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ALPHA INDIA NEWS
October - December 2009
The quarterly newsletter of Alpha India
A Taste of Alpha
Bangalore pastors experience Alpha first-hand
Zion Worship Centre in Bangalore recently began its fifth season of the Alpha course, which the church has run back to back on Sunday evenings since the beginning of 2008. 50 people came to faith during the first four courses, and the latest Alpha course had 62 new people at the introduction night.
This introduction night was also attended by 60 pastors from churches across Bangalore city, who were invited to take part in the dinner and fellowship time and a seperate meeting called ‘A Taste of Alpha’. Their meeting was housed in a tent outside the home-church. “One senior pastor, when he saw the number of new guests, told me he was perplexed as to how there could be so many,” says Pastor Jerald, who leads the church of 130. “Another told me afterwards that he didn’t sleep that whole night because he was thinking about how he could do this thing too.”
Catholic courses “God’s Two starting in India Hands” by Revd and Sri Lanka Graham Tomlin
“Yet another pastor asked how I was able to get 62 guests, and I just told him that I had encouraged the church to bring them. I couldn’t have carried this burden alone, so I imparted the vision to the church members.” This is an exciting time for Pastor Jerald and the church. Yet the fruit they have seen over the past two years is significantly tied to the consistent missional focus of the church: Planted seven years ago with just a few newlybaptised members, Zion was soon supporting a local evangelist to visit house to house in the community, and eventually began support of a number of missionaries in different parts of India. Much support has been generated despite the low incomes of many of the church members. The church has also recognised prayer as key to all that it does. Zion Worship Centre has different people praying every night from 10pm to 6am (continued inside)
Alpha’s DNA: 7 Alpha Course International key factors for a follow-up: A Life Prayer focus: successful course Worth Living Indonesia
God’s Two Hands
By Revd Graham Tomlin God’s ways are hard to understand. He certainly seems pretty arbitrary at times. He gives us things then he takes them away. What he gives with his right hand he takes away with his left. It can seem random and certainly not the way we would have done it if we were God. The basic reality we soon learn in the Christian life is that God does not let us always get our own way. In fact he seldom does. We experience all kinds of limitations on us – other people get in the way, treat us badly, make decisions which affect us adversely. We make mistakes, accidents happen, we get sick, lose friends, waste money. The world and life do not work out the way we would have planned. But all this is in God’s wisdom, necessary for us. When we get all we want, when life goes smoothly, money is good, friends are all around, life is comfortable, easy and predictable, we have status, recognition and success, all these have a habit of crowding out the quiet persistent voice that tells us that we are not to live by bread alone. We are such creatures that it is usually only when these things are taken away from us that we are able to hear that voice again. It is important for us to recognise that we are not self-sufficient, that we have our limits. To want to have no limit, to want everything to work out the way we want, to fulfil our own desires all the time, in is fact to submit to the temptation of Adam, to want to be like God. We are not God in that sense, and we need to learn that lesson. More than that though, to have everything the way we wanted it would be to confirm us in our own present moral condition. When we get what we want, we don’t tend to grow or change. If it is true that we have a long way to go, then we need to be changed into people who know the true value of things, who love God above everything else, which is the only way to true happiness. We are as Diogenes Allen says, ‘spiritual animals’ – unique beings in the universe who have bodies yet who are also spiritual in nature. We live in the constant tension between needing and taking delight in the good things of this life, and yet needing more than these things. Our lives go through seasons – times when we are given glory, pleasures, delights and fun. At other times those are taken from us and we feel only their absence. We are to receive both from the hands of God. Luther speaks of God’s hidden will, his ‘strange’ and his ‘proper’ work in us. Luther reminds us that he so often deals with us
through the very things we would run from – suffering, loss, shame, failure. But he only does this to give us something better than the good things God gives us in this world – comfort, friendship, wealth, and the rest. So when things do not go the way we plan, when we make choices we regret as soon as we have made them, when things or people are taken from us that we thought we could not do without, in a mysterious and trusting way we receive these experiences as coming from the hand of God, as his means of bringing about his will for us, which is that we are transformed into the image of Christ, loving God above all things, joining in the mutual love of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Because it is only in that way that God’s two hands come together. We might think that because we are to learn to love God above all else that ‘non-spiritual’ things like good food, friendship and status are bad things and to be avoided. On the other hand we might love and be attached to those things so much that we think they will truly satisfy (although it takes a severe lack of imagination and lack of desire to think that). Ultimately, only those who have learnt to love God above all else can truly enjoy the good things of life rightly and properly. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” So don’t be surprised when things don’t work out the way you planned, or God takes away something you dearly wanted or thought you needed. He’s only doing it to make you into someone capable of true happiness.
