Alpha course

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The Alpha Course

The Alpha course is a course on the basics of the Christian faith. Since its development in the 1970's and it has spread all over the world and is currently run in 143 countries by many different denominations. The course was developed by the Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in London. In 1990 Nicky Gumbel took on the running of the alpha course.


The Alpha course is organized as a series of sessions over ten weeks, starting with some food, a talk (often a video of one by Nicky Gumbel), and discussion in small groups. The aim is for the talks to cover the basic beliefs of Christianity. The complete list of talk titles is:

  • Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?
  • Who Is Jesus?
  • Why Did Jesus Die?
  • How Can I Be Sure of My Faith?
  • Why and How Should I Read the Bible?
  • Why and How Do I Pray?
  • How Does God Guide Us?
  • Who Is the Holy Spirit?
  • What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
  • How Can I Be Filled With the Spirit?
  • How Can I Resist Evil?
  • Why and How Should We Tell Others?
  • Does God Heal Today?
  • What About the Church?
  • How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?

The content frequently refers to C.S. Lewis, and John Stott. The course typically also includes a weekend away which includes the sessions on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Courses are offered free of charge.

Alpha courses frequently use Contemporary Christian Music.


Alpha began at Holy Trinity Brompton Church, a Church of England church in London, England. It started as a course for church members on the basics of the Christian faith, but then began to be used as an introduction for those interested in the faith. Nicky Gumbel, a curate (assistant minister) at Holy Trinity took over the running of the course and he has overseen its expansion.

In 2004, over 25,000 courses are offered in more than 143 countries, and in many Christian denominations.

Alpha organizations hold national initiatives, often purchasing advertising in many media.


The Alpha course has attracted much praise as a technique for spreading the basics of the Christian faith. Although begun in the Anglican church, its subsequent use by a wide variety of denominations and groups indicate its success in capturing the essence of the faith. Its emphasis on unpressurised discussion makes for a non-threatening environment.

The alpha course has been endorsed by figures including the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as church leaders from all major denominations around the world.


The Alpha course has been criticised for a charismatic emphasis. Some churches have chosen to teach a modified version which avoids the emphasis on the Holy Spirit.

Some churches have found that the expectations of Alpha graduates caused friction with more established members of the congregation.

More conservative critics (especially from a Reformed and Evangelical perspective) have complained that the course does not adequately define sin and therefore does not adequately explain the reason for Jesus' death and resurrection. The Christianity Explored course is an attempt to remedy this.

The alpha course chooses to avoid any mention of divisive issues such as homosexuality but has still been criticised as coming from a tradition that sees homosexuality as a sin.

Related courses

Special versions of the Alpha course tailored for specific demographics exist, including:

  • Alpha for Students
  • Alpha for Prisons
  • Youth Alpha
  • Alpha for Forces
  • Senior Alpha
  • Alpha in the Workplace

Related courses developed at Holy Trinity Brompton include

  • Marriage Course
  • Marriage Preparation Course



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