It’s a bravo to Alpha from 164 Elim churches

What was it like taking part in Elim’s pioneering national Alpha course this summer?

Mark Greenwood is the man behind Elim’s National Alpha Online. He is thrilled as to how it went and is full of plans for the future.

Mark, who took part in Elim’s first-ever national Alpha? 
We had 164 churches of various sizes sign up – churches that had done Alpha before, churches that hadn’t, and churches that had done Alpha, but never online.

We had a whole mishmash from Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales and Guernsey. One church had never done anything like this before but they had 70 people sign up – guests as well as people from church.

How did the evenings work?
Every church had its own Zoom link. Their guests joined that first, then joined a live broadcast where I welcomed people.

We had pre-recorded 60-second testimonies from our Really Good News campaign in March, then I did a three-minute chat about something related to the Alpha film showing that evening.

After that, people went back to their local Zoom, watched the film, went into small group discussions and finished with a pre-recorded ending. Churches could flex parts locally to make it work best for them.

How has this course helped people in terms of faith?
First and foremost, it’s reached those who didn’t know Jesus. But secondly, it’s given focus to a lot of churches who didn’t have guests come along.

Their members had some incredible encounters with the Holy Spirit. Alpha is about the exploration of faith – it’s a great tool for helping and strengthening existing disciples as well as making new ones.

A good number of people came to Christ, people encountered the Holy Spirit and people were healed.

Why is Elim’s pioneering of a national Alpha course so important?
Elim’s big focus is advancing into a decade of mission. And there’s this feeling that because Alpha was part of our Really Good News campaign it was part of an intentional online mission where we weren’t just reacting to a pandemic but were on our front foot and advancing into our new decade of mission.

I think that’s why it really animated people.

How has it helped Elim overall?
It’s been a few decades since Elim has got behind mission together, and pioneering Alpha like this has galvanised and inspired us.

We had the prayer and evangelism departments working together, for example. We had a national prayer event running every night that Alpha was on, coordinated by Elim Prayer.

As well as uniting us, we saw answered prayer through this. The intercession team I joined a couple of times had been praying for neighbours and had seen some remarkable healings.

What’s coming next?
Alpha and the whole Really Good News campaign certainly ignited something. Now, we’re looking at how we can move that forward.

Alpha were tremendously supportive and we’ve just signed a partnership with them to work together again. The vision is that in the next three years we see every Elim church run Alpha at least once.

What do you hope will happen through that?
If every church that ran Alpha could see at least one person become a Jesus follower that’d be fantastic. But also, if every church that ran Alpha could start a small group – a collection of people who have done Alpha together – that would also be a big win.

A privilege to support in prayer

David & Susan Hanratty, Elim Engage Prayer team said:

What a privilege to lead 12 weeks of Zoom prayer for Alpha online. We had people of all ages join us from around the UK, about 50 in all, and right from the start, it was as if God ordained that we should pray together as a company of prophetic prayer warriors.

Each week we gathered to pray for Alpha, we asked the Holy Spirit to direct how we should pray, and he never let us down.

Eleven years ago, as we began to pioneer a new prayer ministry, the Lord dropped into our spirits a phrase ‘prophetic prayer leads to apostolic action’. In many ways, that’s what we experienced as we came together.

Now, we see a company of prophetic prayer warriors coming together to form a canopy of prayer for Elim, whether that be joining with Alpha, international missions, or covering the leadership of the Movement at strategic times to oil the way for the apostolic action to breakthrough. 

I can't wait to see Elim grow

Marie Aitken, Head of England – Alpha UK said:

When we first heard about Elim running a central course we were delighted both by the initiative and the potential.

It has not only impacted churches and participants but inspired a blueprint for how other denominations and networks can provide such a high-quality offering of Alpha, with central leadership and resources.

With so many Elim churches running Alpha, we were able to provide a bespoke training day and offer support in a way we can’t do with individual churches. That has inspired me as to how we use Elim as an example of how to engage whole denominations and networks in future.

I’m delighted that Alpha and Elim will work together to train and encourage churches to get up and running with Alpha so they can experience the impact this course has on their local communities and congregations.

I can’t wait to see Elim grow.

Comments from around the country

Rob Styles, newly retired pastor, Burton-upon-Trent Elim Church -
People have stayed in touch. We’d never done Alpha online before, but we had 27 people join us for the whole course, more than half of whom were new to the church.

Some came to faith who had never been inside the church doors. We also saw folk who had fallen away come back to Christ in a really big way.

God really touched one lady who joined us online from Dorset. She actually drove up from Dorset for my retirement service because of the impact Alpha had had on her.

We had people’s neighbours come to a place of faith. We had folk coming at it from a very academic point of view who have kept in touch and have been in church since.

At least four came to faith, while others are still on the journey. Thanks to Alpha, many people have been to our online services, and since lockdown eased we’ve had people in the church who have never been before.

People have stayed in touch and built-up real ongoing friendships. I’m still getting questions by email and helped a man choose a Bible only last week.

Sandra Schafferius, pastor, Dunfermline Elim 
I’d never done Alpha before but it was fantastic, especially because it was online.

We had people join us from seven locations around Scotland, including two single mums. That simply wouldn’t have been possible if the events had been in-person.

We tweaked the course to suit our group because we had people in their 60s joining via their phones. We did our own icebreakers and made sure everyone was able to join in the group discussions.

We sent out hot chocolate sachets and chocolate a couple of times – a tip I picked up on the Alpha training. I also typed out each week’s Scriptures for the non-Christians because they were unlikely to have Bibles or be able to find the Scriptures quickly.

I wasn’t sure how the Holy Spirit morning would work, but it was fantastic. God gave me a prophetic word for everybody in my group.

We had one lady who didn’t know anybody and was very quiet, but she stayed for the whole 12 weeks. She hasn’t made a faith decision yet, but this has been part of her journey and I know we’ve planted seeds in her life. She said something powerful happened to her on the Holy Spirit morning.

We plan to repeat Alpha in January because in the bad weather it’s likely to be the best time to get people along.

I want to encourage small churches not to be put off thinking you don’t have enough people to run Alpha – we’re a small church and it was just my husband and me at the kitchen table. We managed it.

The course provided an excellent and friendly opportunity to learn and share and to discuss views around a range of thought-provoking Christian topics. I benefited greatly throughout the course, most specifically around the concepts of the Holy Spirit and having faith, which will serve me well through the rest of my life.

Paddy Phillips
The main thing I enjoyed about Alpha was the ability to have fellowship with other believers.

My daughter invited me to attend because I’d recently come back to faith and had lots of questions. The course refreshed my faith and gave me a new perspective.

It was great that it was a mix of established Christians, and people who were new to faith, so I heard many different perspectives – that really helped me.

Listening to sermons online and attending Alpha helped me decide to come back to God and put me back where I need to be.

For me, participating in the Alpha Course was a complete A-Z guide of Christian life and faith. It was educational, so emotional and humbling.

Over the 12 weeks, I enjoyed the in-depth discussion and open fellowship. It was truly a joyous experience, filled by the love of God.

Nicky Gumbel and Mark Greenwood discuss Alpha Online

After running more than 90 in-person Alpha events, Nicky Gumbel shares 5 reasons why he believes UK Alpha Course Online is so successful.

First published in the October 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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