The Unassuming Evangelist: Nicky Gumbel

Alpha is arguably one of the most successful tools of Evangelical Christianity in recent years. It now has a presence in 169 countries, 112 languages and over 20 million participants worldwide. For many people, Reverend Nicky Gumbel is Alpha, and that makes him one of the most influential men in modern Christianity.
Humble, charming and chatty
You wouldn’t think it to meet him though. He’s the epitome of an English village vicar: humble, charming, chatty – and incredibly intelligent.
Nicholas Glyn Paul Gumbel (born 28 April 1955) is an ordained Anglican priest, and author. Nicky is the son of Walter Gumbel, a German Jew from Stuttgart whose licence to practise Law in that city was withdrawn in one of the early Nazi purges. Walter emigrated to Britain and became a successful barrister. Gumbel’s mom, Muriel, served as Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

From Atheist to Alpha Architect
Initially an avowed atheist, Nicky was converted to Christianity in his first year at Trinity College, Cambridge through reading the New Testament. He said, “I was enthralled. It was as if I had found what I had been looking for all my life”.
Nicky was educated at Eton and after graduating in Law in 1976, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a practicing barrister.
Then in 1982 he announced his decision to leave the Bar to train for ordination in the Church of England. In 1983 he began theological studies at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford where he graduated with an honours degree. Gumbel was officially installed as Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in 2005. He is supported by his wife Pippa, and the couple have three adult children.

Crossing borders and beliefs
The Bible says that we judge a tree by its fruit – “a good tree bears good fruit” – and this can certainly be said of Alpha, one of the most influential courses in the world, crossing borders, boundaries and beliefs. Under the accomplished and very British (tempered) direction of Nicky Gumbel, Alpha has continued its impact for Christ across denominations and demographics.
For Nicky, Alpha’s success lies in its approach: “I think it’s a low key, relaxed, unthreatening, non-confrontational way for people to explore pretty big subjects. I think a lot of people do have questions about life: ‘What’s the purpose of my life?’, ‘What’s the meaning of my existence?’, ‘Why am I here?’ It’s hard to find a place where you can discuss those issues. “

Reaching the unchurched
“You can’t go down to the pub and say, ‘What do you think the meaning of life is?’ It’s hard at a football match to discuss those kinds of issues. But actually, most people have those questions,somewhere in the back of their minds.
And if you can find a place where you can discuss it with a group of people who, like you, are outside of the Church, and it’s a non-threatening, relaxed environment, quite a lot of people want to do that.”
For Nicky, “the purpose of the course is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to explore these things. I was an atheist and I came to experience a relationship with God which had a radically transforming effect on my life, on my relationships, on every aspect of my life, for the better.
So, obviously I hope other people will experience that. But it’s very important to me that they have a sense of freedom while they’re doing the course and they don’t feel in any way pressurised in to it.”

Answering life’s questions
To date Alpha has been replicated in dozens of countries, reaching millions of churched, formerly churched and unchurched people. Because of its simplicity and out-of-the-box thinking, Alpha has become a blueprint for  modern evangelism – actively engaging with tough critics!
Alpha was started in 1977 by  Reverend Charles Marnham, of Holy Trinity Brompton, a Church of England parish in London. Rev. John Irvine took over running the course and developed it into a ten week format.
In 1990, Nicky Gumbel took over the running of the Alpha Course from Reverend Nicky Lee. The course was transformed under Gumbel’s leadership from being one designed for new Christians to one primarily for those outside the Church who would not consider themselves as Christians.
In 2008 over 33,500 courses were offered in 163 countries by Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal,  Baptist, Methodist Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
In this year, 60 churches from 15 denominations in Cape Town joined together for the first city wide Alpha Invitation on the continent of Africa. All the churches worked together to promote and run courses at the same time.
On 21 July churches all over the Western Cape and East London, Pietermaritzburg and Durban will be joining together for the 4th Alpha Invitation. The theme will be ‘Keep Searching’. If your church would like to be a part of this please contact the National Office on  082 977 2885 or 021 438 4077 or
South Africa
Alpha runs in 169 countries, in every culture and context: from Communist China, to rural India, war-torn Burundi, to small town America, to a prison in Brixton –  across the globe people are hearing of Jesus!
The National Office of Alpha South Africa launched in 2000 although courses had been running here from 1994/1995. It’s estimated that more than 500 000 people have done The Alpha Course in South Africa with the number of churches currently running the course at over 600! Every year they host an Alpha outreach campaign encouraging churches to run courses at the same time. Alpha SA are also developing resources tailored to our context and in our local languages.
Get involved with Alpha South Africa
Alpha SA works in partnership with local churches to run courses around the country. They also have various offices set up nationwide to assist with Alpha courses and programmes.

