February 27, 2005

Christianity as a Commodity: The Alpha Course

I'm interested to know if anyone here has had any experience with the Christian Alpha Course: it's something I have a lot of opinions about and could write a small book on it – in fact I have but I'm not going to repeat it all here (unless there's a lot of interest for some odd reason). I'm going to try and be a little more objective here – I'll also try and keep it fairly short and post a follow up article in a few days if it generates any interest or debate.

For those that have no idea what I'm talking about the Alpha Course is basically what you get when you cross preaching Christianity with fantastic marketing. It's an attempt to sell to you what really boils down to a life-changing experience. If that sounds good, note that I'm not suggesting this change is in any way a good thing.

If you find yourself intrigued and decide to research the Alpha Course online you'll find very little detail on what it actually is. There's sites with great slogans like "An opportunity to explore the meaning of life" that make it sound really interesting, and you find out that the average Alpha evening consists of free food (good if you're ever really stuck for cash) followed by a talk on an aspect of Christianity followed by a chance to discuss said aspect. That's pretty much all you'll find, other than some wishy-washy testimonials like "It made me understand that God knew me as an individual and knew what I was going through". There's not much substance to it.

This is all part of the marketing, make it seem intriguing and pull people in, impress them with nice food and then, then it gets a bit bizarre. They decide to engage in 10–15 minutes of Christian worship: songs and prayer. I think you can guess why that wasn't mentioned in the publicity. You can either join in or not, and just look like a numpty, as another odd facet of the Alpha Course is that they are packed with people who are already committed Christians (I'm sure when I attended the number of people involved with the organisation of the course approximated that of the number of guests). Hence people will see half the room doing something and join in, singing words of praise to a god they may or may not have any belief in: again, part of the canny marketing strategy.

Then come the talks – these are actually relatively inoffensive, although inevitably one-sided, but at times give the illusion of truth by attempting to address some of the common issues ("We know what Jesus did was real as it's mentioned in this Roman emperor's biography as well": well done, you've found one corroborating source for the bible – considering all the things he apparently did, it's a bit odd there aren’t more, no?)

Following this is the group discussion, though the leaders are only responsible for directing the conversation and won't actually jump in to defend their faith. It's perfectly possible for a strong enough atheist personality to dominate these talks and convince everyone that the entire contents of the talk was incorrect and flawed, but this is totally irrelevant as the following weeks talk is always delivered upon the assumption that you have accepted as fact the previous weeks one (eg. Week 2: the bible is the infallible word of God. Week 3: we know all this stuff about Jesus is true as the bible said so and we established that as true last week.) The talks serve the purpose of giving the illusion of choice; the idea that you can make your own opinions heard makes you think that any acceptance of the ideas presented comes from you thinking and going over the issues, as opposed to just accepting them as given. But in actuality the discussions are completely pointless to you, as the next week will simply assume you have accepted the ideas anyway. Here you get a sort of positive re-inforcement: you realise in week 3 or 4 that if you don’t accept the bible as being one-hundred percent true, you may as well not be there, as any other arguments will build upon this. If you’ve any interest in the subject matter it’s easy to just let yourself accept this in order to see the arguments in their proper context, but in doing so you also help convince yourself of its truth.

Around week 7 or 8 of the 10 week course the piece de la resistance of the marketing occurs: the weekend away. If you thought it was tough to find out anything about Alpha in general, try searching for information on the weekend away! I kid you not dear readers, but when I attended the course I was unable to obtain even an address for where we going! The most specific it got was ‘somewhere in Great Malvern’ despite asking a number of the group organisers. It seems this information, along with all others on the weekend, was heavily guarded. But through either curiosity or stupidity I did get on that coach to be driven to an unknown location with a bunch of people I barely knew. It is a genius method of marketing: take a bunch of people away for a weekend where they will be trapped, a totally captive audience, with little to do other than what you organise for them. It might sound like I’m a bit cynical and over the top here but think about it: the weekend is just the usual talks, discussion and worship. There’s no reason this couldn’t be done at the regular venue – this along with the inability for anyone to give me an address for the trip so I could say, look up the nearest train station in advance, leads me to think that it’s there solely to ensure there’s no escape for the people involved
This in mind, the worship quota is upped for the weekend, and whole notion of giving your life to Jesus and getting ‘saved’ is raised, with people going up to the front of the chapel and praying in a sort of ‘Christianity pledge’, with people collapsing and doing the (pretty amusing) speaking in tongues thing, just like any good cult. These things occurring of course, after the preacher has mentioned that they might. I imagine the result would be somewhat different if he didn’t.

It’s at that point you really see what the Alpha Course truly is: it’s not an invitation to explore the meaning of life, but a slickly marketed Christian conversion course. The objective of Alpha is not to educate people about Christianity, but to convert as many people as possible their particular brand of this religion. By the time it’s been pared down enough to just the people left at the weekend, the success rate is pretty high, around 90%. As more people go to the front of the stage to be ‘saved’ you become made to feel increasingly awkward stood at the back, perhaps even a little tempted to just give in and go for it anyways, made all the more acute by the preacher singling you out: the combination of direct and peer pressure make for an extremely uncomfortable situation. I stuck around for the remaining few weeks after the weekend as I figured I may as well finish it off so I could at least write about it with some authority and it wouldn’t be a total waste of my time, but by that time there were only a couple of us sceptics left and we were left to feel increasingly marginalised and singled out as the last attempts to convert us were made. From the Alpha course people are then moved into becoming regular church goers at churches with similar beliefs to those taught at Alpha, and absorbed into Cell groups, and I’ll talk more about Alpha’s particular ‘brand’ of Christianity in the follow up article.

Alpha is ingenious at what it does, but be warned it doesn’t do what it says on the tin.


- 73 comments by 4 or more people

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  1. Lee Davis

    Ignoring the fact that I am older and more cynical so wouldn't have gone along in tyhe first place, I certainly wouldn't voluntarily have gone along after the first session.
    It does sound like a slightly more acceptable version of what the $cientolgy lot try to do.; Get people who are looking for some meaning to life , present themselves as having the answer and try to 'brainwash' new recruits.

    Having said that, as with all religious groups, if it provides someone with what they want, so long as they don't try and force their standards on everyone else then fine. However how good someone is is based on what they do and how they treat everyone around them,. Sadly many religious people score far worse on this test than many atheists/agnostics.

    28 Feb 2005, 00:09

  2. Daniel Adams

    I'd be interested to know what your motivation for going along was. I'm sure they aren't free and the people who go surely go with the premise that they want to be Christians at the end of it?

    I've had many attempts by the Catholic side of my family to convert me, but the pure 'worship god, now fill the collection plate' had me confused every time.

    After the news this week of Christian groups going out and causing havoc to stop other supposedly bad things happening, it leads me to believe they are a selfish collection of children who always want things their own way.

    02 Mar 2005, 15:46

  3. Dean Love

    Mixture of reasons I went: it is free, I am someone that's theologically curious, and it was presented as not being too preachy. I never had any intention of becoming a Christian, but wanted to go to get a better handle on what they believe so I can argue better and better comprehend where my Christian friends are coming from.
    I guess another reason was that I was going through a pretty nasty time around then and part of me wanted to find something that makes it better. It didn't work: all a belief in a god does when your life is shit is make you realise that you're not just unlucky that this is happening to you, but some bastard in the heavens is making it so.

    All that said, I can't tar all christianity with the same brush – but there's a rather interesting disparity between the different brands of christianity, Alpha is likely to create more people that join these stupid christian activist groups and run sites like www.godhatesfags.com, but there are other forms of christianity that are alot more tolerable. I'll talk more about this in the follow up article.

    I'm also quite impressed that no christians have jumped in to defend alpha here…. either I'm the only alpha-erian that blogs, or I'm right!

    02 Mar 2005, 16:41

  4. It's odd how people always seem to clam up about it…I've heard so many conflicting views about it (one being: they exorcise homosexuality – another- only if it's mis(mal?)practised in its most extreme form)- then a friend came back in tears after her first Alpha course meeting and didn't want to talk about it (?) – but surely it depends on which church (it is the churches that run it, yeah?) it is that's teaching it?

    07 Mar 2005, 14:49

  5. Angela

    Hello,
    I went on an alpha Course shortly I became a Christian just ask some questions and learn more really. I found it to be really good. These people are giving up there time for free to put these courses on, they are not doing them for the sake of it!!!! Of course It can really depend on the church that is running it but the message of the Gospel is the most important thing. I hope that you have another opportunity to find out about being a Christian. Or e mail me!

    07 Mar 2005, 19:32

  6. Fascinating. I was just doing a websearch on Alpha as I am very curious about what it is and the methods employed and I stumble upon a Warwick Blog entry on it. I did not wish to attend one as I would very much expect it to be as the blog writer suggests, and I would feel profoundly uncomfortable. Having been in situations similar as someone who grew up in a (relatively linberal) church and has been on seemingly innocent things like "Spring Harvest" I would be reluctant to put myself through that again.