The Revd Graham Tomlin is Dean of Saint Mellitus College in London and Principal of St Paul’s Theological College. His work is closely associated with the Alpha course, and he is currently developing a new resource on the Theology of Alpha, to be released next year.
You can listen to Graham Tomlin and other theologians talking about key issues of theology by visiting the SPTC website:
http://sptc.htb.org.uk Just click the Godpod link to listen to recent podcasts covering the topics including the Church, the Bible, ecology, salvation, prayer and ethics.
National Alpha Office contact details: Alpha India 219, 5th A Main Road, Kalyan Nagar, HRBR 2nd Block, Bangalore - 560 043 Tel: 080 2542 0902 IDD: +91 80 2542 0902 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.alphaindia.org
Patron: The honorable Shri S. C. Jamir, Governor of Maharashtra National Director: Mr J Varadaraj Board Members: Scott Norling (Chairman) Chris Sadler (Alpha Asia Pacific Chairman) J Varadaraj (National Director) Dr A. F. Pinto (CEO of St. Xavier Group of Schools and Ryan International Schools) Gul Kripalani (Managing Director of Pijikay) Dr H. T. Sangliana (Former Police Chief of Bangalore) Fr. Anthony D’Souza S.J. (Director of the Xavier Institute of Leadership) Amrit Kunder (Builder/Developer) Noel Swaranjit Sen (Former Police Chief of Andhra Pradesh) T. David Raj (Joyce Meyer Ministries, India)
State Coordinators Contact details: Andhra Pradesh: Susheel K Chattar Mob: 098660-99184 Andhra Pradesh - Vizag: Paul J L Mob: 094408-61979 Assam and Meghalaya: Ranjit De Mob: 094347-59794 Bihar: George Muller Mob: 094310-16124 Gujarat: D Jimmy Harshkant Mob: 098254-44197
Upcoming Global Alpha Trainings (GATs) Ahmedabad, Gujarat: 27 - 30 October 2009 Warrangal, Andhra Pradesh: 25 - 28 November 2009 Gopalpur, Orissa: 11 - 15 January 2010
GATs are four-day training events for Alpha, run by experienced partner churches from overseas. 22 Global Alpha Training events have been scheduled across India in 2009. Please call the National Office for more details on the upcoming events.
Have an Alpha story to tell? We would love to hear about how Alpha has helped you, your church and your friends! Please write to us or email us at alphaindiaoffice@ gmail.com Please also tell us how we can improve the information in our newsletter so that we can serve you better with future editions.
Join the Alpha Global Prayer Network The Alpha Global Prayer Network email newsletter is sent out quarterly with prayer points from Alpha offices worldwide. You can join the mailing list today by emailing email@example.com and you can also view the current prayer points at www.alphafriends.org/prayer
Read this newsletter on the web
Himachal Pradesh: Rupak K Nayak Mob: 093189-02997
Newsletters, videos and photo-slideshows are now being regularly added to the Alpha India website:
Karnataka: John Roy Mob: 099161-11225
Kerala: Mon C George Mob: 094464-83577 Maharashtra - Mumbai: Bhanu & Sheena P Raju Mob: 093719-12887 Orissa: Tushar K Behera Mob: 093371-41600 Tamil Nadu - Coimbatore: Ravi Kumar Uttar Pradesh: Vinay P Dayal Mob: 093594-86843 West Bengal: Dilip and Kakali Debnath Mob: 098742-07760 West Bengal - Kolkata: Prabir Mondal
April 2010: Kuching Alpha Conference With Nicky Gumbel, Tim Hughes and Jamie Haith
ALPHA CONFERENCE KUCHING // 2010
The 2010 Alpha Conference in Kuching, Malaysia is a key opportunity for all churches and individuals wanting to reach their local communities, friends and families with the Good News of Jesus Christ. This 2-day conference will provide you and your team with the tools and skills necessary to run effective Alpha courses in churches, parishes, workplaces, youth groups, schools, campuses, National Service camps, seniors’ groups and prisons. Full details available at www.alphafriends.org.my
© Alpha India 2009 Edited and published by J.V Raj for Alpha India
Alpha running in a Catholic Parish
after Nicky Gumbel meets with leaders in Mumbai Earlier this year Nicky Gumbel traveled to Mumbai to introduce the Alpha course to the city’s Catholic leaders.Though the meeting was small, it inspired leaders such as Bishop Agnelo Gracias, the Auxillery Bishop of Bombay, and Father Pravin Fernandes, who works within the Archdiocese. An Alpha course has now started in Father Pravin’s parish, and he is planning more courses once the first round is completed.
