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Monday, August 17, 2009

I Want You To Grow Spiritually 15: Participate in an Alpha Class

Here is something for the spiritual life of both my Christian and non-Christian friends: Participate in an Alpha class (or similar).

Alpha is primarily meant to be a class for those inquiring/exploring the Christian faith and answers an exploring question during each session. Examples include, "Who is Jesus?", "Why did Jesus die?", "How do we pray?" "Why and how do we read the Bible?", "Who is the Holy Spirit?", "How can I be filled with the Spirit?" etc.

Most Alpha courses have a meal with every class and are very pleasant experiences. After the meal there is a presentation: either live or on video that address one of the exploring questions. Dessert is served and then discussion groups for people to ask questions and discuss the presentation.

There is no arm-twisting or pressure to become a Christian or even to participate in the discussion group. It's OK to participate if you are extremely skeptical or even hostile to Christianity (assuming you can be respectful) but are open to exploring. Alpha is a place to get your questions answered about God, the Bible, church, religion, Jesus, etc.

AND, it's OK to participate if you are already a Christian. In fact, I recommend it.

My experience has been that many Christians have had their faith strengthened through participating in Alpha. Seeing other people become Christians while they are in the course is a tremendous faith builder. Watching God create new life in another is incredibly alarming, motivating and invigorating for one's faith.

Beyond that, several other elements of an Alpha class will move one towards a renewed faith:
  • Relearning and reaffirming some of the basics of the Christian faith.
  • Enjoying the community that is built around the dinner table at Alpha is fun.
  • And for those that eventually take a servant role in the ministry of Alpha are blessed
Here is a link to a guide that compares Alpha with other similar courses though it isn't very complimentary toward Alpha: Evangelism Course Comparison Guide - 9Marks. Alpha isn't perfect but I have personally seen very positive results and overall, people have had very positive experiences with the course.

Alpha is best enjoyed with a friend so invite someone to go with you. Attending an Alpha course is something you would likely never regret.

Alpha originated in an Anglican church in London; however, it is not tied to a particular denomination. It is used by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and a variety of Protestant churches. Right on the Alpha homepage you can find a link to look for a course near you. If you don't find one, contact me and I'll help you.

As a side note: my church -- Catalyst Church of Syracuse, NY -- is currently offering a Christianity Explored class on Wednesday evenings which is run very similar to Alpha. If you want to check it out contact Mike Mazzye.

This is part 15 in a 20 part series on spiritual growth. If you feel like you are not growing deeper in your faith or relationship to God, if you are not loving and serving others more, if you have a sense of 'stuckness' in your spiritual journey, and you really want to grow ——— the answer might not be to try harder. All too often I have heard the same solutions offered over and over — 'All you have to do is have daily devotions, pray more, read more of the Bible, be in worship every week and get more involved in the church.' In other words try harder.

Sometimes that doesn't work and I'm going to offer some suggestions that might help you move forward.

Previous Installments:
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 1: Give Up Daily Devotions
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 2: See A Counselor
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 3: Spiritual Direction
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 4: Get A New Church
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 5: Go On Retreat
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 6: Fight A Spiritual Battle & Win
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 7: Take A Seminary or College Class
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 10: Observe The Daily Office & Church Year
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 11: Get Tough on Sin
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 12: Start Journaling
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 13: Time For Fasting
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 14: Forgive Yourself

Note: Part 9 isn't published yet. I'll get to it eventually.

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