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Article by Jackie Georgiou

Gods Promises Never Expire

From my youngest days I was introduced to God’s promises and their relevance and fulfilment in everyday living. The one that springs to mind most prominently is Philippians 4:19: “And my God will provide all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ.”
How well I remember the occasion when there was too much month left at the end of my mother’s housekeeping money. She normally kept the monetary notes hidden behind the mirror in the bathroom and she just needed to turn one of the screws slightly to partially release the mirror from the wall, for a note or two to fall out into her hand. This time she had done so again, but there was nothing. She wasn’t worried and kept saying that God would meet the need.

God’s miraculous provision
After a few days, the situation became urgent and she went back to the mirror for the last try, made just one turn with the small screwdriver and out fell a five pound note! At the proverbial eleventh hour God had met the need, as she said He would. Experiences like this left a lasting impression on my young mind.

Keep on praying
Years later, an aunt of mine was widowed and had to raise her three children alone. Although money was tight she faithfully tithed what little income she had. The annual rates were due on her home but she did not have the money, so she prayed about the situation.
On the day before payment had to be made, she wondered what she was going to do. Then, as she walked through the house and looked towards the front door, she noticed an envelope lying on the carpet. In it was sufficient money to cover the payment and an anonymous note which merely said: “Mrs S. God DOES supply our need.”

A daring idea
From time to time, scary but realistic stories surface about the hardships of some pensioners. Also, economists give statistics of how much money an individual should have saved before he or she retires.
Any wonder then that these factors negatively influenced my thinking when my husband, Ken, said he felt an inner prompting for us to apply for early retirement? Six years early! We had seen some colleagues work until retirement age and then die within a short time afterwards. From that viewpoint it made sense to enjoy a slice of early retirement.

“We’ll never manage financially,” I told him. Deep down I doubted whether we would manage even if we continued working to age 65.
“Remember Philippians 4:19”, Ken said “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.
I believed that promise and we had experienced it first hand while Ken was at the Bible College and I was the sole breadwinner. But, in spite of this, I reminded him that his broken service spent studying would undeniably adversely affect his monthly pension.

Seeking God
Wisely, Ken suggested that we make a concerted effort in prayer and ask the Lord to show us, beyond any doubt, what His Will was in this important matter. Less than a month later, we realised that following the Lord’s prompting to take early retirement was the right course.
We both worked for the same company and, at that stage (1994), early retirement was totally out of pattern with the staff pension scheme. Consequently, there would be a penalty of a 16.5% drop in each of our monthly pension payments.
From that point on God began to allow intermittent gems of confirmation that we had not only made the right decision, but that the timing was perfect as well.
Stepping into the unknown
The 28th of February, 1995 was a wonderful day for us. Having been blessed with a God-given marriage, being able to spend all day and every day together was something we had dreamed about for a long time – now it was about to become a reality.
We had no way of knowing that we stood on the threshold of a period in our lives in which we would be overwhelmed by the mighty hand of the Divine Governor of the No-Reserve Bank of Heaven!

Surprises from God
We faced a whole new era in budgeting and living on a reduced income. The first surprise came when our monthly premium for short-term insurance was reduced, because we were now pensioners.
Another surprise followed just six weeks later.  The company for which we had worked celebrated 150 years of existence.  As pensioners, we each received a supermarket shopping voucher for R150 and a rosewood clock.
It had never been company policy to give an increase during the first year of retirement. Yet, a mere 3 months after we retired their policy changed and we both received a small increase. God was at work!

Significant blessings
At the beginning of the next year the company’s pension fund declared a surplus and our pensions were increased by 30% – and that was over and above the customary annual increase which followed within a few months. We had been divinely and over-abundantly compensated for the 16.5% penalty imposed on us for early retirement.
In 1999 the company demutualised and we each received an allocation of a large number of shares. We chose rather to take the money. This enabled us to pay off our bond, to buy the vehicle that we had not been able to afford when we retired, to give to the Lord’s work and to help others with financial difficulties. We experienced the truth of the Bible text that says “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.