    I suppose I find several things particularly annoying about the Alpha Course. First is the implication by the adverts that it will help you find the meaning of life. If it were an open-ended informative course, then perhaps this would be an acceptable claim, but it is clearly proselytisation in a rather poor disguise.

    Another thing that bothers me is that it contributes to a particular stereotype of what Christianity entails. No longer being a Christian myself perhaps this should not bother me, but many people close to me are Christians, but should not be tarred with the same brush as those that lay on hands and speak in tongues etc. Jesus never induced fits in his disciples even according to the gospel. Also I hear stories of Alpha condemning homosexuality and espousing other beliefs that are not universal within Christianity and certainly not held by many of the Christians I know.

    Finally it is the rampant anti-intellectualism that goes along with these things that most offends me. The suggestion that one can circumvent the effort involved in searching into the value of our existence by sitting in a room and using cheap psychological tricks to get people to wish their way into a state of supposed enlightenment culminating in a vacuous ceremony where people "come to Christ". I heard Stephen Fry on the radio recently talking about these matters and he put it marvellously. He said that there is so much in our world to love and which can give meaning to life; there are the achievements of science, works of art, the history of ideas – the 'answers' are out there, but it requires effort. You can't get these things simply by wishing for them. It seems that this is exactly what alpha offers – an opportunity to involve oneself in group coercion towards a 'spirituality' and 'truth' that enables one to get over the fact that one day we will die and as egocentric maniacs we cannot handle the apparent brute facticity of the impending end of our existence.

    This final reason is ultimately why I fell out with notions of both belief and religion. They simply did not make sense to me, and reading the bible did not make me feel that I was grasping anything like truth. It certainly never inspired me in the ways that other writings have (notably Nietzsche, who espouses earthly values and not continual gazing towards the heavens and living for the sake of some other hypothesysed world).

    So for me, the message of the gospel is not and never will be "the most important thing". The way we act in this world and how we go beyond ourselves (in a non metaphysical way) are far more important than deciding whether or not we believe a story. If people are inspired by the gospel to act in a positive way in this life, then that is great – but it really grates when Christians think everyone else must be wrong.

    Ok, I'll stop. I'm glad I read more about alpha here. I just wish more people who go to alpha would go to a library and read some philosophy instead. Or go to an art gallery. Or volunteer at the local homeless shelter.

    23 Mar 2005, 20:51

  7. Julian Skidmore

    I came across your blog because I was looking for web articles that critique alpha.

    As it happens, I'm a Christian, an ex-Atheist, and I help to run an Alpha follow-up group (called 'Beta' creatively enough) at my local Church. My comments on your article (and Alpha) are as follows:

    Firstly, the worship. We have run worship as part of each session, but only for some courses and the worship only involved songs. We were concerned that it might put people off, but it turned out from the feedback that we got that it was the Christians who were more concerned about that than the guests (although if people had been put off, they probably wouldn't have lasted long enough to provide feedback d'oh).

    Secondly, the Christian ratio within Alpha. Having been a group leader, my experience is that discussions work best if there are less Christians in a group, because then you actually get good, challenging questions and it makes people think (both Christians and guests). For example, your comment about corroborating sources.

    Thirdly, that's right, group leaders are really there to direct the conversation, but they should also try to prevent it from being dominated by a single person. The real problem is the discussions aren't long enough. I don't quite agree that one week's discussion is irrelevant to the next week, because in practice groups often do return to particular subjects even though the talks move on. Also good leaders should take up any challenges and if appropriate do more research on questions raised (part of the Alpha training encourages you to do this, because guests deserve the respect of being treated seriously; and because Christians should understand what they are talking about).

    Fourthly, the weekend away. We usually print brochures on the weekend away before the course starts. We tell people the location (typically we find YHAs good places) and costs, so I guess what you experienced is just part of the variability of courses nationwide. The real value of the weekend away (IMHO) is the sheer time people get to spend with each other, whether it's eating or going on an activity or part of a session. Before the weekend away, people know each other very superficially and are therefore far more defensive about themselves – afterwards they know each other much better, because they see each other more as real people. People become more open with each other, which is why it's a much better environment for being open with God too.

    Finally, yet I do believe the Alpha course is an invitation to explore the meaning of life – Christianity really does offer meaning in life and the discussions really do allow you to say what you want.

    But I also agree with you on several points. I like Alpha, but I do think it dashes through the material far too quickly. It also isn't basic enough for people who have pretty much no concept of what Christianity is. Discussion time is too short. It makes too many assumptions about what people already think. In that sense it is more suited to new Christians – for example I would have found it valuable if it had existed when I became a Christian.

    On the other hand, it's the best the church has to offer at the moment. Moreover, people run Alpha with a genuine heart for the guests, and are not motivated by 'slick marketing' etc. We know that both people who become Christians through the course; those who don't and those who quit before the end deserve care and respect, because they too are made in God's image. As Angela says, "the most important thing is the good news about Jesus", because people who believe it don't need ulterior motives or hidden agendas – We don't need to prove anything; we just want to share what we have.

    -cheers from jules @P.

    28 Apr 2005, 16:01

  8. Tristan Thomas

    Wow, for someone who is just about to start as a group leader on an Alpha Course, reading all the comments above has been extremely interesting and useful. The initial article by Dean Love is well written and I can fully understand why the course could appear as the slick marketing of a cult. Perhaps some people involved in some courses even see it that way.

    I am a Christian but a thinking one and therefore always questioning and with a lot of doubts and assuming that in 10 years I won't think and believe exactly the same as I do now . However, when it comes down to it there's only one initial question, 'Is there a God or not?' If, having seriously thought about this, your answer is, 'well it is likely' then the next question is, 'what sort of God is it and how does it relate to me'. I understand one of the comments above which suggested that people believe in God because they are too scared to deal with the reality of world where there is no God, but that is no more valid or logical than the suggestion that some people refuse to entertain the idea of a God because they are too scared of what it might mean for them if they discover there is one. CS Lewis (whose rational thinking and intelligence cannot really be questioned) described himself as the most 'reluctant convert in all of England' because it was pure reasoning that led him to explore who God might be, but only because he had enough curiosity to start thinking about it.

    There's a fine line between trying to help people in their individual life explorations, trying to share something fantastic with them, and edging into manipulation but then we all seem perfectly happy to be fully brainwashed by the media, whether its the current era's brand of morality or pseudo-scientific documentaries on natural science, etc. which is happy to preach theory (all be them good ones) as fact but believe that is fine because it is not 'religion'. Athiests have as much 'faith' as anyone. There isn't a non-faith option.

    I hope that hearing anti-alpha views will help me to better understand how things may appear and be a better leader. Words like 'conversion' and 'salvation' are all a bit off putting. The way I'll approach the course is this, the Alpha COurse is a way of explaining to people who are interested the basics of what Christianity is and the raitionale for the belief system, showing them a little of one way or style of worshiping (or responding) to God as far as we uderstand him/her and then it's up to the individual about whether or not they accept it enough to explore further, try a different route or stop seraching. I can see how people could feel uncomforatble and therefore manipulated and I'll try to avoid that.

    24 Aug 2005, 17:02

  9. Stephen Silverstein

    I found this article because I too wante to find as critique of this course. As a professional trainer, i know only too well how easily people can be brainwashed to believe virtually anything and a good way to accelerate the process is through a weekend "course" closeted away with others and isolated from the real world.

    Cults regularly use this approach to entrap – see the School of Economic Science and its various dubious beliefs and unhealthy antics.

    What interests me is Alpha's stance on other religions because a friend's wife attended the course where the leader categorically stated that only someone who believed in Jesus could go to heaven. A number of the attendees stated that they had Jewish friends and were categorically told that Jews who did not believe in Jesus would not go to heaven. At this point, some people left the course in disgust.

    Can anyone tell me whether this is actually a teaching of the course or a misquote.

    I have to say that I disapprove of any and all evangelising religions – or more usually cults – I question their right to attempt to convert others to their ways of thinking, which I believe abuses individual freedom; but then, I have probably read more about religion than most of those who attempt to peddle their own particular brand of it!

    21 Sep 2005, 21:40

  10. Dean Love

    As far as I'm aware it's not a part of the course per se, nor is, for example, the idea that homosexuality is wrong. At the course I was at it seemed to be a matter of "don't ask don't tell". No one ever said those that follow other religions are going to hell, but a brief examination of the literature that was for sale showed that the brand of Christianity peddled by alpha did indeed contain these beliefs. If questioned on them I can imagine the 'official' response of the course leaders.
    Of course if a leader or speaker has a particular fondness for such subjects they may just bring it up anyway.

    21 Sep 2005, 23:04

  11. Matt Jermyn

    Hello!
    Another Christian… Think my points aren't repeats of the above :D

    The arguments voiced above against the alpha way of doing things basically seem to indicate a belief that the aim is to get people into Christianity 'by hook or by crook' – that the point is to get people to say 'I believe Jesus died for me..' etc and believe it, and it's not that important what happens afterwards. If this were true, it would open up various options to the people running the course – given the aim of converts, anything from simple persuasion to drug induced brainwashing would be allowable!

