BEST ALPHA COURSE EVER

BEST ALPHA COURSE EVER

The church I lead ran its first Alpha Course in 2011. We’ve hosted it eight more times since then (twice one year and none in 2018) and 2019 was the best ever! The reason? Not because our team was any better than previous years. We had many of the same people. And not because the food was any better, although it was great. And not because the Alpha Course now features a high-quality video journey with two young hosts in fascinating global locations along with in-person interviews instead of just a guy giving a talk on a stage. We used the new videos in 2017. The difference was that the 2019 Alpha Course at our church had more prayer support than any previous year and it showed in at least five ways.

First, prayer preceded the partnership between the Task Force leader, me, and the Alpha Course Host, Jeff Good. Jeff and I went into this partnership after attending the Alpha Course National Leadership Conference in Arizona last winter. We prayed together in the hotel room and at other times during the conference and came away convinced that God would have us offer the course this year. After that, we agreed to meet weekly to pray for this year’s course.

If you’ve ever spent a long time praying for a specific project, you know what I mean when I say that many direct answers to prayer don’t seem all that spectacular. Things just occur or become obvious or apparent that weren’t apparent before. Things flow. For example, all we knew when we left Arizona was that we were going to offer the course and we needed to pray. We didn’t know who would lead the Task Force and who would be the Host. The Task Force leader oversees setup, meals, and clean up. The Host does PR and everything else. But over time it became apparent that, even though I’d been the host most years and I’m no cook, I should lead the Task Force and Jeff should be the Host.

Direct answers to prayer and evidence of its power appeared in other ways as well.

I realized we probably didn’t have enough budgeted to pay for all the food and the necessary advertising. We also needed a new catering plan that would involve the whole church. But before we even had the catering plan, someone donated $1,000 for the food. Then, a thought “occurred to me,” You dummy, Karen Schopen owns the best restaurant in town and has been in the hospitality business her whole career. Ask her! And voila! We had a new catering plan that included the whole church working together as a team.

But we still needed someone to massage the menus and recruit the cooks and select the right serving setup and make sure I kept everyone up to speed. Enter my excellent wife who, though she’s never cooked for fifty people in her life, knew exactly what to do and how to get it done. Almost the whole church participated. No one felt exhausted and burned out at the end. The meals were great! And the cost? We spent $942.04 on food!

Then there was childcare! Before we could even ask her, Karin Theo offered to do a children’s program concurrent with Alpha. Karin recruited helpers from the whole congregation, and we didn’t have to worry about this part at all. A big relief for me!

Technological problems overcome. We wanted this Alpha Course to feel seamless and high quality to our guests, but we also knew that, technology being what it is, glitches happen. We prayed about that and sure enough, about halfway through the course, the sound card went bad on the computer. One of our guests who is a whiz with technology had it figured out for us before dinner was over.

Finally, and most important, friends who are genuine seekers felt free and safe to ask their hardest questions and hear answers. People in the small groups developed great relationships, shared their deepest struggles, and grew closer to God. One, totally new to the area and our congregation, even joined the church.

With all that in mind I want to ask you to do three things. First, join us each week in prayer for the 2020 Alpha. Second, ask God to show you what part you can play in an Alpha Course near you. Third, begin praying and talking it up with your friends as God provides opportunity. Be ready to invite them when the time comes. I believe the 2020 Alpha Course will be the best ever!

Haven’t heard of The Alpha Course?Click here: The Alpha Course.

OF SHIPWRECKS AND SCRIPTURE: Worldview and You

G. K. Chesterton, the famous British author of the early 20th century, was once invited to a gathering of intellectuals where a question was posed: “If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what one book would you wish to have?”

Knowing his commitment to orthodox Christianity, most assumed Chesterton would answer, “The Bible.” Instead he replied, “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.”

Many Christians today wouldn’t have been half as clever, because even if we know our bibles well, we do not know how to think biblically about life. We do not know how to answer non-biblical questions from the biblical worldview.

Everyone has a worldview, whether they realize it or not. Your worldview is the system of thought that helps you answer life’s four great questions: Where did we come from? What’s wrong with us? How can we solve life’s problems? What’s the ultimate purpose and meaning of life? Your worldview is the way you think the world works and how you fit in it.

The biblical worldview represents reality. It sees the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. It answers the four questions this way: We are created beings, made in the image of God, not random accidents of biology. We were created good with marvelous potential, but became broken and prone to evil when we rejected God, bringing all of creation under the curse when we did so. From that moment on, the cosmic Murphy’s Law applied: if something can go wrong, it will.

The solution to man’s problems is the work of redemption, recovering what was lost by the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, and the ongoing work of his people in restoring God’s order of things, healing the brokenness of the world wherever we find it with whatever works best. Thus Chesterton’s reply: Stranded sailors need books on shipbuilding. Stranded sinners, on the other hand, need the scriptures.

Ultimate meaning comes from glorifying God by fulfilling our purpose, knowing that, on the day Christ returns to renew all things, we will give an account to him for all that we have been given, and be rewarded for our faithfulness. Thomas’s redemptive purpose was to write that shipbuilding book; Chesterton’s was to build it.

The short version is: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration and Judgment. When we learn to sift every life situation, every opportunity, and every problem to be solved through that grid we will know how to respond with biblical wisdom, and even wit, to questions which cannot be answered with chapter and verse.

The Bible does not specifically address many things in life, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say about them. The trick is learning to think from a biblical worldview.