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Structures to Enhance Evangelistic MinistriesArticle Critique

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Saturated Evangelism

Analysis of Stephen Hunt's "The Alpha Program: Charismatic Evangelism for the Contemporary Age"

In "The Alpha Program: Charismatic Evangelism for the Contemporary Age," Stephen Hunt reveals that the British Christianity succeeded in its quest of evangelism through a rather simple program that was shorn of pressure and rigidity for the newcomer. The main basis of this program called "Alpha" was designed as a very simple and easy way for newcomers as well as those followers seeking to revitalize their concepts of Biblical Evangelism. Alpha was specifically designed to attract the attention of the modern world.

The program asked many simple questions to the new comers to engage them into a discussion and arouse curiosity. Simple questions of the form, "Who is Jesus? How do other people perceive Jesus? What do you expect to ask Jesus given you encounter Him?" were some of the opening questions Alpha sought to elicit answers from the guests and first timers to the Church. Alpha sought to weave local cultural ethos and only a mundane version of Charismatic evangelism. It toned down the rhetoric associated with the norm of repentance, salvation and the concept of heaven and hell that was associated with the Decade of Evangelism that had received tepid response.

The course is so designed that the newcomers are not required to enroll or register, nor are they pressurized to commit to religion at any point of time during the course. The Church that runs the course waits for their response without following them up seeking their reflections. Those who have lingering doubts are encouraged to enroll into a course called "Searching Issues."

The "Alpha" is a well designed church -- growth oriented strategy along the lines of mass consumption through proper branding similar to what is evident in the commercial sector. This evangelical pursuit has a defined brand image and works on differentiation. The standardization of the product is attained by sending HTB (Holy Trinity, Brompton) trainers to local churches that wish to run this program. The instructors from the HTB also visit local churches on request. The Churches that seek to follow "Alpha" can avail of many different kinds of literature in written as well as videos forms- a distinct break from the past. In this way the HTB can reach the remotest of churches in localities where only a few parishioners enroll. Thus, the effect of Alpha aims to work its way upwards from the grass-root level.

Alpha lays emphasis on the way to conduct things- in a non-traditional way. In order to ensure that the Churches following its course and methodology understand the principles correctly, HTB has been meticulous. It supplies its associated churches with videos like How to Run the Alpha Course, Telling Others:

The Alpha Initiative in addition also guides the member churches through video recordings of the courses run by itself. The Churches are advised to do things in a certain way while following Alpha as depicted through the various media brought out by HTB. Indeed a model "alpha" session has been created in which the content, manner and duration of sessions is clearly underlined. Nicky Gumbel illustrates the point by likening running "alpha" without directions to driving a car without learning how to.

The "Alpha" method has a wide appeal and ensuing success. It has got a veritable mixture of contemporary mass appeal through the media that it uses along with its diluted accent on traditional methodologies and stricter ways of the traditional church on one hand and at the same time carries along with it the percepts of repentance, obedience, punishment to hell and ideas like salvation (albeit toned down). The high-profile nature of "Alpha" has divided the believers into two along the lines of what Charismatic movement did in the 1960's and 70's. The conservatives and the traditionalists (Anglo-Catholics, Protestant evangelicals, and the Roman Catholics are apprehensive of its ecumenical stance) have pointed out the impropriety of this form evangelism citing different theological percepts and strictures. Certain liberalists have also taken exception to the "Alpha" for being partly conservative in its approach. However, those of the congregation already following the Charismatic path of the '60s and '70's have taken to "Alpha" with a welcoming stance.

Research carried out on the acceptance of the program has revealed that while more than 4000 of the 24000 churches in the nation (The UK) has enrolled for it, many of the respondents in the survey (41%) knew someone personally who had learned at the program. 12% were aware of Alpha though it symbol and 16% knew it to be a Christian course. The middle class have very well received the program as it reached out to people who could not make it to the Church owing to professional compulsions. Alpha reached out to people of all nationalities and cultures and people from all regions took lessons or later enrolled for Christianity through alpha - A survey reveals 86.2% white guests, black 6.2%, Asian 2.2%, and 5.2% "other" ethnic categories.

The only worrying factor was that most of the guests belonged to the age group of 30-40, in spite of the fact that Alpha is Charismatic in its orientation.

Alpha has grown worldwide and is making its impact known in all sectors of society. The research done here is based on the survey carried out in the UK. More research is needed to appropriate its reach in the other parts of the world where it has spread its wings and is firmly entrenched as an evangelist program. Alpha has mass appeal and the Church needs more evangelists. Thus Alpha will now be seen as a measure of success of different evangelist methodologies in future. In contemporary times, the need of evangelism are met by "Alpha" course as it chooses a path that toes a middle line between the traditionalist and staunch conservationists on one hand and the very liberal Charismatic on the other.

Analysis of Robert Seiple's, "From Bible Bombardment to Incarnational Evangelism: A Reflection on Christian Witness and Persecution"

In his treatise, Robert Seiple has highlighted the desperation shown by evangelists in Saudi Arabia. The incident goes thus: Filipino evangelists volunteer to usher Christianity in the Muslim nation. They smuggle a score of thousand copies of Bible into the unsuspecting courtyards of the homes which also hit some of the residents and soon enough the masquerading preachers are arrested and sent off to jail.

This incident allows us to view the situation through two entirely different perspectives- one, that there are nations where secularism and freedom of choosing one's faith and religion is non-existent. Secondly, missionary zeal should follow the three major principles of Motivation, message and methodology to be successful in its evangelic pursuit. Too many preachers are motivated to believe that God expects us to imbue Biblical orthodoxy in whatever way possible.

That however, Seiple argues is a naive inference of the commandments. Quite on the contrary, God expects us to follow the incarnational, ministerial path he has depicted through his life. We honor him by following the prescribed methodology of true Christianity while being true to the message and in our motivation.

With the end of the Cold War, and the rapid liberalization wave that engulfs the globe, there is an urgent need to spread the "word." He should be accepted as a savior and Lord and thereby people will atone for their sins. However, desperate attempts such as those related above towards international proselytism could rebound and hurt Christianity more than bring benefits. Such methods cannot last for long and cannot be built up upon. They may, on the contrary prove harmful to the cause of evangelism.

The evangelists will have to plow the land, sow the seeds, water it, wait for the growth, nourish and nurture the crop for it to blossom and spread the message. God has shown that way to us. He lived amongst us, took care of the poor and disabled, allowed them repentance, and thus showed the road to salvation.

A Chinese follower has put it very simply. He says that if you want to spread the 'word' here, live here, learn the local language and culture- in short reincarnate yourself just like Jesus did by living a human life through all its trials and tribulations. Christianity needs time growing up to. It is a process, not a product. Do not hasten, have patience, lead by example through your deeds.

Analysis of Sergei Golovin's "worldview: the missing dimension of evangelism in post-communist society"

In the article, "worldview: the missing dimension of evangelism in post-communist society" by Sergei Golovin, an aspect of evangelism that is often construed as the most impressive way for evangelism is exposed for its ineffectuality. The specific instance is the opening up of the Soviet Union for cultural and religious ingressions on its soil. Many missionaries and congregations who made huge expenses to reach the masses seized the opportunity. The spiritually starved citizens took to Christianity profoundly, too. The Church believed that it had… [END OF PREVIEW]

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