Overwhelmed by His grace
Late in 2008 the world economy was hit by a financial crisis and many companies cut back on annual increases for their stuff. We asked around and were told by the widow of a former member of management that there would not be an increase. Mulling over the forthcoming hikes in electricity, water, rates and medical aid tariffs, we were thrown even more onto God’s mercy.
 The next morning in my devotional time, I read: “God’s ability to provide is not governed by the world economy.” I thanked my Heavenly Father for His timely reminder. Next day, in the post we received our increase notifications. Our informant had been mistaken.
Praise the Lord!
As Charles Spurgeon once said: “Take the promises to the throne. Go to God over and over again with this: ‘Lord You have said it, do as you have said’. Plead His written promises and He will perform them.”
Psalm 103:2 says: “Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.” That is something Ken and I did daily without fail (he has since passed away).
I have witnessed God fulfil His promises for provision throughout childhood, adolescence, adulthood and into retirement. His provision never ceases to amaze me and He will continue to fulfil His promises. After all, He is Almighty, He is Sovereign and, as Hebrews 13:8 says: “He is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 

By: Lorraine Keets

Poverty – Receiving the Heart of God for the Poor

When I was 15 years old, I travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, where one of the most harrowing scenes greeted me. I had checked into a hotel and decided to walk downtown. Around the corner, I came across a boy – probably the same age as me – sitting on the street with no forearms (they had worn away from leprosy) and torn clothing. Emaciated, he looked up at me with an empty, hollow expression, his tin cup balanced on his upper arm, saying, “Dollar? Dollar?”

The face of poverty
Shaken, I stared at him speechless and abruptly turned on my heel and ran back to the hotel room. Now I am not proud of how I reacted, but growing up in the middle of America, I had never seen poverty of that scale, or looked into the eyes of someone who had no hope.
I returned to my hotel, pacing back and forth stunned by the interaction. I still remember it like yesterday; I kneeled down at my hotel bed and prayed, “Oh God, if You could ever use me to help alleviate that kind of suffering, here I am.”

You cannot ignore the poor
When you look straight into the face of extreme poverty, when you smell poverty, when you hold a two year old baby whose bones are sticking out and eyes are out of focus from malnutrition, when you’ve seen and touched destitute people, something snaps inside of you. It has to.

A fast that pleases God
In Isaiah 58, we read about God’s heart towards the poor and the type of fasting He asks of us. The Lord says that if you really want to impress Him, here is the kind of service that you can engage in.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isa 58:6-7.

An array of blessings
God then describes the kind of blessing that He will pour out on people who will serve the needs of the poor.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer…”
This is one of the longest lists of promises of God recorded in a single passage in the entire Bible. Basically God says that if you give yourself to helping the poor He will give you:
•  Joy
•  Healing
•  Protection
•  Answer to prayer
•  Provision
•  Guidance
•  Soul satisfaction
•  Strength.

Adopting God’s heart
What does this tell us about God’s heart for the lowly, that He would ask us to partner with Him in alleviating their suffering and promise such an array of blessings.
If you had to see the world wide stats of how little Christians and the average church goer engages with the poor, you would faint. The figures are so low, so dismal, that it is just depressing!
With God’s heart so moved towards the poor and His imperatives so clearly spelt out in Scripture and His promises for those who serve them…Why then are so many blessed, redeemed, adopted, eternally secure believers quite removed and comfortably distant from the plight of the poor? My top five reasons include:

1. Lack of teaching
If you are in a church where Scriptures on helping the poor are not taught, it doesn’t let you off the hook. You have a Bible and you can read the 2 000 verses pertaining to the poor. The prompting of the Holy Spirit will lead you to take action about helping the unfortunate even if the church you are attending never does. This is clearly marked out in Matthew 25:34.

 2. Little or no understanding ofextreme poverty, a blinded eye or ignorance about the severity
Many of us can be totally insulated from the poor. When you are exposed to extreme poverty, when you sit in a mouldy cardboard home where seven people live, when you see a village try to live off a polluted river, with children dying because of it, you will be driven to do something about it even if no one else will lift a finger.
I made a pact with God that every year I would go to a place of desperate poverty and re-acquaint myself with the horrors of it because if I don’t, their plight slides down my priority list. I encourage you to expose your family to these places.

3. The issues of poverty are so overwhelming…
We think: “What can my small amount do?” Mother Teresa’s answer to this was: “Not all  of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” All of us can do something to alleviate the suffering associated with poverty, no matter how small the task.
The answer is never to do nothing – just do a little and God will multiply your effort in ways you cannot imagine!

4. People are jaded about helping the poor because they have heard a bad story about waste and fraud associated with helping others
Matthew 10:16 teaches that we should do our homework and be wise about how we can leverage our money to do the greatest amount of good.
If there is the slightest hiccup in a charity you support, don’t just take your lot and go home, don’t fall into cynicism but learn a lesson, get up and keep being generous to the poor and God will honour that.

