What has been the influence of the Alpha Course?

Sep 7, 2022 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

Andrew Atherstone’s latest book, Repackaging Christianity: Alpha and the Building of a Global Brand (Hodder & Stoughton), is newly published. I had the chance to ask him how, as a historian, he approached the project.

IP: Why do you think we need a history of the Alpha course?

AA: Alpha is a phenomenon! In the thirty years since its global launch in 1993, over 28 million people have attended the course worldwide, and its impact upon the Church of England has been enormous. Not only have many come to Christian faith through Alpha, but it has decisively shaped modern evangelistic strategies and theologies. Nicky Gumbel is a Christian leader of global significance and deserves to be studied alongside other major modern evangelists like Billy Graham and Luis Palau. Anyone who wants to understand Anglicanism today, or the relationship between charismatic renewal and contemporary culture, needs to engage seriously with Alpha and its impact.

Repackaging Christianity is published to coincide with Nicky Gumbel handing over the baton as vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), after 46 years connected with the congregation. It doubles as a history of the remarkable transformation of HTB since the 1960s, from Prayer Book evensong to charismatic powerhouse, now the centre of a rapidly growing church revitalization network. Next spring 2023 will be the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Gumbel’s most famous book, Questions of Life, and of the global launch of Alpha – so now is a very good moment to pause and reflect on Alpha’s expansion and significance.

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