Alpha– although not originally designed as an approach to church planting– is particularly well suited to that role. (If you’re not familiar with Alpha, you can find out more here.) It’s a relational, postmodern process geared toward people who don’t yet know Jesus: dinner, presentations, questions, conversations. What better way to start a church?
Consider these qualities:
- people need time to process and a low-pressure environment
- people need the freedom and safety to ask questions– and an intentional environment in which to ask them
- people need a relational process rather than a (purely) intellectual one
- people need information too, but they need it presented a little at a time in bite-sized chunks
- people need both believers and unbelievers around them to dialogue with
- people want to be engaged with on their territory– this may mean Alpha meeting in non-churchy places or even homes.
- people need to be in authentic relationship with Christians– they need someone along the way with them
The things a church planter most needs to accomplish are practically built into the structure of Alpha. Alpha provides a structure that puts the emphasis on conversations and on relationships. The meal portion and the discussion portion of the Alpha gathering are essential for this reason. There is both formal conversation– the discussion– and informal conversation– chatting around the dinner table. In this way, relationships are built. People are growing in their understanding of the gospel in a 21st century kind of way– by engaging with it, dialoguing about it and experiencing it with others.
Essentially, at the end of one round of Alpha, a new church could be started, and new rounds of Alpha could be used as the means of continuing to multiply the church through growth from the harvest. Imagine the possibilities of such a system. It could continue growing and multiplying indefinitely, raising up new believers with each round and placing them into networks of relationships that will help them continue to grow. Essentially, Alpha provides step one for planting the seeds of a new church. How you choose to grow it from there is up to you.