Tuesday, 29 April 2014

All Shapes and Sizes

People often have questions about the size of an Alpha Course. They will usually be concerned because they think theirs might be too small, as if small meant insignificant.
It is true that Alphas come in all sorts of sizes. Holy Trinity Brompton in London, England usually hosts up to 1200 guests on a typical Alpha. A large course here in Alberta might be a couple of hundred.

I have personally hosted groups up to about 60-70 guests, but I have also hosted much smaller. My smallest was in our home with two guests. One guest was already a Christian and the other became one during the course, so when I tell about this one, with a smile, I claim it to be my most successful Alpha, because 100% of my guests came to faith on that course.

Another point is this: in all my years of running Alpha's, I have found that God Himself seems to bring a balance. Somehow, no matter how uncertain things seemed; Will I have enough leaders? Will anyone come?... things always worked out. There always seemed to be just the right amount of leaders for the number of guests. I'm beginning another course this coming Monday (May 5 - at the Edmonton Christian High School, 14304 - 109 Ave, if you're close and know anyone :>). I have enough team members for 2 groups. We'll see if the Lord brings just enough guests (let's say 12). I'll let you know.(So much for the commercial message; now back to our regular programming.)
Alpha is perfect for a home group. Invite your neighbours to a barbecue; invite your friends from work. Run Alpha in your regular home Bible study and even invite new guests to that.

Alpha can, and has been effective in all sorts of sizes and venues; not only churches but homes, businesses, pubs, coffee shops, tattoo parlours, beauty salons, fitness clubs, even a motorcycle clubhouse.

Remember what Jesus said about 2 or 3 gathering together?


Monday, 28 April 2014

Three... No, Five Essentials of Alpha

Part of every training or informational presentation on Alpha is a review of what we call, "The Three Essentials" of every Alpha. They have traditionally been Food, Teaching and Discussion. And I specify each time, "Do not leave any of these out! If you do, it’s not Alpha!"

So, to review:

Every Alpha evening involves food. Some do a meal every time, but that takes a larger team and more commitment. Some do a full meal to introduce the course, then just dessert and coffee for the rest of the sessions. Connection happens over food: eating together is seen as a sign of friendship and it provides a non threatening start to the course. As people connect over the meal friendships are formed. Laughter breaks down barriers. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says,
 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  

Eating together was considered an important and intimate occasion in those days, and it's significance is still important today. I have heard of atheists who keep coming to Alpha just because of the food and the company. And at this time, we do our best to avoid any religious conversation.

Teaching: Alpha gives solid Biblical teaching on various Christian topics. It involves, Biblical teaching, humour, stories and examples from every day lives. 

Small group discussion – where guests are made to feel they can ask any question or express any opinion without embarrassment or condemnation. This is the chance for any Alpha guest to speak and our chance to listen! Listening tells people, “What you have to say matters to me.”  Maybe no one ever asks them what they think about things? In Jail Alpha, inmates would often say, “This is the first time anyone ever really asked me what I thought and listened to me.”
We need to be peacemakers. It’s difficult to argue someone into becoming a Christian… not likely in fact! 2Tim 2:23 says to avoid stupid arguments. We may state the Christian view on some subject, but never as a rebuke or a correction – rather as a point of discussion. And we NEVER criticize other Christians, Christian denominations or Christian organizations…it just isn’t helpful... or fruitful!
Remember St Peter:

 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
But now, the other two Essentials:
These are two that are essential to the effectiveness of any Alpha, but which we sometimes find are omitted. They are: the Day/Weekend away and Prayer on healing night.

The day or weekend away is important to the true success of any Alpha course. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity is an essential, yet sometimes ignored, part of our faith, and the opportunity to hear about, learn about and be filled with this Spirit is often the highlight of a person's entire time on an Alpha course. If there are aspects of the Holy spirit teaching that you or your church are not comfortable with, discuss them with your guests, but don't try to avoid the subject. I often tell people that trying to avoid this subject is like not telling your children about the facts of life, hoping they will never hear about them from anyone else.
And it is best to devote the time to the subject. Even if you cannot get away to a retreat centre, at least spend a Friday evening and a day-long session on Saturday at your usual venue, so that guests can take time to focus, to meditate, to consider this subject.