    I'm now going to draw a distinction. A person can be 'converted' in two different ways:
    Firstly by being subject to the process described above – a kind of soft brainwashing, where resistances and uncertanties are worn away by peer pressure and a cunning system of talks and discussions. The person being 'converted' in this case does not have reasoned grounds for what they're being brought to accept, but is forced? encouraged? manipulated? into ignoring any doubts they might have.

    The second way would be for someone to fully engage with all the questions and doubts that they had with what was being said (e.g. do research on issues outside the course meetings), decide on what they therefore thought was true, and from that decide to become Christian. (These two models are in the context of an alpha course, and even in that I'm oversimplifying so I can deal with only the intelectual side of things.)

    With regards to the first way: My primary problem with that idea is that if I knew someone who did 'convert' in that way I'd be really unconvinced they had undergone a genuine conversion – being fooled into it just doesn't count. I'm grateful to the analysis above – If I'm ever in the position of running or being involved in such a course, I'll re read all this and do my best to avoid all you've said – if what you've described 'worked' I'd think of it as an utter disaster.

    A lesser but still important problem is that practically it wouldn't work. If you do attempt to recruit (I'll stop using the word convert as I don't think it appropriate) members for a group in that way you're then faced with the problem of keeping them. Doubts, once suppressed, will rise again. Friends of whoever you've recruited will ask them about the decision they've made, and ask the questions that were brushed over earlier. I just don't think it'd work…

    Unless you then instituted a system of control over the new recruits, in the twin areas of thier mind and relationships, a kind of continual brainwashing, and probably a one on one 'director' or 'supervisor' positioned to 'guide' them into a lifestyle where problems wouldn't occur. This is the defining aspect of what I'd call a cult. I've never been anywhere near a church I'd consider to be doing this, and I would make a LOT of noise about it if I ever was.

    Now, as to the second route to becomming Christian? From my point of view it's very logical – for the simple reason I believe the whole thing's true, I'm not afraid of people looking into it. As far as I'm concerned it should be part of the function of something like an alpha course to encourage rigourous intelectual investigation.

    A final point to add to the arugment; while I've never seen the Alpha training resources, I have friends who have, and recently one of them told me this (If I've got any of this wrong someone please correct me!)- the kind of active resistance to the ideas presented in talks/discussions that I've discussed above is actually seen as a good sign by the people who invented the whole thing – people are really engaging with the material, and apparently, one responce which can sometimes produce a very sorted out new Christian is for them to leave halfway through the weekend away….

    21 Oct 2005, 00:59

  12. Morti

    I must chat with you more in-depth about the Alpha thing at some point, I'm involved in one now and quite enjoying it. I think a couple of your objections in the article are fairly inaccurate, but I don't want to go through those here because I'm just so bad at checking for replies here and I don't believe it automagically emails me. Sad panda.

    Incidentally, I like what Matt said.

    09 Nov 2005, 04:47

  13. Royston

    I'm not Christian, but as a Religious Studies Student, would like to have a go at the Alpha course to see what it's like. I've had the impression of it as a sort of cult, and friends of mine who are vicars often complain about the course as nonsence etc. If I do go on one, I'll document it on my blog. Thanks.

    09 Nov 2005, 11:25

  14. Mike Reed

    Very interested in all of this as my sister and brother-in-law are evangelical Christians and, I think, involved with Alpha. My sister said some pretty terrifying things to me when she started with this brand of Christianity ("It doesn't matter what I think, it's what the Bible says that matters"; those who have never had the chance to read the Bible will go to hell"; "Yes, gay people will go to hell".) I don't like the sound of these peculiar weekends away, or speaking in tongues, or "The Toronto Blessing", all of which sound like fairly obvious manipulation of people's emotions to induce some form of heightened emotion or hysteria.

    The question about whether Alpha believes that non-Christians will go to hell is answered (in the affirmative" in Jon Ronson's articles about Alpha for the Guardian (written in 2000). Worth a read:

    link

    Mike

    26 Jan 2006, 15:06

  15. ray

    my friend has married a man who is into this alpha stuff and he's totally controlling her and saying she can't have certain music in the house and can't do things because their evil,i think its just mind control and bullying

    18 Mar 2006, 13:47

  16. Dean Love

    Thats awful – is your friend also a Christian? Just not of such a fundamental nature? As one thing that was made clear to us was that true Christians shouldn't even be dating non-christians, let alone marrying them.

    19 Mar 2006, 00:33

  17. ray

    ray
    she's just what you call a normal christian doesn't go to church but believes in god and that.
    she just thought the church he went to was like a modern thing,but she's had to move back with her parents its getting that out of hand,even his other friends have notices drastic changes
    and also he never has any spare money and he's not short of money if you know what i mean ? i know its his buisness but is he donating all his and his wifes money?
    she's my friends daughter and is worried for her saftey- if he's saying he's seeing evil in just ordinary cd covers?(john lennon evil?)
    then what will be next?
    im in the uk, whats it all about?

    19 Mar 2006, 15:47

  18. Heidi

    This blog has been an interesting read!

    Just to let you know where I'm coming from: I'm a Christian who was brought up in a charismatic, evangelical church but have always had a very questioning nature and as a 'people' person, have always been surrounded by people of all different views and backgrounds. This led me to study Theology at a secular UK uni, which has certainly been very challenging to all aspects of my faith! I feel I have a fairly broad understanding of other religions and an open-mind to match in many respects. I agree with one comment here, in that i feel my understanding of life and my faith will change constantly, and i embrace that, as i can't possibly hope to know all the answers now, or not be shaped by experiences, both mine and of others, and life in general.

    I have run an alpha course, and while i take on board many of the critiques as issues i have also dealt with in my own mind, i think it really does depend on which church, and more specifically the people involved, as to the shape and the direction of the course.

    In fact, in one of the courses i ran, we ended up scrapping a lot of the talk material and simply running through the main points to allow more time for discussion. This worked so well in this group, as they were all open to really say what they felt and the problems they had with Christianity, while i was able to explain, from my own experience how i had resolved, or was still making my mind up about the issues discussed. In this way, the course benefitted us all, as there was no pressure to conform, simply an interest in "the meaning of life".

    In my understanding, the course is meant as a guide for Christians to be able to explain their faith, and for people interested in finding out about Christianity to do so under no pressure. As far as i'm concerned, it's up to God to do the 'converting' – and if by me running a course i have helped people think about life, their place within the world, and how to see past what is drip-fed them to what they really believe, then that is great. If they happen to find answers within Christianity along the way, then that is a bonus, and seeing people transformed by Christ is amazing to witness.

    I am a great believer that Jesus met people on a needs-first basis. Alpha serves people who have felt a need to find out about Christianity and explore how they view their life, just as a homeless shelter provides accomodation or a solictor provides legal advice. These services work on the basis of choice – you can choose to take advice or to leave it at the curb.

    As for Ray's comments – i understand the distress you feel at what this person is doing, but please look at it in context – this one man may be involved in Alpha, but it is not that causing his behaviour. As for how you resolve this situation – you simply need to stay close to your friend. She needs to be supported and hopefully empowered to make up her own mind about him, although it will be hard if she loves him, and the bonds between husband and wife are very hard to break. As for the guy, i can't hope to give you much of an explanation surrounding his behaviour, as i just don't know him. What i do know is that people who have fear become more fearful when they feed this fear. It says in the Bible that if something causes you to sin, get rid of it. It may be that he is so fearful of the influence music has on him, that he can't bear to be around it and in some ways he may feel he is protecting his family also by getting rid of it. However, this is personal, and the Bible is also very clear that if you do not find something a problem to your faith or worship of God, then there is no need to keep it from you. The vast majority of Christians would not describe John Lennon as 'evil', and other than perhaps chosing not to listen to explicit lyrics or unnecessary swearing, they would not censor their family.

    I hope that some of what I have written helps!

    11 Apr 2006, 14:12

  19. Darren

    I seem to sit in a lonely place. God spoke through me and then filled me with the most intense love at the bottom of my life. I thought that I would fall into Christianity but it seems more irrelevant than ever. I keep looking at things like Alpha to expain what happened to me but they seem very unimportant. I find good people asking questions being told how to feel by other good people who have the same questions. God is everything, every song, every thought, every memory, every scent, every sunset, every feeling, every everything!!!!. It was a connection for me that I was not asking for but was the most natural thing. I feel like telling the world but at the same time I don't know what to tell them. The answer is not Christianity but there again, is that not the message of Christ? I now start to understand how difficult it is to explain this and not let misinterpretation take over. The messsage is simple – Love & truth – Common to all man, beast and religion.There is no place for formailty and categorisation. Just swim in the underlying love that is the truth, and that truth lies in the essential the truth to yourself. I don't know how to get there, but for me, I laid my insides bare, not looking for god but nonetheless god found me. We are all god and I love you all. But you all kind of know this don't you? Or you wouldn't be here.

