Thursday, 12 April 2012

So True

I was discussing Alpha courses in general with our Associate Pastor. Specifically, I was thinking about our current coffee shop course where, in my small group I have a few "not-yet-believers," as I like to say. I mentioned that this was the type of group I like to have, with some real skeptics aboard, and that some Alpha courses just have too many Christians on them.
"Those darned Christians," I said, tongue in cheek of course, "...you just can't get away from them in some churches!"
Pastor Lori replied, not so tongue in cheek, "And in some churches you can't even find them."

Take Care

My Easter Newsletter

The Lord is Risen
Easter, 2012
How do we Know?

 
How do we know that Jesus is alive today? Aside from the irrefutable historical evidence, we know by the fact that he is still changing lives by his Spirit. Story after story is written in Alpha courses around the Province and across the country.

Resurgence of Alpha.
Many churches are rediscovering Alpha. I have spoken to many that either used to run Alpha, and now wish to get back into it, or where it has waned to a point where those in charge now hope to see it revived. Alpha is being remembered as a program where wonderful things have happened. It’s amazing just how many churches I call on where the response is something like, “We have done Alpha in the past. It’s a wonderful program.” To which the obvious response is, "Well...?" As well, many courses are being run, “under the radar,” so to speak, in small home groups not officially registered.

It’s not your grandfather’s Alpha.
One such church who ran its first Alpha after a hiatus of several years recently baptized two members of its current course. Both were young people, a young man in his teens, and a 22-year-old woman. Her testimony was especially powerful. In it, she describes how Nicky (Gumbel) makes Christianity so easy to understand. I was told there might be a third person, but, “…there are still some issues to be worked through. I found this encouraging, because it indicates that the two baptized were genuine conversions. (Sometimes, one might be tempted to think baptisms are counted like notches on a belt, but this caution indicates to me a true spirit of discernment on the part of the church leadership.) They are beginning another course immediately. But the main thing is that youth are the future of the Church, and Alpha, run well, is as relevant as ever, and relevant to all ages.

Alpha and Kingdom Growth.
Alpha is being run in growing, vibrant churches; churches, for instance, who have 700 young people at a weekly evening service; churches who have had to expand to accommodate growing congregations. It is being run in venues such as coffee shops, fitness clubs, university campuses and seniors homes where guests who might never come to a church setting can be introduced to Jesus.

Now, to be clear, Alpha is not primarily an individual church-growing program. It is a Kingdom building tool. But church growth is a natural outcome; a practically inevitable consequence.

And I’m not saying that Alpha is responsible for the growth of these churches. There are many other factors as well, of course, but their enthusiasm for Alpha may just be a sign of the attitude of outreach that has led naturally to such growth.

And Finally
My prayer for everyone is that you rejoice in your knowledge of the resurrected, glorified and living Saviour, Jesus Christ, and that we all be open to the prompting of God to see His will be done here on earth. May we be obedient to however He wishes to use us, His fellow workers, in our whatever respective corners of this world He has placed us.

Blessings to all, The Lord is risen indeed,
In Christ,
John Kivell
Associate Regional Director, Alberta,
Alpha Ministries Canada

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pearls Before Swine

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces..." (Matthew 7:6)
From Dietrich Bonhoeffer...
The world upon whom grace is thrust as a bargain will grow tired of it, and it will not only trample upon the Holy, but will also tear apart those who force it on them. For its own sake, for the sake of the sinner, and for the sake of the community, the Holy is to be protected from cheap surrender. The Gospel is protected by the preaching of repentance which calls sin sin and declares the sinner guilty.
The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance.
Ane yet this is the point that many churches today, in their quest to be 'relevant', miss completely.

In my travels, I see many shrinking churches. There are a couple of main reasons, in my opinion. One, and perhaps the saddest, is the problem of aging congregations seeking to cling despately to their old ways, mainly in the area of music. The hair in these congregations is mostly gray, and the music is mostly dismal. I am talking style here, not content. Many of the old hymns are wonderful, theologically, and can be just as relevant and attractive today, even to young people, if played in a more current style with more contemporary instrumentation. It may be my own personal bias, but I think that any church today that wants not only to survive, but to flourish and grow, should be adding guitars and drums, and introducing contemporary worship songs to their music mix.

But the second main reason is the one addressed in the Bonhoeffer quote above. Anyone attracted to a church through such compromising tactics; the excusing of sin in the name of modernity, will probably not last. But if they do, they will probably pull such a church further away from the truth and further down the broad road that leads to destruction. It is happening before our very eyes.

But sadly, those who most need to hear such a message will probably be the least likely to heed it.

Take Care