Sunday, 13 December 2009

5 things I love about Holy Trinity Brompton...

In my recent post about Anglicans I found myself rather overwhelmed with warm and fuzzy feelings towards Holy Trinity Brompton. So much so it warranted its own post. Here are five things I really want to love and honour about HTB.

PROCESS EVANGELISM: UK evangelicalism got stuck in a Billy Graham crusade mindset of "hands up and follow Jesus" being what evangelism was. Making a one off call for salvation is still completely valid but Alpha put the gospel into bite sized chunks, and gave an increasingly postmodern culture time to engage with it. It also added in food and friendship and made it relational. It actually turned a mindset from a "get them in the door and hit them with it" kind of sales technique usually preserved for timeshares, and made it 10-15 weeks of friendship and discussion. Two weeks ago there were over 10 people at our Sunday morning meeting who came to faith via our September Alpha Course. Alpha is like the muscle helping to empower that side of Church life.

RESOURCES: The resources you need to run Alpha are available, good value, and well presented. Alpha is not just a good idea, it is an "of the shelf" suite of resources to help to actually make your vision a reality. Their national advertising, in the press and in cinemas, has been the largest scale Christian publicity I can remember. The excellent "Alpha Friends" website is full of ideas and resources. Recently, when churches in Shrewsbury decided to advertise our Alpha Courses together, the resources available to us, including print ready leaflets, were excellent.

TRAINING & RELATIONSHIPS: One of the greatest decisions HTB made was when they started running training courses, training weekends and then local training days. That meant two things. Firstly, people starting out heard what it was like from the coal face, not just the text book. Secondly, HTB engaged itself in a consistent review process of the Alpha materials because they had produced them, and now they were having constant contact with people actually using them. Alpha has since developed shorter sessions, the course has fewer sessions, new ways of approaching subjects and Churches have been given freedom to juggle the course a bit within parameters to make it "work" for them. HTB has entered into a relationship with those who run Alpha on a local level, and in doing so have improved the course greatly and have really kept their finger on the pulse.

BEING YOURSELVES: The HTB crowd are a definition of white middle class Britishness. They look, sound, and do things all the time that reinforce this. An Alpha "Supper" kicks things off. Supper for me is biscuits and hot chocolate before bed, not a meal! I have never been to a school, college, workplace, or even restaurant where it would be called "supper". They developed the course to reach people around them and they were just being themselves. Unashamedly themselves. That is why it works. I think it gives the whole thing much more credibility. They have not hammed it up to try and make it all hip and down with it. And you know what? We have seen ex-drug addicts and university lecturers, alcoholics and senior managers all come to faith through Alpha. With Nicky's story of a "Nicky party" away at University somehow reaching across all demographic indicators. I love them for being themselves. For not faking anything. For being faithful.

UNITY: Alpha for Catholics is a seminal point in the development of the course. HTB have gone further than many evangelicals would fear to tread, and received some serious criticism for it. Yet this is part of their calling. Alpha is not just an evangelism tool, it is a renewal movement with Anglicanism and to a smaller extent, now within Catholicism. Now that really pushes back the boundaries of where and how evangelicals function and how an essentially evangelical gospel presentation fits into the wider body of Christ. Rather than retreat into their own enclave HTB have built bridges and burst through preconceptions, without changing the message. And I think God honours that kind of borderless love of the body of Christ that has taken them into rarely chartered waters.

And now HTB is moving into Church planting outside London, developing stronger international links and massively empowering the UK worship scene, within five years this juggernaut of a move of God will have probably earned another five points!

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