'Amazing testimonies and stories' from Alpha

'Amazing testimonies and stories' from Alpha

We spoke to Nicky Gumbel, newly retired from leading Holy Trinity Brompton, the London home of Alpha.

Elim is launching its second national Alpha course this month. Tell us about your experience of running Alpha recently.

Pippa and I are running our 96th consecutive Alpha small group at the moment and we haven’t missed a course for 32 years – it’s such fun! It’s wonderful to be back running Alpha in person again – I love going around our group and hearing story after story of people whose lives are being changed by the Holy Spirit. Being able to physically lay your hand on someone and pray, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an amazing privilege too.

That said, the Holy Spirit isn’t confused by Zoom and we’ve enjoyed seeing how well Alpha works online too – six of the courses we’ve run have been on-line. We’ve found that people are more open, the course is more accessible to many more people and they don’t have to overcome the barrier of walking into a church or someone’s home. We’ve had some amazing testimonies, conversations, stories and friendships at our online courses.

Can you give us an example of how you’ve seen the Holy Spirit move during an Alpha course?

Last night, people were sharing their experiences of the Holy Spirit in our small group. The first guy who spoke was an atheist but had just become a Christian and he’s absolutely on fire. He was saying he had just been offered a job but had turned it down because he wanted to be able to go to church instead. He’s telling his friends about his faith and inviting people he thinks might come on the next course.

You can see how God brought him on Alpha. His mother died recently and he is grieving. He had been to her grave and while he was there he saw a credit card on the ground. He picked it up and noticed it belonged to someone he’d been good friends with at school but hadn’t seen for 25 years. So he contacted the guy and it turns out he’d been at the graveyard too because his younger brother had died, so they were both grieving.

His friend said, “You’ve got to come to Alpha” and brought him along. Last night, he was saying he could see it wasn’t a coincidence that he picked up that card. It was God’s hand. It’s an amazing story.

Elim’s national Alpha course is being run in collaboration with Alpha. What’s your take on that and would you like to see more partnerships like this?

We love Elim. Pentecostal churches are so key to the future of the church in this country – I wish we had a closer relationship with them and that’s something we’re trying to encourage.

We need the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so we must learn from Elim and the Pentecostal church, because for the church to thrive we need God the Father and Jesus the Son but we need the Holy Spirit too.

You retired as vicar of HTB in July. What does the future hold for you and Alpha?

One reason I’m changing my role is because I want to focus on the 2033 vision and Alpha’s contribution to that. I’m sure you have 17 April 2033 in your diary! That date is Easter Sunday and the 2,000th anniversary of the resurrection and the Great Commission – to go and make disciples of all nations – shortly afterwards. That’s what I want to focus on for the next ten years: how do we get the gospel out to all nations by the 2,000th anniversary of the resurrection?

We’re working on making Alpha available to everyone on the planet by then and are making a new set of videos. It’s part of a bigger collaboration: Bible translators are working to get the New Testament into every language – so every language will have 25 chapters of the New Testament by 2033 – and Rick Warren is aiming to have a Bible, a believer and a body of Christ in every people group across the world by then too.

As far as the future of Alpha itself is concerned, I think there are huge opportunities for Youth Alpha. Archie Coates, who has taken over as vicar at HTB, is planning a big Youth Alpha for September and they’re hoping to have 500 people on that. A third film series has been made to keep it up to date with youth culture, which changes so fast. Dan Blythe is heading up Youth Alpha globally and is doing a fantastic job.

From Direction Magazine issue 240


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