Alpha France seems to present a great paradox in terms of a culturally transferable piece of Bible Engagement. Being a high profile programme of evangelism supported by all the major denominations, there are now, according to the Alpha website (2012), over 55,000 Alpha courses worldwide in over 166 countries. Yet alongside its success, Alpha has received a number of compelling criticisms including accusations of its resistance to „local adaptation in favour of the need for consistency‟ (Ireland, 2005, p20). In view of this, an identification of three specific distinctives of French culture will provide a framework to an examination of themes and language within the texts and talks that require particular sensitivity in translation. A fusion of Bible and Mission scholarship with an analysis of the way these themes are communicated will enable a critical evaluation of Alpha France as a tool of mission.
Alpha originated at the London Anglican church, Holy Trinity Brompton. It was developed by Nicky Gumbel and was first published in 1993. The course consists of 10 weekly talks which take place in the setting of a meal and many guests come in response to invitations from a friend. The opportunity is given for discussion around tables following the talk. Although an invitation is offered during the course for people to commit their lives to Jesus, and a day or weekend away is dedicated to the opportunity to experience as well as learn about the Holy Spirit, a major feature of the course is its intention to allow people to explore the Christian faith without feeling pressured to have to do so.
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