    04 May 2006, 00:43

  20. Carol

    I live in a village which has been taken over by one of these churches, we should all be very afraid. Yes they are gently brainwashing people, removing fredom of choice and pandering to peoples need to conform to a group and hierarchy. Yes they believe that you will not go to heaven if you ar not with Christ and Jews and Homosexuals cannot be with christ because the bible says so. Yes they believe that certain things are evil or the work of "the other' (Satan) among these are horror films, Harry Potter, clairvoyance, Halloween, certain types of rock music, etc. They pay more than a passing credence to creationism.
    I have seen educated people fall for this guff and reject thier former friends because "If you're not with Jesus you're with the devil".
    I am currently researching a documentary about this and would love to hear information and veiws from both sides.

    24 May 2006, 15:45

  21. Dean Love

    Hey Carol – I know some people who might have some more info for you, if you want to leave your e–mail address here or just e–mail me via the contact link on the blog and let me know I'll pass it on to the interested parties.

    06 Jun 2006, 17:44

  22. Lynn

    This site has been fantastically useful. I am developing a tv drama based around a specific Alpha Course. It definately has a dramatic effect… I did it as a non believer and remain unsatisfied with Christianity. My questions were not answered and my spiritual journey is far from even begun. Where is the perfect church? Are there any actors/writers out there who've 'done' the Alpha?
    For the record… I definately believe in the potential we have to do good and evil, but not in angels and devils.

    15 Jun 2006, 16:41

  23. amanda

    What interests me is the motivation of the people who are the current directors of Alpha International. I notice that all the Alpha course materials are copyright – am I being too cynical in thinking that this is a HUGE money–spinner for three or four individuals and that this, rather than 'saving souls' might have become a priority?

    16 Jun 2006, 21:59

  24. Carol Woollams

    My email address is carol@woollams.co.uk

    30 Jun 2006, 15:54

  25. julie barks

    could you give me carols email address ,as i have info for her on said subject.

    19 Jul 2006, 09:10

  26. Dean Love

    Quick heads up to let you know I'll be on radio from 12 noon on saturday debating the Alpha Course on Premier Christian Radio. You'll also be able to phone in and ask questions or make points yourself.

    Within the next day or so I'm also going to be posting up a previously unpublished piece I wrote on the course here.

    You can find Premier Christian Radio on MW 1305, 1332 & 1413 in and around London. Freeview 725, Sky 0123, NTL cable 886 or online www.premier.org.uk

    27 Jul 2006, 14:29

  27. Sir Farce

    What a ridiculous argument! One guy has a bad experience and then a whole band wagon starts to cry around him. Get a life folks! You can hardly call this an in depth study into the Alpha course. Dean has been to one course out of hundreds and now you’re all pulling facts from what he said. Sigh…. If you want to judge something, get to know it properly!!

    21 Feb 2007, 15:38

  28. Gary

    I’m an atheist, i’m a stoner, i’m 20 and dont usually pay much attention to religion. I have very recently ( This week in fact ) attended the first ‘Alpha Meeting’ course in my local area. After going to the course and reading the original article above, i found myself in a state of confusion. the alpha course i went to the other day was in some ways very similar to your won experience, but in someways, and i’m grateful for this, very different indeed.

    If we start at the beginning for instance, a meal…yes a meal is cooked, and to be honest it was very nice. Next up then is worship, i can believe that at other alpha meetings worship ( Songs and prayer ) takes place, but no such thing was even suggested at this one. After watching a bit of this dvd ( Nicky Gumble – A very charismatic figure, who seemed to take a “honestly casual” stance on christianity ) we moved to discussing the said topics from the dvd, over some cake and coffee. The talk was very informative, some questions were asked, some were answered, some were left, but as a whole it was a good discussion. The main point of it, i felt, was that it was a good chance to see the different group members stances on religion.

    Overall, i can easily agree that at first alpha seems to be a cleverly marketed christian conversion group. However, i think anyone with half a brain can definatly agree that woith EVERYTHING in this world, there are both good and bad. Some Alpha courses maybe slighlty sinister, but then again, some may not be.

    In conclusion, i think it’s very dependant on the people who run it, and i would say…Have your wits about you, dont let people draw you in, and make your own decisions.

    19 May 2007, 14:54

  29. Emma

    I’m Christian – actually a catholic. And I was roped in to help with Alpha as a share group helper, without ever doing Alpha before. I think that Alpha course is okay so far. I was told that people who didn’t believe in Jesus would go to hell too, however, I believe that that is a lie. Only people who want to convince people to become christians out of fear say that. Jesus loved, and still loves everyone no matter what you believe. Many parts of the Bible can inforce this statement. I however am a bit frightened about this weekend thing that is coming up. I do believe very strongly in God, however, I don’t like the stupid idea of God healing you, or the idea that people are talking in tounges. If this comes up in the weekend or on the practice this tuesday for group leaders I am going to leave straight away, and not ever do the course again. Catholics, should not rely on God to do hocus pocus cult like stuff, but have a loving God who works behind the scenes, like the miracle of a birth. Im very sorry if it does end up being a cult like event. I really hope you all dont let Alpha put you off being Christian cause that is not what christians are like at all!

    27 Aug 2007, 09:12

  30. marycontrary

    I haven’t participated in the Alpha course. But I know people who have and found it very helpful in understanding the Bible?

    To the original writer, didn’t you know it was a Bible study course before you went?

    Christian retreats are nothing new either.

    Obviously, the particular church that offered the Alpha Course the original writer attended was offered by a Pentecostal or Charismatic Church so the speaking in tongues part would be par for the course in that setting.

    But these courses have also been offered by Episcopal (Anglican) and Lutheran churches (as well as many other denominations.) Speaking in tongues wouldn’t be a part of what you would find in an Alpha course there unless they happened to be Charismatic Episcopal or Lutheran churches which are not very common.

    Are most of you people in England? Has familiarity with things Christian really disappeared from your culture as much as these entries would seem to imply? This was quite eye-opening to me as an American. We are not nearly so post-Christian in our culture.

    08 Oct 2007, 23:22

  31. Charlie Hardman

    I just read an article about Nicky Gumbel’s profoundly anti-homosexual preachings. Go to

    http://www.galha.org/briefing/alpha.html

    as it’s quite shocking.
    Interesting to read all the views here: I’m trying to write a play about this at the moment. If anyone would be willing to contribute ideas or field my questions I’d be very grateful. My e-mail is

    maj_jamjam@hotmail.com

    At present, I feel extremely anti-alpha, but would like some more positive opinions to balance this out, as I don’t want to create a totally one-sided piece.

    Many thanks,

    Charlie

    23 Nov 2007, 14:00

  32. tasha

    we had no worship at our course AT ALL…its not supposed to be included because its not supposed to be a mini-church service…in my opinion… ;0)

    29 Nov 2007, 23:49

  33. Johannes

    My experiences are not totally alike. I’m currently in an Alpha course which is organized by a combination of catholic and protestant churches in this region. I’m an atheïst, but am dating a Christian. The Alpha seemed like a good way to get some more knowledge of christianity. I recognize some of your points, but I’d like to point out some differences because every Alpha organisation seems to have it’s own agenda.

    First of all, the worship. There has been hardly any worship, let alone singing, at our meetings. At the second meeting a small prayer before dinner was introduced because of the large christian : non christian ratio (which I found odd, like you). Singing would’ve made me run for the door immediately. The atheïsts at our meeting don’t participate in the prayer and don’t feel any pressure to do so.

    The talks in our group are held by different people and are different because of that. The funny thing is: the talks held by the vicar and priest in our group are very intersting, objective and intelligent. It’s the talk of the ‘Alpha-fanatics’ that piss me off. They have a very high ‘become-christian-or-go-to-hell’ level and I have a feeling they’re really trying to impose the christian faith on me. Fortunately I don’t believe in hell (not even after ten weeks of Alpha), so too bad for them.

    Up until this moment the course has been pretty light-hearted. I could recognize traces of evangelization (e.g. books given out), but it was all on a ‘only-if-you-feel-like-it-basis’. By the way: this activities also, were mostly undertaken by the ‘Alpha-fanatics’.

    The weekend was, well, kind of weird. After my experiences with some of the talks I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on the weekend. Fortunately it consisted only of a friday night and saturday morning get together, with no sleepover. The weekend is about the ‘holy spirit’. After the first talk (‘who is the holy spirit?’) we were asked to all stand up and consider what was just said. This set off some alarm bells and I complained to two people of the leaders immediately.

    Then followed the infamous ‘tongue-talk’ lecture. This stroke me as very odd.. 70% of the churches in the Netherlands dismiss tongue-talk, but yet we had a priest here talking to us about it as if it were something completely normal!

