening banquet for the next course, and even if they don't sign up you find that you have a very attractive outreach banquet and talk which shares the gospel with outsiders. The third time through we invited the local Worldwide Church of God to come and their minister is a small-group leader and twelve of their members have joined the course.
As a result, "the Lord added to their number those were being saved" (Acts 2:47). We are very glad we have invested about $600 in evangelism.