The event was completely inspiring, with speakers such as Mark Hughes, Danielle Strickland, Charles Price and Edmonton's own Bob Jones, Senior Pastor at North Pointe Church. The worship band was also from North Pointe and the quality and duration of music was just about exactly perfect. I say duration because I find a 15 to 20 minute worship set to be just about right.
I met many people there who I have previously met in my travels around the province, some of whom recognized me before I recognized them. I also met many people who I hadn't met yet, but whose churches have run Alpha throughout Alberta. I have found that in any such large church gathering, a surprising number of the people I meet, or someone they know, came to faith through Alpha.
I was pleasantly amazed at how much the Billy Graham organization seemed to like Alpha. There were quite a few recommendations of Alpha as an evangelizing tool, even though Alpha wasn't officially involved in the congress. I was so pleased to see in what high regard Alpha is held both by the organization and many of the individual speakers there. Alpha works so well because it takes into account the very fear and reluctance to evangelize that many of us seem to have. All one has to do is invite someone to, "dinner and a movie," so to speak, to learn a bit about the basics of the Christian faith and discuss some of life's big questions in a relaxed, open and non-threatening environment.
My greatest takeaway from the Congress: "Culture trumps everything." A church may say it wants to evangelize; may say it wants to reach the lost for Christ, wants to grow, but so often the true culture belies their words. They will not make visitors feel truly welcome and comfortable when they come through their doors. They will not honestly examine every aspect of their Sunday morning and ask, "If this were my first time here, would I want to come back?" They will say things like, "I don't really want to get bigger than we are right now. I like my church just the way it is." Mark Hughes put it this way; "Every church, regardless of size, should be growing in numbers."
And of course, we all know the last six words of a dying church; "We've always done it this way!"