    [continued in the next comment]

    10 Mar 2008, 14:35

  34. Johannes

    [continued from previous post]

    In the time before the weekend it was said the weekend was included because ‘The holy spirit is a very heavy subject, which can leave some people shaken. That’s why we take extra time for it.’. Strangely, the talks in the weekend left me very UNaffected. But I knew we were at the weekend for a reason, and then it came: ‘We think now is a good time to say yes to Jesus. If you want to, we can help you to pray together so you can receive the holy spirit!’. They even tried to pressure one of the atheïsts (who was in NO WAY buying anything she has been told over the last weeks) a little bit into doing this using the ‘you’re the only one who’s not a christian yet’ method. Once again, these were the ‘alpha-fanatics’ at work.

    In my mind I was already planning an escape, but fortunately it turned out it was really on a voluntary basis. Three people (which I already singled out as the most gullible and unstable of the group) took the leaders up on their offer. They went seperate ways, did some praying and came out crying later. Us atheïsts and the more stable christians among us were just sitting on the couch, sipping coffee and having a good time talking to eachother and the remaining leaders.

    So although the Alpha might have some ‘scary’ moments, I don’t really think the goal of the course is to scare people into religion. It’s just the interpretation that some people (the ‘Alpha-fanatic’ leaders) give to it. There were people in our group that really wanted to have the ‘holy spirit’ experience and I think it’s a good thing they got it. I was a little dissapointed at the blatant way the leaders made their proposal, but I believe this is truly the work of an individual and that it’s not the way imposed by the Alpha course.

    Remember: There is no church of Nicky Gumbel, no cult. These meetings are organized by your local church, without anyone from a bigger ‘Alpha organization’ ever showing up. Organized religion can seem frightening at times, but I really believe the Alpha course in it’s essence is unharmful. In the Netherlands we’re very laid back about things like religion and that’s shown throughout the course. There hasn’t been any talk about hell, let alone if gays or jews should go there. I can imagine that in other countries (especially in smaller towns) things can be different. The organization of our course is really focussed on a ‘God is Love’ point of view. The fact that it’s organized by members of different churches supports that.

    My advice is to ask around for experiences with this particular Alpha course (I for one knew one of the leaders beforehand), because the content can greatly vary. Also, don’t go to an Alpha course if you’re mentally unstable. There are better ways to help you than religion. But for the rest, Alpha is a great way to learn more about christianity, discuss it with other folks and all while having fun and getting to know some new people.

    Sorry for the long post, but I think it’s important to get some unbiased information out there.

    10 Mar 2008, 14:35

  35. Laura Laws

    I came to Uni in Glasgow, and was taken to Alpha by my new flatmates. I got sucked in: a combination of wanting to fit in and the alpha brand of logic that you highlighted in your article.
    I grew increasingly ‘close to god’ and had many wierd and wonderful experiences with my church and alpha. I took a large part in running alpha courses for my church. Did you know they hide christians in the discussion groups posing as guests to increase pressure on people? Just because the ‘leader’ doesnt stand up for chritianity does not mean there is not someone in your group that won’t. it’s all cleverly planned out. Most of the time these people will ask questions or say ‘i didnt understand…. what does everyone else think’.
    Then i was given a website by a friend that compares alpha to the grooming done by kidnappers to make you, amongst other things, grateful that the kidnapper, who is now nice to you, didnt kill you. At that point i was on the exec of the university christian union, and completely freaked out when i went on the leaders weekend away and was told that i had to act a certain way in public, who to be seen with, how to prey on those who are vunerable and bring them to god. As the only convert in the group, and stuck in a house miles away from the nearest village in the highlands, i was stuck and made to feel terrible for asking ‘do you think they’re brainwashing us?’ It was a case of too much too soon for me. Making dinner, and sitting as a plant in a group at Alpha was one thing, but being put in the lead of one of these organisations and given their tactics on a plate was terrifying.
    I’ve had a lot of psychological problems because of my ‘conversion’: i was told i was a new being, the old me was dead, and i couldnt go back. The christians i thought were my friends no matter what began by stalking and telling me off, constant phone calls and requests for coffee, and now they all ignore me. I am a disease, a bad example, proof you can ‘fall’ after getting so close.
    Please dont go on Alpha. If you are parents, who like mine did are reading this to get information on whats happening to a loved one or child, take them away from uni- they can re-sit a year. They’ll hate you for a while but they need to be away from these people, who unlike me can sit and be told to brainwash people without batting an eyelid cos they think its for the best of the person, to be ‘saved’. Once the brainwashing stops, they will return to normal. Dont take their bible away- let them see they have no special connection with god and that it is the church and alpha that has swept them into a frenzy and not God and not the bible: where Christianity springs from.
    No hysteria inducing worship helps, I hated the struggle with my parents but did it for god and prayed for them. They stuck by me, and though they dont really understand, getting me away was best for everyone. Dont give up, and please spread the message alpha is evil. Please.

    11 Mar 2008, 00:19

  36. Andi H.

    Forget about others around you or what anyone say about the Alpha course. At the end of the day, ask yourself and yourself alone whether the material presented makes sense and worth your while to follow up. If not, walk away from it – consider it that you have watched a bad movie. Nobody is forcing anything on anyone attending the Alpha course, let alone brainwashing.

    The objective of Alpha is to reveal the Christian faith in an easily understood ‘seminar’ – it’s not denominational. Take it or leave it. I detest those that try to steer people away from it or bad-mouth it, just because they don’t like the course. I always think that people should listen to the course and make their own personal judgment. So, take the above bad comments with a lot of salt. Cheers.

    01 Apr 2008, 10:54

  37. richard

    phew i was thinking of going on an alpha course, the local church is evangelical and pretty much modern songs tamborines and speaking in tongues …which is strange when you expect ‘onward christian soldiers’ and get something completely different.luckliy the kids are too young to understand ,and my wife has said a more ‘traditional ’ church would suit her!
    i have emailed and left a messge on answer machine re -alpha course …no reply at all to either !!
    they must be full or cant be arsed replying which doesnt give me much faith when you are searching for some!
    I believe people reach a part of their life where ‘something else’ is important and maybe the alpha course can open the door …but unless someone replies to you ..How do you find out?
    Anyway i will be away now …things to do, but a good discussion going on here!..many thanks Richard

    03 Apr 2008, 16:39

  38. Online TV

    I’m not a believer so I don’t think I’ll be going.

    03 Apr 2008, 21:35

  39. Lorna Clark

    Having become a Christian through Alpha 5 years ago, I am now about to take co-leadership of the course in my church. I have scanned alot of the views here and agree with many, good and bad. My experience of Alpha was that it was totally non-pressurised and non-threathening. I did not feel bible bashed but felt I had the opportunity to present my own skepticism and objections within a friendly group. Many of these questions were answered to my satisfaction. I think it very much depends on who runs the course – I have heard many mixed reviews, and how well the group discussions are handled. It is important to know when to answer questions, and when to just allow the discussion. It is also imperitive that no one dominates. We have extended our group discussion time in response to feedback. We haven’t done worship – we’re a small church and we were concerned it might seem too pushy. We also don’t do a weekend, just a day as we have found that people have busy lives and can’t always fit in a weekend. But they know early on where and when it will be. We welcome challenging questions, and respect those people who are there to find out more but don’t wish to become Christians. Like anything Alpha is not perfect, it’s just one way of exploring Christianity. For me, I did (and continue to do) alot of my own research from a variety of sources about Christianity and it’s validity. I have to say, taking everything on board that I have learned, I believe it to be true.

    19 Jun 2008, 04:58

  40. Tina Borra

    I’m Catholic and I’ve helped run an Alpha course. From my experience (so far) and reading of the materials, Alpha DOES NOT “condemn” anyone (non-believers, gays or Jews) to hell. The course is after all premised on God’s infinite love for us; Jesus WILLINGLY died for us all. But, still following the same train of thought, if pursuing an intimate relationship with God is what gives meaning to our life (so whatever that relationship blossoms into IS our purpose and meaning) ANYTHING that diverts/ frustrates the progression of that relationship results in our separation from God (i.e., hell). God does not send anyone to hell; we put ourselves there by moving away from Him. We put other CREATED THINGS (including our own “sophisticated” ideas & illusions about ourselves) above God, which render us incapable of truly knowing and loving God as He deserves.

    For those who had a bad experience with the course, it is unfortunate that your quest to learn more about God (and how to pursue a relationship with Him) was mishandled by the course leaders. Please do not allow this to prevent you from persevering OR discourage you from establishing, re-newing or enriching your relationship with God.