“At the invitation of Bishop Agnelo Gracias I took the initiative and was able to get 56 people to join.They are enjoying the course and getting to know, love and serve the Lord Jesus. We are going to pray for the infilling of the Holy Spirit on Sunday and then as the Scriptures say, anything is possible. “I hope to continue this ministry and God willing will start another group at the conclusion of this one. I also feel enthused to take this programme to other parts of India and (I am probably dreaming) to other parts of Asia.”
New Adviser for Catholic work: Matthew Anthony Matthew Anthony is the Secretary to the Commission for Evangelisation in the Diocese of Delhi, and is a key adviser for Catholic Alpha work in North India. Mr. Anthony’s key responsibility as Secretary is the promotion of evangelisation activities within and outside the Catholic Church. He is encouraging a number of different programs for evangelisation, including the Alpha course which that Diocese has specifically endorsed. Mr. Anthony conducts training on a church by church basis and is available to assist parishes and churches wanting to begin Alpha courses. He can be contacted through the Alpha India National Office or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Father Pravin: “As I look back on the recent events and the splendid progress of the first Alpha course in my parish, I feel convinced that our meeting at the Birla Hall with Nicky Gumbel and the entire Catholic Outreach team was providential.
[Father Pravin Fernandes with Nicky Gumbel in Mumbai]
“This is a sign of great hope for the church and humankind. That is what I see in Alpha. Thank you, Nicky. Thanks to all those who are associated with this work. May God make Alpha really fruitful in bringing about a new world.” Archbishop Vincent Concessao of New Delhi, speaking at the Alpha International Week
Regional update: Courses begin in Sri Lankan Diocese The Catholic Outreach team from Malaysia traveled to Sri Lanka in late August to introduce Alpha to the Catholic Diocese of Kandy. The trip was made at the invitation of Bishop Joseph Vianney of Kandy, who is also the current President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Sri Lanka. A three day Pilot run of the Alpha course was conducted, which covered all 15 talks and gave the priests firsthand experience of the discussion group format. Alpha training was also conducted during the Pilot programme. Three English-speaking parishes within the diocese have now started Alpha courses, and translation work is being initiated for the local languages. In his opening address, Bishop Vianney reminded the priests of the first disciples that were sent out by Jesus. “If the disciples were concerned about the problems they would be facing, we would not be here today. If we have problems, let us bring them to the Lord. These are just challenges we must overcome for Him.”