Likewise, don't neglect prayer following the session on healing. It may be that we are sometimes fearful that if we pray for healing, we will be embarrassed if God does not answer. Well, that's not an option for us. It's our job to pray; it's God's job how He answers. Often a guest will be blessed just by our offering to pray for them. So don't be timid about it. Just pray.
I actually experienced a healing myself on an Alpha healing evening. For years I had back problems - compressed discs. When they flared up I was unable to stand straight for days at a time. I had experienced the excruciating pain enough times to  know my back would eventually get better, but that it was a gradual process and I would need to endure the pain for several days. Well, one Alpha healing evening was one of those times. I was bent over practically double the whole evening (and I was the Alpha Course leader at the time). After Nicky's talk, I went forward for prayer for my back.  I was prayed for, but nothing seemed to happen, so I thanked those who prayed for me very much and carried about my business. I didn't really realize when it happened, but at some time later in the evening, I came to the realization that I was standing perfectly upright! It wasn't a conscious thing; I didn't make up my mind at some point that I was going to force myself to stand up straight (I couldn't have anyway if I'd tried). But suddenly, at some later point in the evening, there I was - standing straight! Now, that may not seem like much of a miracle (I've probably had back problems since, although none in a few years), but it certainly was not a completely natural occurrence.

So there you go - the Three Five Essentials of an effective Alpha. Don't leave any out. If you do, it's not Alpha!


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Alpha Philosophy in 4 Biblical Principles

I want to sum up a piece of what I see as our Alpha philosophy - our attitude toward every guest who attends an Alpha course. When we look on these guests, we should see them in the light of 4 Biblical themes:

Creation: God made man in His own image, so we must look at them in that light. We should see in them the same value that God does.

The Fall: All have fallen short. That includes us. I often think of 1 Corinthians 6:10-11
Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 
Now, it may be tempting for the self-righteous among us to stop there, feeling smug that we are not as other men, but let's see what comes next:
And that is what some of you were.
Yes, let us not forget that we were once in the same position as any of our guests, needing Christ.
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
None of us can claim to be any better than anyone else, just better than we used to be.
So we don’t lecture on lifestyles. We are not in the business of telling not-yet-Christians what sinners they are and how they must clean up their lives. That is not fruitful. It is the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is to introduce them to Jesus and let Jesus do the rest.

Redemption: We must see every guest as someone for whom Jesus died to give the possibility of eternal life. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, not just people who were already Christians. Not just people who were perfect already. If there were such people, they wouldn’t need Jesus, but of course we know there are no such people.

Glorification: Every person who puts their faith in Jesus will one day be with God forever. Any guest may be one with whom we will spend eternity. Let’s imagine them coming to faith in Christ. Let’s imagine them by the end of the course as a brother or sister.

I sometimes struggle to remember these points. They may even seem counter-intuitive. Something in us wants to solve problems. Something in us wants to correct others' errors. Something in us wants to show others we are right.

But these 4 Biblical attitudes have a great deal to do with why Alpha works, and has worked, so well for so long.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Alpha for ESOL Presentation

Calgary Alberta, April 26, 2014

With Wanda Ho, National Chinese Alpha Coordinator
Today was a whirlwind trip to Calgary for a conference sponsored by ESL Cooperative Ministries. I made the trip with Wanda Ho, our National Chinese Alpha Director, and Nora, a friend from Edmonton who is actually leading an ESOL Alpha (English for Speakers of Other Languages). This actually gives Nora more experience than me in this area, and her presence and input was invaluable in our presentation. Wanda actually gave the bulk of the presentation, with experiential input from Nora, while I merely gave a 15 minute overview of Alpha in general at the beginning. My main contribution for the day was as chauffer.
We left the Edmonton area at 5:30 AM, arriving at Southwood United Church by about 8 to set up, then the return trip leaving Calgary by about 4. I had made my calculations based on the fact that this was a Saturday. Had it been a weekday we probably would have had to add the better part of an hour for traffic. For those who may not know Calgary's Deerfoot Trail, it is the most Jekyll and Hyde of roads - a joy of a freeway to drive when there is no traffic, a nightmare at rush hour.
Our presentation was well received. Everyone in the room (about 35 for our breakout presentation) knew about Alpha to varying degrees, but all were enthusiastic to hear about our ESOL program.
We are very careful to represent this program for exactly what it is - a presentation of the Christian Faith to those whose first language is not English. We do not represent it as an ESL class, a class to teach English, although I believe some of the participants may take it for that purpose - to practise English language skills.
The course offers more flexibility than "regular" Alpha - always with a live speaker as opposed to videos - and giving the presenter the flexibility of using personal stories and presenting the material (from notes provided by Alpha) from his or her own personal perspective, as God's Spirit leads.
I won't get into too many more of the details of Alpha's ESOL program beyond saying that the entire thing is available from Alpha Canada, free for downloading upon registration of a course.
Suffice it to say I found the event quite enlightening. It opened my eyes to some of the challenges faced by new guests to Canada, whether workers, students or their spouses, whose needs are often ignored or just not known by us comfortable and established Canadians. It was good to see that there are people with hearts to reach out to these guests or new arrivals to Canada, to help them acclimatize, to make them feel welcome in a new and strange land, and offer them the message of the hope that we have in Christ.

