The worldwide phenomenon has made great headway in the U.S., with three million people in all 50 states impacted and every major denomination (127 total) participating. As a result, thousands of new transformation stories are on the horizon and gathering energy. Dr. Rick Warren, founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose-Driven Life, agrees. The Alpha course is “one of the most effective tools for the 21st century,” he says. The New York Times reports, “This novel approach to Christian education . . . has been catching on nationwide.”
“At its core,” explains Alpha USA president Gerard Long, “Alpha USA is a practical introduction to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Its key to effectiveness is that it allows people outside the church—where it’s aimed—to come and ask the big questions: Why is there all this suffering in the world? What about the other religions? What happens when I die?”
The “tremendous discussion,” Long continues, is what sets Alpha USA apart from other evangelism approaches. Set in a non-judgmental environment of acceptance, small group participants come to the truth through dialogue and discovery, rather than being told what to believe. They find answers to the deepest longings of their souls, he asserts, “and what we try to do is get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do what only the Holy Spirit can do—which is lead people to Jesus.”
Each of Alpha’s sessions meet once a week for 10 weeks, begin with a relaxed meal and conversation—a time to get to know one another. Then participants listen to a brief talk on a critical life topic, such as the existence of God, the purpose of life or “Who is Jesus?”, and end with a lively and very interactive small-group discussion. Midway through the course, a weekend or all day getaway is scheduled for in-depth discussion and reflection.
“In the last four years in the U.S., we’ve seen 175% growth in the number of churches running Alpha,” Long adds. This indicator will continue to rise as, for the first time, Alpha Publishing USA offers both its highly-successful outreach course and the balance of its product line through general and Christian bookstores and on its interactive website www.AlphaUSA.org.