The digital landscape has changed dramatically since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the globe. Digital spaces have been front and centre as schools shifted online and working from home became the norm.
For many churches, as Sunday services and physical church doors shut, one of the biggest questions leaders asked was, “How do we survive as a church?”
We had to collectively rethink our strategies not just for worship, but for outreach. Church services transitioned online. Sermons, announcements and church activities were recorded and streamed. And the critical question of how to continue to reach out to our communities while isolated demanded attention.
In 2020, together with the global body of Christ, Alpha had to pivot into the digital space too. We asked, “Can there still be effective evangelism while many people are confined to their homes?”
As an evangelism tool, Alpha’s strength has always been in its ability to provide space and opportunities for people to explore the Christian faith and ask some of life’s biggest questions. The pandemic brought a new level of awareness of some of the biggest questions in life, and Alpha’s evolution into the digital space helped meet those searching for answers.
This was the starting point of our discovery of how digital spaces can play a big role in outreach, not just during times of lockdown but even after church doors have reopened.
In urban settings, in particular, the barrier of commuting need not keep guests from attending Alpha. Guests who may never step into a church building also show up online. The ability to attend Alpha from home, for some, provides a sense of greater security, safety, and comfort. They can explore something new from within their comfort zone.
Any place at any time, provided someone has internet access, can become a space to share the good news and ask life’s big questions.
As of June 2021, more than 25 million people had experienced Alpha in 140 countries and in over 100 languages. In 2020, more than 1.3 million people attended Alpha, a 15% increase from 2019 (Alpha Global Annual Review). As Alpha transitioned online, we began to see that Alpha online works as well as Alpha in physical locations.
This article by Alpha USA, referencing Barna’s Research Journal, Five Changing Contexts for Digital Evangelism, says that “41% of non-Christians are open to participating in spiritual conversations if the environment is friendly.” What does this mean for us as preachers of the Gospel?
As the world adapts to doing life online, Alpha brings its signature culture of hospitality, fun, and empathetic listening from a physical environment into the digital space. While keeping that culture online, people are also finding it more convenient to attend Alpha. From the same article by Alpha USA on Barna’s website: “The ease of showing up to a Zoom room, compared with traveling to and physically entering an unfamiliar and daunting church facility, allows even skeptics to explore on safe ground.”
These preliminary findings indicate that digital evangelism is here to stay, offering guests the convenience of being able to connect from an environment they are already familiar with.
Nicky Gumbel, pioneer of Alpha, said at the start of the pandemic that “this is the greatest opportunity for evangelism of our lifetime.” During lockdowns, community became more important than ever. As the world emerges, the convenience and lower barriers of entry to the online space means that churches are only beginning to discover the benefits of hosting Alpha in a digital space.
- Alpha Global Annual Review
- Alpha USA on The Promise of Digital Evangelism Environments
- Digital Evangelisation Report by Alpha Malaysia
- Alpha International
If you’d like to run an Alpha course, head over to https://run.alpha.org/ and materials will be provided to you for free when you register.