I don’t know about you, but a year ago I would have struggled to think about doing evangelism online. I’ve got some friends that work in those fields and I always come back to the same questions with them. Does it work? Doesn’t it feel a bit weird? Are people who wouldn’t consider themselves Christ followers willing to explore faith online? How do you connect new believers to local churches? How can more people be involved in it?
If you had asked churches a year ago if they were considering doing evangelism online most would have said no. For many it wasn’t something they had even thought about. Many organisations that work to assist the churches with evangelism have also had to rapidly pivot.
They’ve gone from promoting in-person events to equipping churches to use their resources online. It has been an interesting journey to watch over the last six months.
Does it Work?
The simple answer is yes. People are searching for answers to some of life’s biggest questions and more, and they are happy to do it online. For example check out this article.
I do exactly the same whenever I have a large decision to make. I search the internet, I look for answers, I watch and read reviews, I ask questions in the comments of YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Many are doing the same as they think about some of life’s toughest questions.
What is Alpha?
For me, and here is some full disclosure, it has been an exciting time to work for Alpha. If you haven’t come across Alpha before we’re an organisation that encourages churches in the area of evangelism and discipleship. These are our two big things that we focus on.
The course, for which we are named, Alpha, is a chance for people to explore the Christian faith in a non-threatening, discussion that usually involves, food, a talk and discussion. It’s free for churches to use! (Always my favourite part!) And traditionally it was an in-person event facilitated by thousands of churches around the world each year.
Alpha has been one of those organisation that has had to rapidly change how we were encouraging churches to engage with those searching. We’ve encouraged online engagement and we’ve seen some amazing courses, around the world, running entirely online. In fact it has allowed churches to reach more people because:
- Everyone doesn’t have to be in the same building;
- You can run multiple courses a week, reaching different people, in different time slots;
- People can join your course from all over the world; and
- God still does amazing things! Even online!
Doesn’t it feel a bit weird doing evangelism online?
It does and it doesn’t. I know that’s not much of an answer. Sorry. At first, it is a little awkward as people get used to a new group of people while online. And you wouldn’t think they would be willing to ask big life questions online and with a new group. Surprisingly, we’ve discovered that people are willing to go deeper quicker.
I have been wondering if there is something about the being able to join from home, (or wherever they are) where they feel comfortable, that has lead to the ease of engagement and conversation that many course leaders have seen on an Alpha. I have no data to back that up yet but it does just feel right. I know I feel more comfortable.
How do new followers of Jesus connect with local churches?
Probably this is the thing I love about Alpha the most. Is that it is “the church” connecting with people who are searching! The individual people of your church connecting with those individuals that are searching. Part of the joy of our new online world is that they can join from anywhere.
You can host watch parties where it suits your people to attend church. They can connect into the wider body through Facebook groups, (check out Nona Jones new book on how to do this well). This looks to me like the church on a mission, it looks to me like a family adapting to a new house, a new location. It looks like the church not just relying on paid staff but equipping all believers to create spaces for their friends and family to explore the Christian faith.
What if you have people around the world joining your course? How do you connect those people? Isn’t that a bit tricky? Well, it can be, but it can also be easy. You are the church! Yes we would love for people to connect to local churches, Alpha is all about equipping the local church, but the world is a bit different at the moment.
We don’t what to just shove them out the door and say “Go find a church yourself!” They can join you at your church. Watch parties, are a great tool for connecting with people in their timezone. You can still run online home / connect / life groups for further discipleship, there are many ways to connect them into church and when the world is ready help them connect with a local body of believers close to where they live.
How Can More People Be Involved In It?
This for me is one of the best parts of the COVID lockdown. I know, that does feel weird to say! But there are more people available, with more time. This is a great opportunity to equip the saints with a tool to help them connect with their friends about the big questions of life. They can run it as part of a big group, or just by themselves. You can run it during the daytime, or evening.
Many restrictions have been removed because we are not trying to get everyone in the same building at the same time. I’ve heard of a church that started a new Alpha every day for a couple of weeks. The possibilities are there for more Christians to be more involved in helping people, all over the world, come to know more about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
None of us have particularly enjoyed COVID. For many pastors and leaders of churches it has been a time of high stress. Despite this we’ve also seen God do some amazing things. If I think about where I was, where my church was, and where the organisation I work for was six months ago and where they all are now, I’m not sure I want to go back to “normal”.
I want to see where God is taking us, where this journey with evangelism online goes. If nothing else the ability to see more Christians involved in sharing their faith has been amazing. I’m praying that God continues to challenge my preconceptions and my heart on all things evangelism. I also pray that he does that for you too.
Find out more about Alpha by visiting:
For the rest of the world, find an Alpha office or contact here.
How has your church done with evangelism online? What are your thoughts?