    06 Jul 2008, 03:17

  41. Helen

    Well, this is certainly a very interesting subject!!!
    I am signed up for an Alpha course beginning in September and I am not getting a good feeling about it at all. I thought that I would be getting what it says in the tin “Exploring the meaning of life” but it seems not.
    I am a curious Christian, I believe in God but don’t know a lot about it, I believe that Jesus died for us but don’t know a lot about it at the same time I believe that it is perfectly fine to be Jewish and gay, I have no problems with homosexuality, and agree that abortion should be a woman’s choice. I am extremely liberal in my thoughts and always wondered where I stood in relation to my person views and Christianity and I thought that the Alpha course would provide answers to my questions…...may be not!!! It is quite possible that I may be deemed unsuitable for this course!
    I feel very uncomfortable about the ‘Holy Spirit’ weekend, feeling peer pressure, pressure from the group leaders or even bullied will have a profound effect on anyone who is taken away from their own surroundings and in an alien environment whereby there may be no other choice but to talk in tongues, bark like a dog (which I have read!) and really just get caught up in the moment just to ensure that you don’t feel left out, looked down upon or even like a failure. It is a clever way of ensuring that everyone attending an Alpha course will have an experience and not necessarily a good one. If these experiences honestly exist then they would be done at one’s own pace and not at the pace of the Alpha leaders course schedule, this is quite disturbing to me.
    I’m still a curious Christian though and although I am not totally convinced that soft brainwashing isn’t involved within this course I am totally confident of my own mental capacity to not get caught up in things that I am do not want to do, I will not feel pressured or bullied and I will do my own research, ask questions and challenge ideas and views that need to be challenged and explore these further.

    15 Aug 2008, 23:22

  42. Ruth

    Oh my….Came across this whilst looking for ideas on what to cook for my latest Alpha course….

    I don’t know whether to be shocked or saddened by people’s posts here about Alpha. I became a Christian on an Alpha Course in 1999, I have run many Alpha courses for my church and with other local churches over the last 9 nine years – I even met my husband on one! I have led training for the Alpha team and been to Holy Trinity Brompton to hear the leadership team give the vision for Alpha.

    In my experience there has NEVER been any planting of secret Christians in groups – often Christians bring their non-Christian friends along to a course and are encouraged to do the course with them – to make them feel like they are supported.

    I can honestly, hand on heart say that the only reason I am involved in Alpha is that I genuinely believe Jesus is alive and following him the best decision I’ve ever made that has given me hope and a purpose in life and I want to share that with others. Share it with them and see their lives take on the same hope and purpose. I would NEVER force anyone to believe anything they didn’t want to – or manipulate anyone. Yes – I realise that some things can appear wierd or strange eg the singing if there is any (we sometimes have singing – sometimes not!) and when we run the course – we try our hardest to explain why we do what we do and minimise people’s uncomfortableness.

    There is no sinister agenda to Alpha when I run it or when anyone I know runs it – or have I ever had reason to believe by Nicky Gumbel and the Alpha team. Of course – that doesn’t mean that some courses may be run by people who have been tactless or misunderstood in their passion to share Jesus with others. Or even, that some people who are spiritually abusive run Alpha – and that is the danger of human nature – anything can be abused by broken people. Some romantic relationships are incredibly abusive and manipulative and controlling – but that doesn’t mean we will never go out with anyone does it?!

    I’ll let anyone who wants have a copy of my training notes – so people can see that we’re out to make people feel valued and safe and free to think over what has been presented in the course and that we’re about showing people what it’s like to live a life in relationship with Jesus and encouraing them to get to know him for themselves.

    03 Sep 2008, 16:53

  43. Helen

    So I don’t know how many people look at this site and I think that I will set up my own web page about it however, I went to the Alpha course last week for the first time for session 1 and I was nervous about it because I was worried about the people that might be there. I was supposed to go on the 24th September for the introductory session but I decided against it as I was concerned that I might be brainwashed or something. Anyway, last minute I had a change of heart and decided after I received an e-mail from the course co-ordinator that perhaps I would go. Im glad that I did, it wasn’t the least bit offensive, I went by myself, knew absolutely no one until I sat down and realised that I did no someone there. The majority of people were older than me, I am 30 and I think that at least 3/4’s of the course are over 55 years old. Many already have a church and are Christian, I met one other person who was not a Christian and did not belong to a church either. So I guess I found that a little odd that there were people there who knew about the bible whereas I actually don’t know anything (other than what I teach at school, Im a teacher). On the other hand I thought that in a way this was quite good because they are a good conversation starter and the room never becomes quiet!

    I am in a group where I am the youngest, then there is a lady in her 40’s and then everyone else is over 55 years old, and are all Christian, so although we are told no-pressure, I do wonder how open minded these people are to things that I might want to say! I am concerned about offending them, and Im not too sure that it should be like this. No one is pushy, yet they all talk about their experiences assuming that you will want the same!

    At the end of the talk, we said a prayer, my head was buzzing a little, but I knew that I wanted to go back.

    Not too sure what Im looking for throughout this course but I am pretty sure that I will be the one they don’t manage to convert! :)

    05 Oct 2008, 20:01

  44. Wendy

    I am pleased I have come across this blog. Thank you for all these posts and links, they have certainly helped me to re-discover my healthy scepticism. I went to an introductory Alpha session this week. I was a little concerned that all in my discussion group seemed to already be Christian and I am not. I will continue for now but am not convinced that I will see through the whole 10 weeks.

    01 May 2009, 05:06

  45. Steve Harford

    Just a word to everyone here. Before you go to or continue going to the Alpha course, try watching Jon Ronson’s documentary now being shown on TV. It confirms that this is nothing but a cynical attempt by the church to prey on vulnerable people. The alpha course uses some very powerful and subtle methods to recruit such people and should be outlawed. If you find yourself on the Alpha course ask one of the tutors this question – “Would you have the courage of your convictions to take the hand of one of the tens of thousands of small children as they were led to the doors of the gas chambers in Auschwitz in 1944, at the same time explaining how this was all part of god’s plan and how their suffering would make them, ‘better people’”. Push this question past the first answer given, ask every, ‘believer’ there the same question (including the head honcho) and see the reaction you get.

    28 Jun 2009, 19:51

  46. Joe

    I went on the Alpha course in the very beginning, but even then it was a very slick machine which uses as one of its key methods of persuasion the tendency for people to join in something through sheer peer pressure. To sum up the whole experience, I’m not sure if people have seen the Simpsons episode “The Joy of Sect”, but the Alpha course reminded me heavily of the methods of the Movementarians… the only difference being that when I watched the Simpsons it seemed too ridiculous to be able to happen in real life…

    28 Jun 2009, 20:00

  47. Peter Sammons

    I have not yet done a Alpha. As a Christian of many years I have not felt the need or had the opportunity – although our church plans to run one in the next 12 months – so I may get my chance.

    As I understand it, Alpha provides an in-depth opportunity to discuss Christianity in an open forum. There will be Christians there (I might be one!) as this helps to give different perspectives, not just the leader’s. Usually people who want to do the course will want someone to go with them and often that will be a Christian friend. Only a minority have the guts to go on their own, so why shouldn’t they have a trusted friend with them?

    At some point the question will be encountered by every individual: do I want to yield my life to Jesus? Do I want to become a disciple of Jesus? That’s a choice everyone makes, whether at a course or not – in point of fact!! If people don’t want to become a Christian, then that is their prerogative. If they feel pressured, in all probability they are not – but sadly they feel uncomfortable. I think that’s quite natural. When I decide not to buy something after long negotiation (I’m a professional buyer) then I generally feel a little uncomfortable at having to disappoint the seller. That’s quite natural but people should not feel unduly embarassed.

    Maybe its because the issues in Aplha are so much more important. But people are free to accept of reject. I would hope that an Alpha gives people clarity about what the choice is and how to reach a point of certainty with Jesus if that is their want and choice.

    I’ll not comment on Hell other than to say that Jesus spoke as much about heaven as hell. So we Christians take it seriously. As I understand it, no one goes to Hell who has not in a very real sense chosen to go there. I for one am happy to leave the eternal questions to Jesus. It is never the province of Christians to try and second guess how people stand before God. But obviouslt we must take a loving interest and concern that people have the best opportunity to encounter Jesus. And surely that’s the whole point of Alpha.

    Finally, there inevitably is a variability about cours delivery. But even iof you feel your course is not very well delivered, I’d still urge anyone to stay the course, quite literally. Because at the very least you’ll get a better insight into Chrristianity. And at best it might prove to be a happily life changing event.

    Regards,

    Peter Sammons

    08 Jul 2009, 17:57

  48. Peter Sammons

    A second bite!!!! I’d like to respond to Steve H’s question: “Would you have the courage of your convictions to take the hand of one of the children as they were led to the doors of the gas chambers in Auschwitz in 1944, at the same time explaining how this was all part of god’s plan and how their suffering would make them, ‘better people’”. Forgive me Steve but this is really not as profound as you may think!!

    If I was at Auschwitz and in a queue to a gas chamber, I’d tell the child at the very least to run and to everyone to make a fight of it. As you see I’m not a pacifist. But if the child’s question to me was ‘why does God allow this?’ then I’d have to say in honesty I don’t fully know. But I do know that Auschwitz proves the evil of man to man, and of man to children. One day God will most certainly bring judgement and eternal justice to the Nazis and to all like them. Because God is righteous and is loving – and ultimately He will not be denied.

    Suffering does not make people better. Don’t know where Steve got that idea. But even in suffering (and sometimes especially in suffering) we can find a God who cares and a God who provides assurance. And that’s a wonderful thing, Steve, because suffering in greater or lesser degree will come to ALL in this world. Because it is a fallen, God-averse world. A world where people will do anything to avoid the cross at Golgotha – even bury themselves in religions!!! I’d suggest that what God wants, and what Jesus offers, is relationship rather than religion. I’d go for relationship any day.

