HTB Vicar Nicky Gumbel spoke about the Alpha course to 700 people at one of America’s biggest and most influential churches last weekend.
He was welcomed to Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago, which has a weekly attendance of 22,000 people, by Senior Pastor Bill Hybels.
Willow Creek has just started running a pilot Alpha course and Bill Hybels spoke of how he is hoping that Alpha courses will begin to take off at the church.
Addressing a breakfast for church members involved in evangelism, Mr Hybels said, ‘I have enormous hopes for this. With this Alpha thing we now have something that can absorb all the energies you have about evangelism.
‘There are so many roles that you can play. You can be a table host, you can be a helper, you can lead a group, you can bring people and sit through the course with them. There are a lot of roles that you can play.
‘When we get up and go a little further, we are going to throw the challenge up to you again and again and again.
‘We believe that God can do something fantastic through this Alpha ministry and some of you are just itching to play. You are like ‘Put me in, Coach’.
‘Well, we are part way through this pilot course and we will be putting the word out and then we would like all of you to play.’
Describing Nicky as ‘pastor of a fantastic church’, he expressed gratitude for the help Willow Creek was receiving from HTB in ensuring that their pilot course was a success.
He said, ‘Nicky and some of his top people have gone way, way above and beyond, and have provided from their church in downtown London conference calls, telephone calls, texts, emails to our leaders to coach us to serve us, to make sure that we get this going right.’
He concluded the session by leading prayers for Nicky and Pippa Gumbel, thanking God for them and their ministry and adding, ‘We pray for our own pilot Alpha course – that it will be strongly favoured and blessed so that it can be just the first of many, many Alpha courses that the people in front of us right now will all be involved in and that there will be the mushrooming evangelistic power that sweeps our congregation and this whole community.’
Nicky Gumbel said afterwards, ‘We are so grateful to Bill and all the leaders at Willow Creek for inviting us to speak and for the warmth of their welcome.’