"British Christianity's biggest success story" is what reporter Matthew Bell calls Anglican Minister Nicky Gumbel's Alpha Course, which has been attended by millions of people world wide.
The Alpha course is a remarkable phenomena, for a lot of reasons. Here is a link to his must read news report in England's "The Independent" that mentions all the big issues, such as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (one of Nicky Gumbel's best friends), gay marriage, and the problem of all the loss of innocent life and tragedy in the world. Plus a background sketch on Nickey Gumbel, a former lawyer, turned Anglican Minister (he hates the term evangelical), 30 years ago.
And according to this recent report in the Calgary Herald, perhaps up to 500 churches in Alberta, will be hosting Nicky Gumbel's Alpha Course this September.
The question comes up, why bother? Besides the epithet "It might be true", what difference does it make? Well, let me offer a blog type style personal opinion.
If you are not "born again" or regenerated, and you are doing alright, that's good. But the point is, you could be doing better.
You know the truism, that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Well the Christian truism is that, being "born again" or regenerated, helps you pursue happiness better.
It is my view or understanding, that something happens inside a person, when they believe the evidence that the Christ is God, and that He will teach them how best to pursue happiness. And we call the "something that happens inside", being "born again" or regenerated.
This is not at all the same as the "name it, claim it" "prosperity" "gospel" that says you will always have wealth and perfect health, which is ridiculous.
This is where, you trust God to teach you how to use your current means and health, to best pursue happiness, for yourself and others.
And this still permits that no Christian or denomination is constantly good or constantly bad and that the only constant are the high ideals and laws in the Biblical text.
As mentioned, my view about being "born again" or regeneration is my personal understanding and it is quite alright for anyone to be skeptical. As human beings we are very complex, aren't we? And you might say our language and consciousness marks us as spiritual beings, alive in an intelligent universe. Anyway, it is hard to reduce everything to mathematical equations. We can digitally calculate the quantity of negative charge on the electron, using an oil drop experiment, but nature doesn't digitally calculate anything, does it? Question everything.
In 1647 George Fox started "The Society of Friends", which later became called the Quakers.
I mention the above, because I think it is in this ongoing spirit of friendship, that the Alpha courses are being held in churches all over Alberta, in September.
The theme of the Alpha courses, is that everyone is welcome to show up, and in that spirit of friendship, question everything. Even if you think that Christians believe in the "flying spaghetti monster", you are more than welcome, to say your reasons in a spirit of friendship, and everyone will love you for it. Really, it just means, you care enough about the Christians in the room, to share with them your heart concerns, and are willing to teach them too.
Bell reports that the Alpha course is characterized as "informal, friendly and fun" and at the end of the interview quotes Pastor Gumbel as saying, "I personally feel very optimistic about the church, about the new Pope, about the new Archbishop. We are in a new season. There is so much interest. I've never experienced so many young people pouring into church."
P.S. One of the remarkable things about the Alpha course is that it is being taught by hundreds of Baptist churches today, when 200 years ago there used to be great enmity between the Baptist churches and the Anglican church, over the issue (and criminal charges) of "preaching without a license." I think what has so endeared the Baptist churches of today, to Nickey Gumbel's Anglican Alpha course, is that the lovable and brilliant Gumbel trusts the Bible and teaches that, the Bible can be trusted. And I think it would be great, if the kids in Catholic Public Schools, could take the Alpha course as part of their curriculum, and so share this common treasure of ecumenical broad mindedness and Christian evidence, with their Protestant cousins.