Friday, 25 April 2014

West Yellowhead

I always found this interesting - the highest point on the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16) is not even yet in the mountains. It is at Obed, between Edson and Hinton. I lived in Edson for a number of years and found the town's history fascinating, especially the fact that back in the day, when there must have been a real case of railroad fever, two separate railways were racing to build west from Edmonton through the mountains, and neither one would give up. Eventually they both went bankrupt, so one became Canadian National and much of the other right-of-way became Highway 16. As you will read at the above link, the original railroad town was supposed to be Wolf Creek, and if you drive there today you can still see the blocks of streets laid out where the land speculators expected to plant a thriving town. All along that West Central railway line are former railroad towns, now mostly abandoned, but formerly with stations, stores, schools etc.
Alpha Stories:
There is an Alpha church named Carrot Creek Fellowship. They are located in Peers, Alberta but ran their Alpha in the Niton Junction community hall (got that straight?) As you can see at the link, the population of Niton Junction is 26. They had 27 at their Alpha. At their ending celebration evening, Pastor George Stone hoped that 1 or 2 people would stand up and give testimonies of how Alpha had impacted their lives. Eight came forward.
The following day I met with Alpha churches in Hinton. There, in a wonderful example of inter-church cooperation, one Alpha was run by the United, Lutheran and Catholic churches combined. Hinton Alliance runs a very successful Youth Film series (Frankly, I have heard of none that aren't), but this one had a bit of a spin. Most Youth Alphas I hear of involve church youth inviting their friends, and very successfully. In Hinton, I heard of a young girl from outside the church who loved the series so much she started inviting all her church friends who were not yet aware of it.
Driving back from Hinton, I stopped in at the Entwistle Community Church. They ran both adult and Youth Alphas and had a total of 5-8 baptisms last fall as a result; that's 1% or better of their population. Wouldn't it be nice if we could extend that percentage to, say, Metro Edmonton, with a population of a million. That would be 10,000 new believers!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Alpha and the Invitational Life

 One of the essential elements behind the Alpha plilosophy is invitation.

Life in the 21st Century
It sometimes doesn’t seem that easy being a Christian today. The cultural climate is similar in many ways to the challenges faced by the early church; not yet the persecution, but in the sense that they faced a world largely unsympathetic to their message and, as it’s becoming in our own time, unfamiliar with it. More and more people are growing up having no church experience. Early Christians were faced with challenges in the workplace (1 Peter 2:18); unbelieving family members (1 Peter 3:1;6) and insults for being a Christian (1 Peter 4:14).

 In many ways the church has once again found itself on the margins of society.  Often we might see this as a negative thing, because we are not familiar with a culture and society where the church is not central. It makes us uncomfortable.  However, let’s look at this new paradigm as one that is exciting and ripe with opportunity – to see the gospel in action and lived out! Let’s look at it as a challenge and an exciting opportunity.

The Challenge of Contemporary Pluralistic Culture:
The new buzzword is tolerance – not that all views are allowed, which is true tolerance, but that all philosophies are considered equally valid.
The challenge is that we find ourselves in a world where there are many competing ideas on how life should be lived and multiple viewpoints influencing our culture, all with a different message about what life is really about. The result is a world and a society that is left with a major identity crisis. God made us with a hunger, a desire, even a curiosity, if you like, for Him. Ecclesiastes tells us that God has put eternity in the human heart. St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for Yourself and our souls are restless until they find their rest in You.” G.K. Chesterton wrote, “If people turn away from believing in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe anything.” 

