(the heart of this article is taken from the book, After Alpha, by Michael Green)
1. Personal encounter with Jesus – At its heart, Alpha is not about religion or doctrine, reading or theology, but encountering the living Christ! Alpha emphasizes knowing Jesus, being sure of it and having something to pass on to others. This has always been the heart of authentic Christianity and the heart of Methodism.
2. A Biblical foundation – Alpha helps Christians to become confident about God – to know where they stand with God. The Bible helps us to know God (not know all the answers – but to know God) and to know that our faith is built on a solid foundation. Too many Christians – too many Methodists – suffer from spiritual insecurity; yet, nothing could be farther from our Wesleyan roots.
3. Focus on process – Because Alpha takes place over a period of 12 weeks, including a retreat, people have time to process what they learning and experience. Since all the discussion takes place in a consistent small group, where relationships develop, guests experience the beauty of an accompanied journey of faith. Alpha models what continued discipleship should look and feel like.
4. Emphasis on personal development and growth – Alpha equips the new believer – and newly revitalized believer – in both motivation and know how. Talks on the Bible, prayer, healing, and guidance help nurture friendships with Jesus that will continue to deepen from the moment of conversion throughout all eternity!
5. Every member ministry – Alpha models that every Christian has a place to serve in the community of believers. On any given Alpha night, guests see many aspects of Christian ministry modeled such as working with the children (if your course offers child care), leading worship, hospitality, speaking, and leading small groups. The church’s senior minister might be washing dishes, leading a group or giving the talk. Alpha models that Christians delight in serving their Lord and one another.
6. Theme of Christian discipleship developed – the teachings on Alpha are clear that becoming a Christian comes at a cost. If our lives do not commend Christ, then no one will listen to what we have to say. Guests on Alpha often experience the Holy Spirit working in their lives to bring about behavioral changes even when no one is suggesting such things because each guest is covered in prayer before, during and after the course. Guests observe for themselves how the leaders and helpers and the whole team seem to be different in ways that are attractive to them.
7. Teaching about the Holy Spirit – Alpha is Trinitarian through and through and integrates evangelism with discipleship from the outset. The Person and work of the Holy Spirit is taught because the Holy Spirit is Who leads guests to Christ and Who helps them lead the Christian life they’ve just begun. We cannot become holy without the Holy Spirit helping Himself to our mind, body and spirit. On Alpha, God has “strangely warmed” many hearts!
8. Rolling program blurs lines between evangelism and discipleship – Done right, Alpha can help your church be the church. New people are constantly being reached for Christ, integrated into the body, equipped for ministry, raised up in leadership, and encouraged to tell their friends about Christ even while they are on their own discipleship journey. New believers progress from helping to leading, which helps them progress from being spectators in the life of the church to active disciples.