Home Headlines New U.S. director for Alpha course describes ministry’s rapid growth

New U.S. director for Alpha course describes ministry’s rapid growth

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PORTLAND —  Even though the Alpha course began in “secular, post-Christian” Europe, it has become a global phenomenon in drawing people to Christ, Alpha’s new U.S. national director said at a Portland promotional dinner last month.

“I’ve never seen anything that multiplies more effectively,” said Craig Springer at the Dec. 7 event at Greater Portland Bible Church.

And as Kirk Petersen, the program’s Northwest regional director, noted at the start of the event, churches are thus a naturalpartner with Alpha. “Alpha fits into the flow of ministry and life in the church,” Petersen said.

Designed for people with little to no background in Christianity, Alpha introduces the basics of the Christian faith through a series of talks and discussions. Alpha courses are run in churches, homes, workplaces, prisons, universities and a wide variety of other locations. The course began in Britain in 1977.

Worldwide, 24 million people have taken Alpha. Springer said 315,000 people in the U.S. took the course last year alone — 20,000 of them in prisons.  He estimates that U.S. totals could reach 500,000 annually by 2020.

As proof of its effectiveness, Springer said researcher George Barna found that 82 percent of those who go through Alpha claim faith in Christ by the conclusion of the course.

Springer said Alpha proved to be of great benefit for one of the nation’s largest churches, Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, which found that its traditional outreaches were becoming less effective evangelistically.  He said the church recognized that it needed a tool to better reach people in the “post-Christian context” of today’s society.  “They realized, in their culture, that they needed to create a space for people to ask questions,” said Springer.

He said Willow Creek’s outreach has been revitalized through Alpha. “It doesn’t just change people’s lives, it changes an entire church,” he said.

Also sharing at the dinner their own testimonies of finding faith through Alpha were Portland-area businessman Nick Shivers of Southlake Church, Christian Downs of Union Gospel Mission and Gabi Alvarado.

For more on Alpha programs in this area, go to alphausa.org/portland