According to a new survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say astrology, the horoscope, is either “very scientific” or “sort of scientific.” The “new atheists” hope to draw us away from religion into what they see as a more rational society, but I believe, as society seems to be abandoning its Christian foundation, we seem to be heading toward nothing but goofiness. That and moral decay and relativism.
 So the question becomes:  How do we share the Gospel in a world where there are a variety of competing religions or worldviews and where many perceive Christianity as irrelevant, or at least no more valid than any other? If the challenges we face today are in many ways similar to the early church, there is great hope.  We can learn from the ways that the first Christians faced this diversity and challenges they encountered. The early church prospered when it was on the margins, so perhaps we can be expectant about what God is going to do through us if we are open to hear and obedient to follow. 
In Luke 14 Jesus tells the parable of the “Great Banquet”.

A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.  When he sent his servant out to call the guests, the servant found that they all made excuses.  The master was upset by this and sent out his servant again, but this time with the instruction to scour the streets and alleys of the town and gather the poor, crippled and blind.  The servant obeyed and reported that there was yet room for more.  The master then opened his doors even wider.  At first only a select few were invited, then the master called all those in the town; finally, he sent his servant down the roads and into the country.

The master instructs the servant to go and invite all the people to come, and to even “compel” them. He doesn’t invite people because He has needs, but He wants his room to be full. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish.  He wants everyone to have the opportunity to know him. The master did not just stop with his friends and family, he went to every corner of the land and every strata of society; the rich, the poor, the sinners, the outcasts.  ALL are invited to the Kingdom banquet, there are no exclusions.  But… we see that not all who were invited, accepted. But that was up to them. They excluded themselves, so to speak. All were invited.
What role can Alpha play in OUR living a Life of Invitation?
How can WE begin to live an invitational life?  How can we make inviting a lifestyle – a habit.
Remember when N
athanael was told about Jesus, he scoffed, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46 - a skeptical, confrontational question) Come and see,” said Philip. He didn’t feel forced to answer the question, and didn’t attack him with an argument – he  just answered, “Come and see.” And that is what we do on Alpha. We’re not preaching – we’re just saying, “Come and see.”
So, who might God be asking you to invite, to include in your inner circles, that you might not have thought of?  When Jesus commissioned the disciples to share the gospel and make disciples, he reminded them that they will not be alone. He will be with us to the end of the age.  He promised them that He would send the Holy Spirit to be our helper. God never intended us to carry on his mission on our own or in our own strength.  After Pentecost, the Church engaged in evangelism the likes of which we have not seen since.
Our work is simple – just inviting. It’s God’s job who comes. We need to invite everyone, - not to eliminate those we don’t think will come. That’s not up to us. We don’t pre-judge.
I constantly hear stories of the most unlikely guests, from the most unlikely backgrounds, coming to faith on Alpha. I spoke to one church who ran the 7-week Alpha with a group of single mothers. One guest came to 2 sessions because she couldn’t, for one reason or another, make it to all of them. She came to, ”Who is Jesus” and the last session of the course, and accepted Christ on that last session. Don’t decide ahead of time who will come and who won’t. That’s not up to us – that’s God’s business.

Remember - the servant in the parable was probably surprised at who the master was inviting.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Prairies to Badlands and Back Again

These were from my recent trip around Southern Alberta; specifically the transition from the flat-as-a-pool table farms to the badlands along the South Saskatchewan River and back to prairies as I travelled from Nanton to Medicine Hat.
My trip included holding lunch get-togethers for churches who ran Alpha in 2013 in Nanton, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. At Nanton I met with two churches from that town, as well as the Pastor of High River Baptist - a church, at the moment, without a building, as they lost theirs in last year's flooding.
When I arrived in Nanton I went to the local Subway restaurant, which is where I always get my food for these lunches. The lights were out. They had had a heavy wet snow that morning and the whole town was without power. As I sat waiting for them to make my platter of subs, another customer placed an order and when he tried to pay by credit card, was told, "We have no power so we can't process the card." It dawned on me that I would be in the same position. However, the manager just took my card info and told me he would process it later. I took my sandwiches and left. As I drove to Nanton Baptist, the thought came to me that I could not make my presentation on Alpha and the 2013 initiative because the church would have no power either. I prayed, "God, what am I going to do?"
I'm afraid I'm a bit dense, because as I drove along I noticed a gas station sign announcing in bright LED letters, the price of gas. Finally it sunk in that if they had power, so did everyone else. Sure enough, when I went back to Subway they had power, and so did the church when I got there, so was able to put on a meaningful presentation. What a coincidence that the power for the whole town came back on just when I needed it.