    Its good to air these questions, though. Maybe that’s precisely the reason to give Alpha a try!

    Regards,

    Peter

    08 Jul 2009, 19:02

  49. eric fitzsimmons

    According to the Alpha people, only Christians can go to heaven – have I got that right?

    19 Jul 2009, 23:07

  50. Nick

    Why don’t people and “churches” get back to the message and meetings like the New Testament actually says?

    That’s all Jesus Christ wants and what God will work with.

    People should be made aware of what the New Covenant offers, either through personal chats or a meeting as detailed in 1 Corinthians 14.
    Those that want “in” should be baptised and call on God expecting to receive His Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4, 33, 39 etc). That’s the true “born again” experience, entering into the New Covenant.

    26 Jul 2009, 01:31

  51. Ellen Johns

    Ha…I’ve got to laugh because the choice of colour of the t-shirt I wear for our worship group is red…that aside, the Alpha courses (yes I’ve been on three) that I attended didn’t have a week-end away, they were held on a week-end day.
    I found this thread whilst googling ’’feelings after Alpha’’.
    I have been overwhelmed by what can only be described as feelings of compassion since doing my third Alpha.
    People have suggested I have depression…again!!! I have suffered on and off with it all my life…so I can differentiate between depression and feelings of compassion.

    It is not depression.
    The powerful feelings are of sadness for what has happened to our world…and the people in it.
    I am a trained nurse and have a very caring nature but this is ’’something else’’.

    I was googling to see if other people have had similar experiences.

    I have a much clearer sense of why I am here…and a greater patience with regards to waiting for unanswered questions, that one day will be answered by Him…I truly believe there will be a lot of ’’a-ha’’ moments.

    We are a society that seem to operate on a ’’need-to-know’’ basis.
    I will stick with what I do know.

    That Jesus died for all our sins and rose again on the third day.
    He is our salvation…
    The bible is The Word, the Truth…all the prophesies are coming into light, one after another…

    God is Love…

    28 Jul 2009, 23:32

  52. Ellen Johns

    Ha…I’ve got to laugh because the choice of colour of the t-shirt I wear for our worship group is red…that aside, the Alpha courses (yes I’ve been on three) that I attended didn’t have a week-end away, they were held on a week-end day.
    I found this thread whilst googling ’’feelings after Alpha’’.
    I have been overwhelmed by what can only be described as feelings of compassion since doing my third Alpha.
    People have suggested I have depression…again!!! I have suffered on and off with it all my life…so I can differentiate between depression and feelings of compassion.

    It is not depression.
    The powerful feelings are of sadness for what has happened to our world…and the people in it.
    I am a trained nurse and have a very caring nature but this is ’’something else’’.

    I was googling to see if other people have had similar experiences.

    I have a much clearer sense of why I am here…and a greater patience with regards to waiting for unanswered questions, that one day will be answered by Him…I truly believe there will be a lot of ’’a-ha’’ moments.

    We are a society that seem to operate on a ’’need-to-know’’ basis.
    I will stick with what I do know.

    That Jesus died for all our sins and rose again on the third day.
    He is our salvation…
    The bible is The Word, the Truth…all the prophesies are coming into light, one after another…

    God is Love…

    28 Jul 2009, 23:41

  53. JT

    I really like what post 40 (Tina Borra) had to say. I took Alpha as an agnostic. I was dating a Christian and we were fighting about faith. I don’t consider myself someone easily brainwashed. I have two post secondary degrees (so far) from reputable universities and am generally regarded by those who know me to be not only brainy but a strong critical thinker. When I agreed to take the course, it was only IF I got to pick the church. Boy X carted me off to a number of obviously charismatic churches offering courses, but these were not comfortable settings for me. I settled on a staid Anglican church, with scripturally based, formal liturgy and a tradition of reason. While the relationship did not survive the third week of the course, I believe I have found God through Alpha (and through books like Winner’s Girl Meets God, Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Chesterson’s Orthodoxy). In the midst of being broken-hearted, I began to experience a kind of peace and joy that really does pass understanding. What the course did was explain the foundations of the Christian faith – how all the pieces fit together. The deeper I enter into relationship with God the more richly I am rewarded. I now help out with Alpha at my church. The training encourages us to be non-pressuring and open-minded. We don’t plant anyone to manipulate things. Our church only introduces music worship at the weekend away and we try to be sensitive about it being unobtrusive and tame. This weekend is mostly about fellowship – about building relationships with people. It is up to God to convert, not me. We volunteer our time because the gift of grace has enriched our lives, because Christianity has given more meaning to my life than it had before, and I want to share that. I don’t believe people of other faiths are necessarily “going to hell” because the Bible teaches that God made every last one of us to be exactly who we are and wants so desperately to be in relationship with us, but I do believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that it is only through Him that we come to eternal life. (I’m aware there is a contradiction in this reasoning but I can’t get my mind around the strong evidence in every facet of the natural world that God’s creativity is expressed through diversity in all it’s forms.) I don’t personally speak in tongues but I do believe it is a valid manifestation of Spirit. I sometimes raise my arms or cry in worship … but I also participate in the wave at a baseball game and cry during movies or World Vision commercials. The optional reading materials from Nicky Gumbel and many of the people in my church argue that all sex outside of marriage is a sin (thus homosexual sex is …). I don’t feel that sexual sins are given any stronger weight than say gossiping or shop lifting or selfishness. Certainly, the only judge is God. If the biddies in the pews with beams in their eyes come digging at my speck (which is actually, really a beam in it’s own right), I can turn them off with scripture. You do the best you can and repent when you slip up. As someone unmarried, I am equally called to celibacy and find this way more freeing than when the boundaries were murky, when I had to rationalize my own morality and discover Boy C broke up with me because I slept with him too soon but Boy D broke up with me because Girl A was willing to put out before the first date but I wouldn’t until the fourth or something ridiculous. The rules are because God loves us and they only make sense in that context which is why they aren’t emphasized on Alpha. Ultimately all rules are distilled down to two: Love your God with all your mind and heart and strength and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself. Trying to live up to these two commandments makes me a better sister, a better daughter, a better employee, a better friend … Knowing I’m loved unconditionally gives me the resillience to go on trying no matter how spectacularly I slip up.

    31 Aug 2009, 06:24

  54. Paulo

    Dont judge God by Christians, Religion, Church, Alpha, Omega, the footsie, the price of
    eggs, whatever.
    Think to yourself (and that means yourself) what are you here for? Is it more than just existence on a day to day basis?
    Do you know what it’s ALL about? You cant possibly know for sure, none of us can, its an endless discussion and we should all embrace the fact we’ll never know for certain.
    Jesus supposedly walked this earth and claimed to be the Son of God and rose from the dead. That’s quite a claim!
    I’m no Christian, I’m no Atheist (labels really bore me) but what I am is a believer in exploring.
    It doesnt have to be Alpha, just ask Jesus to show himself and see what happens, make sure you’re sincere.
    Try it.
    I’m not selling anything, just ask this Jesus to lead the way, invite him into your life. You dont have to attend a fucking course, it’s simple as pie but not quite as simple as the X Factor.

    Oh, and show love, it helps X

    22 Oct 2009, 01:35

  55. Barbara de Souza

    I went to the Alpha Course many years ago. My reason for going was to find out whether this was a marketing ploy or would match up with the Holy Spirit Seminars run by the Roman Catholic Church.

    I agree that it has good marketing value. The dinner was an opportunity to meet people and a social time. The talks were good but I had heard it all before. Evenso I went along to the weekend.

    At the weekend I began to feel that there were many doubting Thomases. Many received the gift of tongues which is the sign of the release of the Holy Spirit who comes into a Christian’s body our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit) at infant Baptism. Fortunately nearly all of us had been raised in Christian homes so knew about Jesus or had attended Sunday School in childhood. But others were sceptical and left unhappy because they felt ignored. Did God our Father not give them the Heavenly language because they were not good enough? Why were some people slain by the Holy Spirit and lay on the floor while others were standing upright in awe?

    Well I was there as a participant but encouraged others that God has his timing. It is important not to doubt, to repent of sin and to be open to the Holy Spirit who is responsible for conversion and conversion is gradual. The idea is not to give up because He leads one very gently. For me it was two steps forward then two steps back followed by four steps forward and one step back until I became stronger in my faith. Jesus is now my best friend. I speak to him and he speaks to me although there are times I feel He ignores me. At this point I return to a fellowship where the Christians are strong in faith and encourage one to keep going.

    Faith comes from hearing and reading the Word of God as well as by belonging to a Church or Fellowship where there are continuous miracles, healings signs and wonders.

    With prayer for all who are seeking.