To see the evangelisation of the subcontinent and the transformation of our societies
From the field: Have a story to share? Then please email Alpha India today: email@example.com “The Alpha course has helped develop the leadership in my church. Many people were afraid and shy, but they have become bold as they learnt to lead group discussions. I strongly recommend this course to all churches. We now budget for it and plan it in our calendar as a regular event of the church.” - Daniel Koti, Senior Pastor, Hubli City Assembly of God “After Alpha Training in Nankhana (West Bengal) one Pastor started an Alpha course with a few people who believed in black magic. They believed that their ritualistic threads and rings would rescue them from all their griefs and miseries. After the talk ‘Does God heal today?’ they found new hope and surrendered to God. They removed all the threads and rings which were tied on their bodies.” - Dilip, Coordinator for West Bengal “These are the things that every Christian must know. Alpha helped me build a strong foundation of my faith in Jesus Christ. The group discussion blessed me very much - it not only helped clear my doubts but also helped in my ministry amongst youth.” - Ankur Misra, Assemblies of God Youth, M.G Marg, Uttar Pradesh “The concept of Alpha was very strange and surprising to me. I enjoyed every single part of it. Any new person can easily mix with the rest of the group. What I liked most was that you don’t have to sit quietly and listen to every single line with your mouth shut, you get to ask questions and clear your doubts.” - Suraj, university student, Uttar Pradesh
“I am very excited and delighted in God because my whole life has changed since accepting Christ as my Saviour. Before coming to Christ my life was very much involved in drunkardness, chain smoking, idol worship, cheating, gambling, and quarrelling with my family. My family had no peace and no respect in our community. But through Alpha my life has changed. I attended the Alpha course and accepted Christ, and now my whole family has accepted Christ as Saviour and we are attending IPC church at Patna.” - Murari Poddar, railway travel agent at Patna Junction “In a brief time I learnt the essence of the whole Bible. I had previously been reading the bible without any understanding, but now I want to read it deeply to understand more. I would like to keep my house open for the Alpha course.” - Vijaybhai Christian, Ahmedabad (has since begun his first Alpha course in his home) “I used to fail against temptation, but after the talk ‘How can I resist evil?’ I got the knowledge and confidence to overcome temptation. Through the talk ‘Why and how should I tell others?’ I was challenged to give the good news to others.” Ashish Martin Christian, Ahmedabad “Many people think that if they come to a Christian meeting then their Religion will be changed but it is not true. At Alpha anyone from any background can attend freely to explore the Christian faith. It is an atmosphere for friendship with others, and also a place where they can come to know of the true Lord.” - Pinky, Orissa
Alpha DNA: Strengthening your church At the core of the Alpha course are seven key values, which help you to reach out to your communities in love. These are taught at training, and also learned by your Alpha team during the course. • • • • • • •
Love for the lost: Having a passion to see our communities come to faith in Christ. Kingdom mindset: Seeing the bigger picture of kingdom growth, not just church growth. Graciousness: Loving sinners and being patient with them, not judging them. Relationships: Guests need to experience a sense of belonging before believing. Servant attitude: Hospitality highlights our love and graciousness. Holy Spirit ministry: Transformation is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit, not because of our abilities. Ecumenical spirit: Affirming our commonality, not our differences.
From page 1: A taste of Alpha with one of their major prayer areas being the guests on their Alpha courses. Pastor Jerald says that many of the guests’ lives have been changed during the Alpha courses, and he says it is at the Holy Spirit weekend that most life transformation happens. One lady guest had been collecting a huge amount of coins to offer at a ceremony, but came to faith at the weekend and then wanted to give the coins to the church instead. Teenage guests who had been wearing talismans and charms removed them at the weekend, not because the church told them to but because they themselves became convicted by the Holy Spirit. “We have seen transformation amongst our regular church members too, as well as the guests,” says Pastor Jerald. “Church members who were never interested in church not only started showing interest but are now inviting friends and relatives too.”
Prior to using Alpha the church community consisted of eighty regular members meeting in the upper room of a two-story home. The growth of the church over the last year has created two new but positive problems. Firstly, how to house a growing and sustained church population in a small building, and secondly how to disciple the large number of new believers. On discipleship, Pastor Jerald decided to use the A Life Worth Living course – a nine week follow-up course written by Nicky Gumbel. On church-space, the church has just rented an adjacent house and is renovating, so will soon have space for up to 150 adults as well as the children’s ministries. “We are committed to running the Alpha course thrice a year, so we will be beginning the final course of 2009 in October,” says Pastor Jerald. The church now has plans to move Alpha into its cell groups.
Alpha follow-up: A Life Worth Living How can we live our Christian lives to the full? A Life Worth Living is a practical and positive guide to achieving exactly this, uncovering in us a new heart, new purpose, new attitude and a new confidence to the way we live our lives. A Life Worth living is both a book and a nine-week course based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is the official follow-up course for the Alpha course, and a key tool for encouraging new believers once they have completed Alpha. Excerpts: “‘Salvation’ is perhaps the most important word in the New Testament. To be saved by Jesus Christ is to be set free. Jesus sets us free from our guilt, our addictions and our fear of death (and with it from all other fears). He sets us free to know God, to love others and to be our true selves, as God made us and meant us to be... ...Paul tells us that we are to ‘work out’ our freedom. This is quite different from working for our freedom. It is not ‘an objective yet to be reached’ or a ‘benefit to be merited’ but rather it is ‘a possession to be explored and enjoyed more fully’...So our freedom is already possessed to the full, but we need to work it out day by day. In particular we need to work out the path along which we are to walk, in response to God’s call. We need to work out the sphere of our Christian sevice. Each person has a different calling. For some it will be along the lines of ministry with the poor. For others it will be evangelism, for others healing, for others a prophetic ministry or teaching, or some other area. It is our responsibility to discover our gifts and to use them...”