The next stop was Medicine Hat for a similar lunch the next day at Hillcrest Church. I had time before picking up lunch, so I popped in to Heights Baptist and met the pastor. While we visited, he mentioned that the city's Ministerial was meeting at 1:30 that day and would I like to attend the meeting. Another amazing, "coincidence:" Not only did I meet just a couple of churches for lunch, I was able to meet and promote Alpha to another 15 or so that afternoon!
Lethbridge was a small gathering, but a very wonderful and, I think, worthwhile time. I met with City Light Church, whose Pastor, Doug, told me are going through a bit of a transition time, and Victory Christian Centre, who have as many as 400 new conversions a year and run Alpha more as a discipleship program than an outreach. I told him that with that many new Christians a year they should be running Alpha constantly.

This week (tomorrow) I am heading down the West Yellowhead Highway 16 to visit churches in Edson on Wednesday, Hinton on Thursday and back to Entwistle Thursday afternoon. I'd appreciate prayer for these travels and these meetings, That God's Kingdom would be exalted and His name glorified, now and forever.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

An Introduction to Alpha

Here is the introductory talk for the latest Alpha Film Series, "Is There More to Life Than This?" This talk's title in the original Classic Alpha was, "Christianity; Boring, Untrue, Irrelevant?"

I hope you enjoy it, then go find yourself an Alpha.



Alberta 2013 Alpha Initiative

Alberta2013 was originally the vision of Pastor Gary Taitinger of Millwoods Assembly in Edmonton Alberta. Here is his explanation of his vision.

So, it was not originally an Alpha Canada initiative, but when we caught wind of it, we joined in enthusiastically. A team consisting of myself, Gary, Shaila Visser, Alplha Canada's National Director and Charlie Loshbough of Millwoods travelled the Province, selling the idea and encouraging churches in every corner of the Province to participate.
The goal was to evangelize 30,000 Albertans with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that was actually met and even slightly exceeded, so the program was a great success. I will post numbers as soon as they are released officially.
My challenge in 2014 is to visit each and every one of the churches who ran Alpha in 2013, to gain feedback and to encourage them to maintain the momentum in 2014.

My Personal Faith Story

I was born in 1945, a month or so after WW2 ended in Europe and a couple of months before the atomic bomb was dropped in anger for the first time in history.

My maternal grandfather (he died before I was born) had been a Methodist minister in Southern Ontario until 1925, when his denomination became part of the United Church of Canada. My mother, then, was a loyal churchgoer and I grew up going to Fifty United Church in Winona Ontario, every Sunday until I was about 20. It really meant very little to me at the time, other than the fact that all my friends were there. So, when I left home, I also left the church.

For the next twenty-five years I focused on the usual young-adult pursuits. I got married (1968), had a couple of kids (girls) and worked to be successful in my career. By the time I was 45 I had most things that a man of my age could want. We had moved to Alberta and owned a successful business, a nice house, a couple of nice cars. There seemed to be nothing lacking in my life.

I can still remember the phone call. The woman on the other end of the line said they were opening a new church in our neighbourhood (St Albert, Alberta) and would I be interested in receiving some information? For some reason, without really thinking, I said, “OK.”

It turned out to be a church plant of Crestwood, a PCA church in Edmonton. We went as a family to their opening service, in a local elementary school lunchroom. It was not at all like what I remembered as church. Whereas church for me had always involved thundering organ music, this one had a guitarist and keyboard. Instead of all old hymns, these people mixed in more modern choruses as well. For some reason, even though it was all new and different to me, I had a strange sense of “coming home.” We began to attend every Sunday.

The pastor started a Bible study on the book of James, and I joined it. The worship leader, Andy, and his wife Michelle wanted to start another Bible Study and I volunteered our house, because they lived in Edmonton. Gradually, for one reason or another, attendance dwindled down to just them and me, but they kept on coming faithfully, every week. I look back now and consider them my spiritual mentors for their faithfulness.

It was on a business trip through British Columbia one weekend in the spring of 1991 when God basically just stepped in front of me. Over the course of three or four days, He revealed Himself to me in such a sequence of events that I had no choice but to acknowledge Him as Lord of my life.