    Barbara

    06 Jan 2010, 17:11

  56. ross milner

    with regards to the last point important not to doubt, i was told growing up in a christian enviroment that each persons faith is different.some people accept things unquestioningly in faith and were happy to do so , but there are plenty of examples of great figures in history who constantly questioned and at times doubted and wrestled their faith,and nothing wrong with that either..Someone else in a point further back said they were led to belive that jews and non believers would not go to heaven on their alpha course.I can rember as a boy asking my minister (baptist church,but catholic influense on upbringing!)what happened to muslims as i had some good friends who were muslims and i was troubled by it.The awnser i was given was that most people in this world had never even heard of jesus and that it was a clear rejection of god and what was good was the most likely reason not to go to heaven .

    12 Sep 2010, 22:30

  57. mike

    With regard to Laura Laws’ comment above, the idea that Christians are hidden in the Alpha groups is crazy (well it might have happened in your church, but it’s not universal). Of course a church-run course is going to attract churchgoers. In addition I think the idea is that there should be people within each group to answer people’s questions. Thus it’s no conspiracy that there are Christians there to respond to people’s questions about Christianity. If they are hiding it, that’s crazy, but its certainly not a general Alpha Course craziness, it’s the craziness of the individual humans running a specific Alpha Course.

    02 Dec 2010, 00:31

  58. Festus

    I am a Christain researching for a review on Alpha & that is how I found this blog and comment. Interesting read. Pls may I comment that:

    People generally assume that Christianity means the same thing to all Christians. Not true!!!

    11 May 2011, 13:42

  59. Michelle

    I thought Alpha was amazing. Let’s face it, we would all like to think there is meaning to life, more meaning than an ape’s life. So we find out about Jesus – I also find it interesting that the calender we use is based on the life of Jesus – BC, in case you did not know this before means Before Christ. I also find it hard to believe that there is no meaning to life – we are the result of what – evolution? It takes much more faith to believe all the garbage they spin to us at school about the Big Bang Theory and Evolution than to believe there is and intelligent Designer and Creator behind it all – life and earth. I choose to believe what I learned at Alpha because it made so much more sense than all the rubbish taught to us at school and college. If our earth was just 1 degree more tilted than it is, or if our temperatures were not exactly what they are on this planet, what about the composition of this stuff we breathe – exactly right for sustaining human life, hey what about water giving your body exactly the fluid it needs and trees making exactly the air you need to keep alive, what about bees and every single plant and creature that plays its part to sustain the earth and life on it …... all of this by chance????
    I choose to believe in Jesus. It changes you once you have made this decision. When I read the first commentators comments on his experience at Alpha, I remembered how miserable and depressed people are when life has no meaning.
    Luckily there is freedom of choice. Let’s say I have chosen to believe and I am wrong – what do I have to lose. I am already happier here and now, knowing and believing there is a Creator who cares for me and I have an eternal destination called heaven.
    If he is wrong, what does he have to lose – he is already miserable here on earth and lets say he is wrong – I believe he will be even more miserable in the afterlife.
    Don’t be such a negative pessimist that you wont even allow yourself to explore the reality of Jesus!!

    28 Jul 2011, 17:34

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    17 Aug 2011, 07:19

  61. trade4target.com

    Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definately be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation

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    Thank You
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    19 Aug 2011, 06:32

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    19 Aug 2011, 07:00

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    20 Aug 2011, 06:37

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    20 Aug 2011, 07:30

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    10 Oct 2011, 14:29

  67. Phyllis Sutton

    Is there any new information about the Alpha Course? I have been hearing alot about it but I have not been able to find anyone I personally know who is involved with it. I have done some research on it and quite frankly it sounds a bit off to me. Was hoping to hear some actually accounts of someone who went thru it and found it to be either 1 helpful to them or 2 totally off the wall get me out of here type thing. Any response would be helpful. Thanks

    22 Feb 2012, 02:33

  68. Victoria Keeble

    If Alpha is all about Jesus, then it stands to reason that Jesus is what you should expect to find when you come along!! It’s not rocket science, as they say, and if you are searching, you will find. I am sure that all Alpha courses vary but what should be the same is PASSION as well as REASON. If you are not intellectually satisfied you are not going to fall in love, and falling in love is the desired result. So…if you want to know if Jesus is all he says he is, then your Alpha course should allow you to ask all the questions you like, but it should also provide you with satisfying answers. Of course, as Christians are not GOD then they cannot answer everything, but after listening to Bible based talks and hearing astonishing/moving/heart-felt tesimonies, Alpha should be a fantastic life changing experience – I know it is at our church (Newfrontiers).

    23 Sep 2012, 16:47

  69. Anon

    I just lost my girlfriend of two years to the Alpha course as she now believes me as a non believer to be going to hell.

    I’m actually quite a nice guy.

    19 Jun 2013, 17:17

  70. Just another Christian

    I just came across this post as I’m a Christian looking for alternatives to the Alpha course. I’m trying to find something that would introduce people to the basics of Christianity, but rather little less prescriptively than Gumbel. I’m trying to find a course that will communicates the breadth of Christian theology and sensitive to exploring different understandings of Scripture, church, soteriology, worship etc. I’m astounded that the course itself (or so I’ve read) hasn’t changed in content since its early success (maybe I’m wrong).

    Also, I wanted just to say to the anon man/woman that commented directly above me that I’m sorry that your girlfriend has left you and to note that many Christians would observe that Nicky Gumbel’s interpretation of the Christian faith is only his interpretation.

    26 Jun 2013, 00:05

  71. Nan

    The Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament is full of the activities that are covered in the Alpha course. Paul would ask as he went to a new town “Have you received the Holy Spirit ” and if the answer was “No” would lay hands on them and pray for them after which they would speak in other tongues as evidence that they had received. (Acts 19:1-7) Of course a person can refuse to receive what God wishes to give you to help you in your life. About prophecy and gatherings of believers and speaking in tongues Paul addresses this in 1Cor.14. In fact he says in verse18 “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.” Blessings as you read and think on these thoughts.

    20 Jul 2013, 16:25

  72. Max

    I’ve just attended the first meeting after a good friend invited me. I am an atheist and my good friend knows this. He says there is no pressure and any questions are welcomed. But I can’t see what the course would do for me or if any of my questions would be offensive.
    I was christened as a baby but became disillusioned with religion many years ago.
    I have searched for answers for years and have come to my own conclusions.
    The meaning of life? IMO there are several meanings to life
    1….. Love. Love oneself, love others. Be loved.
    2…....find lasting happiness…... I have
    3….... Alleviate suffering, to oneself and others. Materialism can lead to the worst unhappiness.
    4…...achieve everything in life you set out to do.
    5….... Repent for any sins/wrongdoings and mean it from your heart.
    Jesus/God. To me they don’t exist and are man created.
    There is an energy in the universe which is accessible to us all and there for us to call upon for help/ help for others and requesting whatever is wanted/needed.
    I believe that Jesus was created by the Greek community in Judea. Like other Gods in Greek mythology, such as Zeus had a son by an earthling virgin, there were others. I believe that when the invisible God was thought up ( by King Ackenatan of Egypt) the Greeks thought it right to create a son of this new invisible God.
    I do believe in fact know from paranormal experiences that we don’t die; we live on in another dimension.
    I also truly believe that there is no such place as hell. Hell is your own creation. Once you die and move to the otherside, you cannot now put right/repent for the wrong you did on earth and that is your hell for billions of years; as when we die, we revert to the pure/ good soul we were before birth.
    So, I don’t know how I will fare on the course and have a feeling I won’t stay the whole course but I don’t want to offend my good friend. There’s nothing truer than the saying….. Never discuss religion or politics in the company of friends as this will lead to animosity and the loss of good friends. I do wish that I hadn’t agreed to Alpha

    04 Oct 2013, 13:57

  73. van dyke taunie

    hello,

    i have taken the pains to read through most of the stuff here, and honestly, i find them very interesting. i am no proponent of the alpha course and honestly i still can’t grasp what it is all about.however, one problem i notice here is the insecurity of being robbed of your freedom of choice and to make decisions for oneself as to what one chooses to believe or not. most of the comments here seem to gravitate towards that notion. people want the freedom to do whatever, without any external influences. after all, that is what human rights is all about.
    i am a Christian, an ardent one too who believes in the redemptive work of Christ and MY access to it through faith and the point i want to make here is, there is nothing like freedom anywhere because whether you like it or not, you are a slave to whatever moves you to think or act in any kind of way. we are slaves to our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, you name it.
    i am not going to even try to hold brief for this alpha stuff but don’t be deceived by the idea that being a free-thinker is freedom. and certainly, power of choice doesn’t equate freedom. there is no freedom in this world.

    that aside, conversion to Christianity is solely the work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the unadulterated Word and not through some creepy discussions by some group. Christianity is for all but not all will be Christians and i understand that perfectly. even God himself is aware of that.
    if the motive of this alpha thing is realty discipling, then their methods of conversion i can honestly say is very dangerous. God’s Word compromises with no one. it is what it is and it calls for no truce. it gives no room for opinions. a person either accepts it or leaves it. people can term it brainwashing or whatever but as i said, it is what it is.
    i know i may receive lots of bashing but that’s what it is.

    20 Apr 2014, 20:08


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