Equipping the Church to Flourish Post Pandemic

As many lockdown restrictions begin to lift, we are all trying to navigate what life looks like now. How do we re-enter life responsibly and compassionately? How do we care for ourselves and our communities? The world has changed in the past year—we have changed, too. We know that nothing is guaranteed, life could shift again just as quickly as it did before.

We are standing in liminal space, the in-between of the known and unknown, the already and the not yet.

As we stand in this doorway, may we consider what we want the room we move into to look like. Let us curiously imagine how the Church and the world can flourish post-pandemic.

When it comes to leading a church, running Alpha, or simply being a Christian in this moment, we believe there are three temptations we need to watch out for and three ways we can meet those temptations.

Temptation One: Strategize in Your Own Strength

Have you ever seen a really active dog who’s been held back and leashed for too long? When they’re finally set free to run, they charge ahead at full speed. After more than a year of restriction and caution, some of us might be tempted to act like that dog who’s finally been let off the leash. We want to charge ahead and do all the things we’ve been dreaming about. We want to release our passion and act on behalf of God and the world.

There’s nothing wrong with that desire to act. But, it holds a temptation. We can move forward so quickly, in our own strength, that we become blind to how God is moving, deaf to what his Spirit is saying.

God is gracious and patient. He’ll let us run ahead. And sometimes, in our eagerness, we run ourselves right into a wall we could have avoided if we had simply stopped and listened to God’s Spirit.

John Wimber speaks to this idea when he talks about an experience he had with God in which he felt God say to him, “I’ve seen your ministry, John. Now, it’s time for you to see mine.”

Let’s be careful to avoid the temptation of building our own kingdom in our own strength. Instead, let’s take time to understand what God’s spirit is saying and follow the spirit’s lead and the spirit’s pace.

Temptation Two: Back to Normal

The thing about a doorway is that even though it can lead you into a new room, it can also just as easily lead you back into the same room you came from. Liminal spaces are precarious. They have the potential to transform, but transformation is not a guarantee, it’s a choice.

This pandemic has shed light on so many things. It’s opened our eyes to pain in the world around us and made us more aware of the deep hurts of others. It’s shown us new ways to work, connect, and support one another. But all of this has been exhausting. We’ve had to adjust, juggle, learn, and adapt. Many church leaders are tired. Many of us are tired.

It’s tempting to want everything to just go back to normal—back to the way things always were. It’s easier to cling to the former ways, to return to what is familiar, than it is to accept a new reality among us. But to return to normal is to miss God’s invitation for newness, for renewal.

Pruning produces new fruit. New fruit makes new wine. New wine requires new wineskins.

This isn’t to say that everything needs to radically change. This isn’t an invitation to throw everything of the past out the window. However, we can’t let fatigue lead us to ignore all that we’ve learned this past season. We can’t let weariness determine whether we will keep moving forward and doing hard work, or sink back into our old patterns.

Wrestling with new ideas, alongside other people, ultimately brings new energy—new life. It keeps us humble and postured with a mindset of being willing to go wherever God might need us.

Let us resist the ancient voice that says, “Let us return to Egypt!” Instead, let’s take the opportunity to reconsider why we do what we do and discern with others if there is a better way forward.

Temptation Three: Stay in Our Bubbles

New territory brings new fear. There is a temptation to stay isolated—not just physically isolated in our homes, but socially isolated from anyone and anything that seems different, stranger, or other.

One of the ancient fears that has always pursued the people of God is the fear of those who are different. We fear those from different denominations, ethnic backgrounds, economic backgrounds, and those who speak and think differently than we do. We create bubbles of thought, where we surround ourselves only with those who agree with us and shun those who might think differently. We limit the power of God and limit our opportunity to love and practice hospitality.

Hospitality in the original language (philoxenos) means to ‘love the stranger.’ It is the direct opposite of ‘fear of the stranger’ (xenophobia). The stranger is not our enemy. The stranger is an opportunity for us to love.

This fear of the stranger shows up when we stay in our denominational bubbles and don’t listen to our brothers and sisters in other parts of the church and world. The solutions that we may seek might exist in strangers we fear. We need each other.

We are all strangers to someone. We are all different. As a recent depiction of Jesus said in the show “The Chosen,” we would do well to “get used to different.”


So, how do we respond to these temptations? How do we move forward and flourish post-pandemic? There are many ways forward. Let’s consider three that begin with listening.

Step 1: Listen to God

Ephesians 5:17 tells us to understand what the Lord wants us to do, for the days are evil. We live in a time where people are hurting and hurting each other, dying and killing each other. Our world is clearly broken. We can’t fix it on our own. The situation is too complex, too culturally varied to figure out on our own. Just when we think we’ve figured things out, they change. We must keep a posture of humility before the Lord, asking for his continuous guidance.