I will not list every specific event here, because I have learned from hearing the testimonies of others and giving my own, that many of the details of someone’s conversion experience are often truly meaningful only to the individual involved. But here is an outline:

In Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, through a particular set of circumstances, God stepped in front of me in so literal a way that it was like walking into an invisible wall. At that point, I knew something had happened. It was almost as if a door had been closed behind me. I knew at that moment that God was real.

A couple of days later, in a motel in Kelowna, I decided that instead of going down to the bar for a drink, I would stay in my room and read the Bible. I read all the way through the book of Acts and started on Romans. Somewhere between chapters 3 and 5 of Romans my eyes were opened. I paused at Romans 3:21-22 and read them over and over again,
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…
I remember thinking, “I’ve never heard this before – it’s all new.” Now, I’m sure I didn’t go to church for twenty years without it at least having been read in my hearing. But I was truly “hearing” it for the first time in my life.

The next day, in Salmon Arm, BC, God’s intervention continued and finally, alone in my motel room, I had no choice but to fall back onto the bed, tears flowing, raise my hands to Him and surrender my life to Him in gratitude for what He had done for me through Jesus Christ.

That was years ago. There are a few things I like to emphasize regarding my story. The first is that I was basically a pretty good guy. I was not saved out of a life of drugs or alcohol or promiscuity. I was the same as any number of people out there who probably think they are pretty good people as well. But I needed a saviour as much as anybody. God is perfect; we are not. No one measures up to His standards. So we need an advocate, a surrogate who does. That one is Jesus Christ. Only through faith in him, admitting we don't measure up to God's requirements and surrendering our lives to Him can we stand before Him and be 'covered,' so to speak, by his perfection and righteousness.

The next couple of points I mention for all Christian parents who are worried about their children falling away from the faith. They are these: first, keep taking them to church. Especially through their teen years. Even if they give you a hard time about it and even if they don't seem to be getting anything out of it. I am convinced that there is a process of "osmosis" that takes place, even if they don't seem to be paying any attention. The Bible tells us that God's word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55: 10,11), but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it.

Second, keep praying for them. My mother knelt by her bed every night and prayed for her children. For the whole twenty-five years between my church experiences she would ask me if I was going to church, practically every time she saw me. I know many Christian parents whose own children seem to have walked away, who are fearful and saddened by their children’s unbelief, and pray fervently that God would intervene in their lives and bring them to faith. Well, I was 45 before I came to a true faith in Jesus Christ. How faithful my mother was, how patient, and, I like to think, how trusting in her Heavenly Father, that His will would be done in my life.

And how much more patient was God Himself with me, all those years, waiting for the right time to reel me in.

Take Care


Welcome to my Alpha diary. Let me introduce myself.

My name is John Kivell. I am the Regional Director for the Province of Alberta, Canada, for Alpha Ministries Canada. This, since 2011, is my, "retirement" career, although I have been active with Alpha for over 20 years.

Alpha has been variously billed as a practical and non-threatening introduction to the Christian faith, a venue encouraging one to, "question everything," an opportunity to come and investigate life's big questions and an opportunity to explore the meaning of life. It originated in Holy Trinity Brompton, a church in London England, and was developed (although not originated) to it's current world-wide status by Nicky Gumbel.

My first experience with Alpha was in the early '90's, when a member of a home Bible study group mentioned it. At that time, it wasn't even on VHS video tapes. My home church was St Paul's Anglican in Edmonton. The Pastor, Michael, had family in Britain and they had sent him the Alpha Course on audio tapes. This was about three years before Alpha Canada was established, in 1994.

I began attending Alpha as a guest, and, according to the Alpha pattern, I became a helper, then a group leader and finally our church Alpha coordinator on subsequent courses. I also ran Alpha in the Fort Saskatchewan Provincial jail for about 3 years. I like to point out that I was a presenter, not a guest, during this time. Over the years I have seen many lives transformed by the relationship found with God through Jesus Christ.

I came to faith rather late in life, so I have intimate knowledge of, "both sides of the fence," so to speak, and knowing the life I have now through Christ, I would never want to go back to the one I had before him. My passion now is to help as many others as I can discover that same new life in Christ, and Alpha is the most effective way I have found to do just that.

My hope for this blog is that it will be a place where I can post my various thoughts and activities in regards to Alpha, for the benefit, even encouragement, of any interested.