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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Alpha -- first night and I got to be there!

Twenty-nine days ago I wondered what I'd be doing tonight. Tonight was our first evening of Alpha. (If you're not familiar with Alpha, check it out here or maybe here.) We've been planning most of the summer for a major launch of not one but FIVE Alpha experiences this fall, each one lasting ten weeks, each one catering to a different audience. In the past we've pretty much done one Alpha at a time, and that's been plenty. But this fall a number of churches in the Twin Cities have been working together to launch a major advertising campaign to promote their fall Alpha courses. So, to take advantage of the moment, Central put Alpha front and center in our fall ministry lineup, and we expanded the times and locations in which we offer Alpha.

This was big exciting stuff for me. I've been leading Alpha for almost a decade -- since I was in Williston, North Dakota around the turn of the century (!) -- and the idea of expanding and promoting it like this has been very exciting. For the last three years I've placed a lot of energy into developing a team of leaders who have some sense of ownership of the Alpha ministry at Central. These people have done so much over the last several years to make Alpha at Central a dynamic ministry that has been used by God to change people's lives.

So when I was laying in a bit of a fog in the ICU 29 days ago, one of the stray thoughts that wandered across my consciousness several times was this: On October 3rd, what will happen? Will Alpha collapse? Have we overreached ourselves? Will I be back on my feet and in a normal leadership role, or will I still be in some way sick and / or recovering? How far will we have to pull our goals for Alpha back, I wondered, because so much of the leadership and decision making is my deal, and I'll be out of commission for at least a week or so (I thought at the time!).

What happened?

Tonight was my first major event back at Central, unofficially of course. I ended up out of commission for far longer than I thought possible at the time. What I saw tonight was truly beautiful. Capable people stepped up while I was out of commission and took care of every facet of this ministry. Volunteers recruited still more volunteers. Leaders trained leaders. Other staff members at Central took on additional responsibilities. Many people who already had some area of responsibility for Alpha took on additional duties.

I've done Alpha enough times to know what to look for on the first night. What I saw tonight tells me that many, many people are going to experience the power and love of Jesus Christ in new ways in the next ten weeks.

The largest Alpha I've ever led in the past had just under a hundred participants. This fall the Alphas at Central will total somewhere north of 250 participants. I'm so impressed with the team of people God has assembled to lead this ministry. One of the great benefits of me getting sick is that my weaknesses were taken out of the picture at precisely the time when they could have done the most damage, and people with complementary strengths stepped up to the plate.

So what did I do tonight? I showed up. My one official duty was to sub for Scott, who has been training small group leaders and is serving as their shepherd and overseer. He's out of town for the weekend on a well-earned break, so I got to step in. After that leaders' meeting and prayer time, I pretty much hung out. Talked to people I haven't seen in a month or so. Thanked lots of people for their prayers for me and my family.

What I saw tonight was the faithfulness and the wisdom of God. Thank you to so many who have made extra time in their schedules, spent hours preparing and leading and doing all the other things that needed to be done for this ministry to fly. I hope you see that you are not doing this as a substitute for me, or somehow filling in because I can't do it right now. I hope you see that because you have been willing, God has done something that is so far beyond my ability! How fun to watch and (within reasonable limits, as several of you reminded me tonight) participate with you!

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