This is a time for prayer and fasting to discern what God has for us. There is a movement quietly starting of people hungry for a word for God, thirsty to hear God speak and do what only God can. We are sensing from our prayer partners around the world, a call to extended fasting during this season. Many of our own staff have committed to praying and fasting, some even committing to weeks and months of fasting.

God is speaking. He asks only that we get quiet enough to hear, still enough to wait.

Our world is hungry for something authentic and real, something of depth. We’re all tired of trite answers, easy platitudes, and hypocritical performances. We want an experience of the living God’s presence among us.

Do you want to flourish as we move forward? Increase your capacity to listen to God. Set aside additional time just to listen and take this aspect of your life to a new level.

Step 2: Listen to People

Having first listened to God, we turn then to the neighbor at our side and the stranger in our midst. What are they saying? Set aside your assumptions. Listen with humble curiosity. Desire to understand. Be genuinely interested.

Listen not just to what they are saying, but what they are feeling. Are they afraid? Are they hurting? Are they weary? People have been traumatized by the events of the last season. They are longing to be heard and seen more than ever.

There is no doubt that the political polarization that we are experiencing here in the United States creates a challenging moment for the work of evangelization. But political polarization is nothing new. It has happened and is happening, all over the world, throughout history. One of the greatest tools we have for fighting against the tendencies of polarization is listening.

The church that listens to people will be the church that flourishes.

Church leaders who are willing to listen will attract people. They will create a congregation, a community, that is willing to listen. Furthermore, church leaders who are willing to listen to other church leaders—especially those outside their own tradition—will find encouragement, fresh ideas, and new friends for this season of ministry.

As the world gets more and more polarized, argumentative, and slow to listen, we must show that we are not of this world. We are different. We listen to others the way God listens to us, compassionately and patiently. This is not a time for division, this is a time for radical connection, earnest unity, and inclusive listening.

Step 3: Listen to the World

Culture is shifting rapidly. If we do not listen to the voices outside our walls, we will miss what is happening in the world. We must break out of our bubbles and start listening to a wider community in order that we might hear the pulse of the world as it changes.

A doctor can’t diagnose a patient without first listening to their ailments. We can’t expect our churches to meet the world with healing and hope if we don’t know what’s broken and where the pain is coming from. In order to be God’s hands and feet in this world, we must first listen.

After leading his 93rd consecutive Alpha, Nikki Gumbel said, “There’s no better way for me to know what people who are exploring faith are thinking than to be right next to them in an Alpha group, listening.” This is how we find out what the world is thinking and needing, we sit ourselves down right next to those who are outside the Church and we listen.

The church that flourishes post-pandemic will take note of what is happening in the world, what they hear from the world, and will humbly posture themselves in partnership with God’s Spirit to respond actively to the needs the world is expressing.

Now is the time to look forward. We believe God is stirring the waters, about to do a new thing, and we want to join with Him, by listening to His Spirit, listening to other people, and listening to the world at large. Will you join us?

Alpha can equip your church, small group, or your friendship circle to do just this. Learn more about how to run an Alpha, attend a Run Alpha training, running Alpha, and then registering your course to access rich (free) resources to support your weekly sessions.

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It’s tempting to want everything to just go back to normal… It’s easier to cling to the former ways, to return to what is familiar, than it is to accept a new reality among us. But to return to normal is to miss God’s invitation for newness, for renewal.

— John Wentz

Español

Si eres un hablante principal de español, ¡estamos muy contentos de que estés aquí! ¡Hemos diseñado esta pista especialmente para ti!

Talleres en este Track

¿Cómo desarrollar la creatividad pastoral en tu equipo parroquial?

Speakers: Liliana Nariño, Directora Nacional, Alpha Colombia, and María Fernanda Acosta, Líder Regional, Alpha Ados

Presentaremos algunas nuevas técnicas que nos ayudan a crear una cultura de acogida y encuentro en la Parroquia.

¿Cómo alcanzar a la Generación Z Latina?

Speakers: Diego Profita, Regional Marketing And Digital Director Latin America at Alpha International, and Julian Avellaneda, Regional Alpha Youth Leader, Alpha Ados

Descubriremos algunas de las principales características de esta Generación más Abierta y trabajaremos en herramientas y estrategias para ser más efectivos en presentarles a Jesús.

¿Cómo construir una cultura invitacional en tu Iglesia?

Speakers: Diego Profita, Regional Marketing And Digital Director Latin America at Alpha International

Descubramos juntos como crear y fomentar en nuestras comunidades una cultura de invitación abordando

– Maneras en que la Iglesia puede fomentar la importancia de la invitación

– Maneras de cómo podemos guiar a nuestros equipos para que lo vivan

– Maneras de cómo poder identificar a las personas con mayor probabilidad de asistir

BEYOND THE WALLS

Inspiring and practical, learn how to bring the gospel everywhere you go and how to activate your church communities to see gospel opportunities beyond the walls of the church building. Hear stories of innovation and creativity, ecumenical and city-wide movements, and learn about what God is doing in unique contexts like prisons. With many workshops in this track, some are best suited for pastors and senior leaders, while others apply to anyone.

