CHICAGO, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Facing uncertain times and curious about spirituality, 80,000 people nationwide sought answers to life's most difficult questions by attending an Alpha course last year. A growing number of churches and Christian organizations, cutting across all denominations, are now running the course and seeing dramatic results.
Recently, Alpha USA partnered with churches and Christian organizations across the country for its "Invitation" - a nationwide advertising campaign run by local teams designed to generate interest in the Alpha course. Working together, the churches and organizations utilize everything from bumper stickers and yard signs, to billboards and TV ads for the campaign, which asked: "Is There More to Life Than This?"
More than 18,000 people responded to the Invitation, attending a relaxed dinner near them, previewing the Alpha course for themselves - a 103 percent increase over 2008. The number of churches and organizations participating in last year's invitation also grew 37 percent.
Why the dramatic increase? Many people cited hard times and the economy as reasons for attending. The churches who worked together to invite their community along to the different Alpha courses they were hosting are seeing their congregations grow as a result.
Case in point ... Hope Community Church, in Lindenhurst, Ill., made the inspired decision to replace their regular Sunday morning service with the Alpha course for 10 weeks.
Pastor Wayne Okamoto remembers: "We knew that God wanted us to do this, but we had no idea whether unchurched people were going to wake up on a Sunday morning for this. I'll never forget walking into church that first morning ... a ton of people came out."
Last year, the church held the Alpha course simultaneously with their Sunday morning service. The results?
"It has been really exciting," Pastor Okamoto says. "The way churches used to do evangelism, we would share the Gospel with someone and then wait until they made a decision for Christ before we involved them in community. The beautiful thing about Alpha is we allow people to first experience Christian community and the love of Christ. That's what makes the Gospel come alive for people."
Started in London in 1979 as a brush-up course for rusty churchgoers, the Alpha course has become a worldwide phenomenon and is now held in 163 countries. It is estimated that more than 13 million people worldwide have attended an Alpha course.
The course is comprised of 15 sessions held over 10 weeks and is free and open to everyone. No question is out of bounds, and participants are free to say as much or as little as they wish as they make up their own minds about the teachings of Jesus in a pressure-free environment. Spirited discussions often ensue on topics ranging from "Why is there suffering?" and "Is God a delusion?"
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SOURCE Alpha USA