'The most fruitful evangelistic tool we have'
Chipping Campden Baptist Church has completed its 50th Alpha Course
The Cotswolds church hosted its first Alpha Course in September 1996, shortly after the arrival of minister Phil Deller. The course is an opportunity to explore the basics of the Christian faith, and the church has gone onto to run at least two courses each year since then. Some have had more than 50 people attending, others just three - but many people have discovered faith as a result.
‘In seeking to proclaim Jesus to people today, we have found it the most fruitful evangelistic tool we have, amongst the many things we do,’ Phil said. ‘It’s like running two mini missions a year!
‘We have seen people takes steps of faith and many have come into a relationship with Jesus on every course and their lives have been transformed.
‘We have seen whole families come to the Lord which is really special.’
For that first course back in 1996 was run for just members of the congregation. They all came and it helped to create a ‘culture of invitation’ at the church.
‘This was so important,’ said Phil. ‘Our folks would know exactly what they were inviting their friends to – have confidence in it - and they have for over 23 years.’
The church began with three courses a year, but quickly felt that two a year in the Spring and Autumn would be more manageable.
Church members provide a ‘sumptuous’ meal every week. There is a dedicated team of table leaders and helpers. Phil has given the talks on nearly all the courses (he missed one when he was on sabbatical). Members are encouraged to come along with their guests so it is normally 50/50 guests and their Christian friends.
All involved are prayed for by the congregation. The church runs an Alpha follow up course after each one.
After completing its 50th course (it is now onto course number 51), the church received a brief personal video of encouragement and blessing from Nicky and Pippa Gumbel, who lead Alpha nationally. Previously Nicky’s predecessor Sandy Millar has spoken at the church, encouraging the congregation to persevere.
The impact can be seen both in terms of baptisms and testimonies. ‘Many of the people we have had the privilege of baptising over the years - 215 since 1996 - have come through the Alpha Course,’ adds Phil.
‘There are people on our leadership team who have come to know the Lord through Alpha.'
‘Since that first day at Alpha I haven't looked back,’ reads one testimony. ‘Attending the Alpha course has been the best thing I have ever done in my life.
‘It has given me the answers to the many questions I have often pondered over and was a lynchpin in giving me a true understanding of the Christian faith. Through the Alpha course and After Alpha course I have been privileged to meet such a wonderful fellowship of people who have welcomed me with open arms and shown such love, kindness, compassion and friendship.
‘Following on from Alpha, I could not wait to be baptised.’
Another stated, ‘I went on the Alpha course and had an awakening and a few weeks into it gave my life to the Lord. Following "After Alpha", I was baptised; my old life was washed away and a new person emerged from under the water.
‘I felt as if I had the Ready Brek glow, wandering around with a big grin on my face, knowing my new-found friend, Jesus, was now accompanying me. Since then I regularly take friends to Alpha hoping they can find what we have in our walk with God.’
For more on Alpha, visit alpha.org