Workshops in this Track

Alpha in Criminal Justice System

Speakers: Audrey Hayes, Director of Volunteer Network, Alpha USA, and Benny Lopez, Prisons Coordinator, Alpha USA

There is an overlooked mission field in our own backyard, one full of people desperate for help, healing, and wholeness. It’s a place much of our society tends to dismiss, filled with people who believe they have been cast aside, and forgotten.

Alpha has been run in 630 prisons in 41 U.S. states. This course is brought to prisons and jails by dedicated churches and organizations who have run Alpha at their local church or parish and want to extend their reach even further. These volunteers tangibly show the love of Jesus to men and women that society had tossed away and labeled as unworthy, broken, dangerous, or beyond help. Through Alpha, prisoners are reminded that God does not label them—he loves them.

Join us in this workshop to hear stories and learn how to get started. You will be matched with a coach who will offer you support based on where you are in your prison ministry journey.

Unified City Alpha Initiative

Speakers: Seth Bazacas, Strategic City Director, New York, Alpha USA, and Shauna Pilgreen, Strategic City Director, Northern California, Alpha USA

What does it take to pull off a unified citywide Alpha launch? Join Strategic City Directors and Pastors Seth Bazacas (Wellspring Church NYC) and Shauna Pilgreen (Epic Church San Francisco) as they share their experiences of bringing a diverse group of churches into a shared vision, prayer night, weekly gatherings, and an overnight Alpha retreat. Hear stories of what worked and didn’t work and how both cities are gearing up for an even stronger launch in 2024!

Translating Jesus--A Crash Course for Sharing Your Faith Daily

Speakers: Shauna Pilgreen, Strategic City Director, Northern California, Alpha USA, and Ben Pilgreen, Lead Pastor, Epic Church San Francisco

As pastors and church leaders, we expect our attenders to share their faith. But do they? Come and imagine how your faith conversations can fuel an evangelism movement in your church.

Author and storyteller Shauna Pilgreen offers us a new way of evangelism using her latest book, Translating Jesus. She gets practical fast, teaching us two languages that lead to double-listening. Chances are high you’ll become bilingual in this workshop!

Shauna is joined by her husband Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco. Come, learn how a church can be winsome with culture without neglecting the gospel.

Fueling Creativity and Innovation in Evangelism

Speakers: Audrey Hayes, Director of Volunteer Network, Alpha USA, and Madison Campbell, Alpha Launch Director, Alpha USA

For innovative leaders who want their creativity to be fueled by the Spirit and to flood into their churches and communities. This will be a time of storytelling and dreaming about what God can do through creativity in our churches and Alpha courses. Come dream with us!

TRAINING LABS

These practical training workshops will help you learn how to run Alpha and how to make it the best it can be. Join us to experience the Alpha best practices of listening, radical hospitality, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Select the workshops best suited for your stage of the Alpha journey to get the most from this track.

Workshops in this Track

Run Alpha--From a Course to a Culture (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

Running Alpha is so much more than just a course, it is an opportunity to create space within your community and your church where people can belong before they believe. Run Alpha will help you see how this course is unique by focusing on the values of invitation, hospitality, listening, and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Grow Alpha--Expand, Enhance, Empower (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

This workshop will help you expand the culture, enhance your Alpha course with best practice insights, and empower your team. A common takeaway from this workshop is how Alpha can be more than a course and start to impact the rest of the church.

Creating a Culture Where Everyone is Invited to Alpha (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

How do we get more guests on our Alpha? This is the question that comes up most often. In this workshop, we will explore what it looks like to bring the good news of Jesus to everyone… including those cast aside, neglected, or overlooked by society. We will name the fears that limit us, ways the church can help, and practical tips that everyone can put into practice to lead an invitational lifestyle.

Join our Global Director of Prayer, our National Director of Training, and special guests at this combined workshop to help more people receive an invite to explore the life-changing impact of the gospel.

CATHOLIC

Designed with our Catholic guests in mind, we will unpack the missional call of the Eucharistic Revitalization, sacred listening, and how to care for your soul in the ministry journey. This track could also benefit any Protestant ministry leaders in liturgical contexts.

Workshops in this Track

Nourishment for the Soul in the Journey of Ministry

Speakers: Sarah Kaczmarek, Director of Pastoral Ministry, Encounter Ministries, and Monica Martinez, National Director for Catholic Context, Alpha USA

How can we ensure we’re growing personally so that we are operating out of Christ’s strength and not our own?