A Life Worth Living can be ordered from the Alpha India National Office. Please call Sister Mariam on 080 2542 0902 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Materials available include: • A Life Worth Living • A Life Worth Living Course DVD set • Leaders’ Guide and Guest Manuals
What is an Alpha Adviser? Alpha India, like most non-profit organisations, is reliant on a large team of volunteers to outwork its mission. Alpha India’s volunteers (called advisers) are spread across the country, introducing churches and church leaders to the Alpha course and providing training and resources. They are vital to the work of evangelisation, and their work is contributing significantly to individual and community transformation in India. The number of Alpha courses now running in India has exploded during 2009, and many new advisers have been appointed, and are being appointed, in every state. Advisers can assist you by: • • •
Meeting with your church team to explain Alpha Training your church team to run the Alpha course Providing course material: DVDs, manuals etc
Helping you understand the ‘ups and downs’ of seeing your first course through to completion Attending your Holy Spirit Weekend.
If your church is thinking about using the Alpha course we would love to have an adviser visit you and help you in any way you need. To organise a meeting, please call the Alpha India National Office on +91 80 2542 0902.
International prayer focus: Indonesia The Republic of Indonesia is a nation in Southeast Asia with a population of 237 million people, of which about 8.6% are Christian. A key issue for the country is high poverty levels, as well as the after-effects of natural disasters such as the recent earthquakes.
Indonesia has a very successful national prayer movement which is praying for transformation, alleviation of poverty, religious moderation, and a stop to extremist activities. Alpha India’s National Director recently met with leaders of this prayer movement, and was inspired by their fervour, organisation, and answered prayers.
If you would like to pray for Indonesia, the following are some key points you may want to focus on:
For the newly elected President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - for wisdom, discernment and his protection as he leads the government and the country. For religious moderation and for the marginalisation of extremists who would wish to create fear in the country. For social transformation and the alleviation of poverty, and for effective help to reach all those devastated by the recent earthquakes and natural disasters. For Alpha Indonesia, its partner churches and its volunteers. For a growth in Alpha courses, and for many people to come to faith through them.
Please pray for Alpha India • • • • •
For the new thrust in the urban areas. For the new coordinators to be selected under the able guidance of the Holy Spirit. For new partnerships coming up with different organisations. For provision of senior leaders. For the forthcoming meeting in January with the Bishops of CNI churches, where Sandy Miller, Tricia Neil and Chris Sadler will be ministering.
The Alpha course - an opportunity to explore the meaning of life
Dear friend, The prophet said, “...millions are in the valley of decision....” This is true today more than ever before. Making considered choices is both an opportunity and an adventure. It gives ownership, dignity and value to our calling as a human being. We live in a fragmented world where a majority of people are voiceless, disempowered, even disabled from making decisions for their life. Children, unemployed youth, a vast majority of women, the disenfranchised in failed states,the hungry, the poor etc., can not make a choice on their own. Their questions are not even allowed. A vast majority in our country live below poverty level. Breathing clean air, drinking pure water, getting two square meals a day, finding gainful employment, sleeping under a roof are major preoccupations for them. We cannot change the past, nor can we control the future. The present is all we have with us. Perhaps, the choices we make now can affect the future positively. We hold that individual transformations precede community transformations. Alpha helps people ask critical questions of life. What steps can we take to avoid destruction of entire human civilisations? Alpha in India is growing rapidly. Around 6,000 churches are doing the Alpha course currently. We are seeing definite changes in the lives of individuals and communities. The current issue of Alpha India News has some stories that will encourage you as well as motivate you to pray and partner with us in different ways. Your financial gifts are valued and managed under good stewardship. As you might have noticed, we carry articles that can serve you in your ministry. God’s Two Hands by Graham Tomlin blessed me very much with a balanced view of God. May it bless you in your understanding of God. Please write and let me know how you desire to participate in this plan of God. We can make a choice today to let Him use us for His purposes. Raj
J Varadaraj National Director, Alpha India
Published on Aug 9, 2010