Senior Pastor Richard Warner, Lighthouse Christian Church
How did Alpha start at Lighthouse Christian Church?
I was inspired to use a method that would really engage people and encourage them to invite new people. I wanted to create a sense of discipleship; a safe environment that would help lead people to Christ and and enter into a discipleship process.
The greatest problem the church faces today is normality. In this present day, there are believers that possess a faith which lacks passion in bringing others to Christ. This was why I was inspired with Alpha - it was a great answer but more importantly was a catalyst to reveal particular areas which churches today need to address.
Our church was desperate for disciple-making people and we faced this exact problem. In result, we used Alpha as an outreach as well as a place for people to come if they were unsure of where they stood spiritually.
Has this led to good momentum in your church?
The truth is it was only in the last five years that Alpha has had an ongoing flow in our church. This was due to the change in our school’s enrolment policy. We initially only took in students that were from Christian families with the prerequisites that they attended church regularly, agreed with our church doctrine and had a pastor’s reference.
Unfortunately this meant that we were refusing more than we were accepting. Many students didn’t have a pastor’s reference because they didn’t attend regularly attend church. It was then that I felt the Lord say to me that I actually needed to see some of these families because they were divine appointments. As I went to visit them I found myself presenting the gospel to them and leading some of them to the Lord.
During this time, I found myself becoming unstuck - we decided to accept people that were brand new Christians who recently made the decision to know Christ. This meant that there was a strong need for spiritual growth and there needed to be something more substantial so we introduced Alpha to them.
At that time, over half our Alpha attendees were school inquirers. Now about 80-90% of our Alpha guests are school inquirers.
How do you run Alpha at Lighthouse?
At Lighthouse, we run Alpha twice a year. We start by sending out invitations to people then we follow them up by ringing them. After that, we then organise our catering team by putting together a roster. We purposely have a table of no more than 8 guests with 2 facilitators to each table. We also like to have musical items every week. For each session/week we have a team briefing and debriefing, we have found this helps in making improvements week to week.
Along with a brief survey, we have found it helpful doing post Alpha interviews. This is simply so we can get feedback to help people along their Christian walk. For new believers, we don’t just want to know if people have received Jesus but we want to help continue their spiritual growth by leading them in one of our post Alpha courses.
These courses are called ‘One-To-One’ or ‘Freedom In Christ’ which both consists of small groups. This has really helped people further transition into church life and has even led some to baptism. This is all part of our discipleship process.
As Christians, not only do we get to work for God but with God.
How many people have completed Alpha at Lighthouse Christian Church?
At the beginning of last year we have 300 people complete Alpha in 4 years. At present we’ve had around 450 people complete Alpha. We are amazed that many of these people started out as atheists, Hindus, Buddists, Muslims and now they are worshipping God in church.
Alpha is a great tool, the best tool of its type. While there are other tools, Alpha is presented simply but thoroughly. It can appeal to all demographics - an academic as well as the less educated. It also appeals to people from various backgrounds and nationalities.
Have you found Alpha to be a great leadership development tool?
Yes, definitely. Quite a few of our Alpha leaders and facilitators were saved through Alpha. Since there was a lack of discipleship and leadership training, people did feel less confident and incompetent to lead. Alpha is a wonderful starting point because you don’t start off as a leader but as a facilitator, then table leader and so on.
It’s great that we have some leaders that have been doing it consistently for three or four years.
Richard and his wife Pauline are the Pastors of Lighthouse Christian Church. Together, they have been serving and leading Lighthouse for over 30 years. Ps Richard is also the Founding President of Lighthouse Christian College and is a visionary leader with a passion for discipleship and serving God’s church.