Reviving Eucharistic Culture

Speaker: Monica Martinez, National Director for Catholic Context, Alpha USA

A time for meaningful reflection, conversation, and prayer around our missional call, awakened by the Eucharist. Together, we will unpack the meaning of the Eucharist as our source and summit of living our intentional discipleship.

Translating the Sacred

Speaker: Rick Grinstead, Director of Alpha Youth, Catholic Context

How do we fill the large gap once people have heard the gospel but have not yet acclimatized to parish life? How do we prepare the parish community to make space and build bridges, and how do we prepare guests who will be transitioning from Alpha to mass to sacramental formation? 

ENCOUNTER

This track is full of amazing main-stage speakers who will showcase the power of prayer in every generation, equip you to live a naturally supernatural life and train you to heal as Jesus did. Senior pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, this track is you!

Workshops in this Track

Learnings from Asbury on the Power of Prayer

Speaker: Angela Chadwick, Global Director of Prayer, Alpha USA

Alpha’s Global Director of Prayer will interview some of the spiritual leaders involved in the Asbury revival where a chapel worship service caught the attention of our country. You’ll hear stories of how the students were deeply moved by God through the simplest forms of worship and how the leaders made sure the only celebrity on stage was Jesus. You’ll also be amazed by the powerful breakthroughs in young people’s lives through the gentlest of prayers.

Additionally, we will explore how the resurgence of faith in one small American town is relevant to every person in the Church and how it shapes how we share the good news in a good way with this generation.

How to Facilitate Eternal Connections with Jesus

Speaker: Danielle Strickland, Spiritual Leader, Justice Advocate, Communicator, Peacemaker

Encounter is God’s favorite way to spiritual revelation. Why do we emphasize information-formation as our primary means of discipleship? What if we put more time, energy, and effort into facilitating more encounters? Be prepared to discuss together how cultivating curiosity becomes a means to do just that. We will talk techniques, experiences, and new ideas.

Everyday Miracles

Speakers: Dr. Chloe Swart, Associate National Director for Alpha UK, and Dr. Russo Swart, New Wine Cymru Prophetic and Healing Team

This workshop will look at how to heal the sick as a part of our everyday missional lives. Following Chloe’s PhD studying healing miracles in Wales, Chloe found that Christians in Wales were praying for their friends, family, and colleagues, in the gym, in the supermarket, at work; wherever they found themselves, as well as in church services, and Alpha courses. Healing is a missional tool that points toward Jesus. Unpack the theology of healing, while also hearing very practical teaching and demonstration of how to heal the sick in an everyday way.

YOUTH

If you are a student, work with middle or high school students, or just love young people and want their voices to shape the future of the Church, this track is for you! We’ll talk about empowering a generation to lead and will equip you to draw out the leadership of a generation to reach their peers through the new Alpha Youth Series and beyond.

Workshops in this Track

Navigating the New Alpha Youth Series

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

Explore the the new Alpha Youth Series, discover the adjustments we’ve made to better reach Gen Z/Gen Alpha, and how to use this new series best to help young people discover and develop a relationship with Jesus.

Helping Young People Walk Naturally Supernatural

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

Learn how to help young people operate in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in a way that seems natural (not super weird) yet clearly supernatural. Help them discern the voice of the Lord, pray for healing, and grow in the prophetic voice.

From Guests to Leaders, Activating the Leadership Potential of Young People

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

A practical guide on creating space for activating young people toward leadership to become bold, Spirit-filled witnesses. Learn how to empower young people to lead their own Alpha for their friends and how you can champion Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

FAITH AND JUSTICE

How should the Church respond in the face of injustice? What about in an election year? Could we show up to a polarized political world with the goodness of God like never before? If you are interested in learning how to navigate these complex issues, this track could help!

Workshops in this Track

Navigating the Waters of Faith and Politics

Speakers: John Wentz, Executive Director, Alpha USA, and Josh Williams, Associate National Director of Evangelism and Justice, Vineyard USA

This election year is ramping up to be as polarized as ever. Equip yourself and your teams to navigate the choppy waters of faith and politics during an election cycle. We have a massive opportunity to bring the goodness of God into these conversations or to leave people feeling alienated. Learn five top tips to help your conversations be filled with grace and truth and leave people feeling heard and honored.

Lessons in Evangelism from MLK’s nonviolent Movement

Speaker: Josh Williams, Associate National Director of Evangelism and Justice, Vineyard USA

How should the Church respond in the face of injustice? Hear how lessons from Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent movement provide tools to speak out against injustice while presenting a compelling case for the gospel. Josh Williams, associate national director for evangelism and justice for Vineyard USA will host this workshop where you will hear stories and learn tangible practices for engaging injustice while extending the invitation for people to encounter Jesus.

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