5. One doesn’t know what to do to make a difference
In Exodus, God bring Moses into leadership and He asks Moses what he has in his hand. Moses responds by telling God that all he has is a staff…the Lord uses it and He does several miracles around that beaten worn staff.
If you don’t know what to do for the poor, ask yourself: “What do I have in my hand?” What skill do you have? What is your profession? What are you good at? Start there and get creative. We all have something in our hands that we can present to God to use on behalf of the poor.

Take up the challenge
The result of serving the poor is never sadness, the first promise is joy! These promises are all waiting for those who will spend themselves for the poor.
Take up the challenge to consistently read Isaiah 58 and it will get into your heart and transform you for the better. 

By: Bill Hybels

No Perfect People

How do you introduce Jesus to spiritually sceptical people in a post-modern, post-Christian culture?
 John Burke, a US Christian leader and author who has helped thousands of such people become Christ followers, will be in South Africa in May to share his unique approach to evangelism that reaches the ‘ugly and unlovely’ who most of us avoid.

Helping the church reach the world
Burke’s ‘No Perfect People’ teaching sessions (hosted by Willowcreek SA) is an opportunity for small groups and church leadership teams to consider an evangelism model which does not judge unbelievers or compromise the Gospel. The following story told by John (who pastors Gateway Community Church) illustrates this…

Learning to accept others
“Lana arrived late with a strained look on her face and the redness of her eyes immediately betraying her. Something was extremely wrong. “Brad’s not coming, he’s using again.” The words flooded from her mouth with a flow of tears as soon as she reached the safety of our small group. Inside, Lana couldn’t believe she was telling all to a church group, yet she had never found such love and acceptance.
When they first came to Gateway, Brad and Lana were seeking support. In their late twenties with two kids, it felt like they were slowly unravelling due to parenting responsibilities, job challenges, and years of drug abuse still stalking in the shadows.

Don’t be judgemental
Lana and Brad were invited to our group one Sunday by a couple they met after church and they quickly took up the invitation and joined our small group.
From the beginning, Lana wanted to make sure we understood her views. “I think all religions are equally valid,” she burst out one night. “Actually, I’m attracted by a lot of what Eastern religions have to say about peace, and I think Jesus was a good person, a life worth emulating, but I don’t know beyond that.
Frankly I don’t like religious people who judge and look down on other beliefs. That’s where I’m coming from, so I hope that’s all right with you all.” She wanted to make sure we weren’t going to judge her.
As Lana and Brad got to know the group, they soon realised this was not “your mama’s church”. The group was comprised of mostly young couples, in their twenties and thirties.

Opening up to faith
Marcy and Casey, our biker couple, typically came adorned in black. They came to Gateway in a state of spiritual pursuit. Casey was tentative and distrustful at first, but over the course of a year or so, came to faith in Christ. His mother prayed a prayer of faith with me while on her deathbed, which helped open his heart to faith.
Marcy would have called herself a Christian but did not seem to fully comprehend grace. Her Catholic upbringing gave her hope in Jesus, and she had seen Him pull her through a very traumatic childhood, but she had lived with a man before meeting Casey, and she and Casey had lived together before finally getting married.

Church in a pagan culture
I found out the hard way that living together was the norm. One Sunday, I gave a message about commitment, which I titled ‘The C-Word’ (due to our generation’s fear of commitment). In the message, I talked about living together before marriage, explaining that although it seems like a prudent decision on the surface, it leads to nearly a 50% higher chance of divorce for those who do get married, because there’s no sense of commitment.
That next week I got questioned at my small group. All but one couple had lived together before marriage!

An extreme adjustment
Some group members had skeletons of drug abuse in their past. Jay and Arden were both managers with good careers, but Jay still had a ten-year probation for possession with the intent to sell lurking in his past. Jay felt the grip of addiction squeezing tight. Sceptical about church and unsure of what they believed, Jay and Arden were seeking spiritual support for their battles but had been turned off by more traditional churches.
Four years later, Jay and Arden wholeheartedly follow Christ, lead a small group, and help out with our recovery ministry.

Missional Christianity
Daryl and Brianna were the only couple who arrived ‘churched’. They represented a bold new genre of missional Christians who are not content to play church by just huddling up with Christians.
They wanted to be in a place where real, worldly people, with messy lives, were seeing the real God in action. But, they represent a minority of churched Christians who, like the Apostle Paul, willingly venture out of their comfort zone into the pagan culture of Corinth [or Cape Town].

All things to all people
Many churched Christians who came through the doors of Gateway in the early days just could not handle the discomfort of having so many seekers around them.
They would hang out in the lobby after the service, strike up conversation, and slowly realise that the person they were talking to held none of their ‘sacred beliefs’ regarding abortion, sex before marriage, evolution, or other hot-topics of Christian subcultures. After a conversation like that, they usually scared each other off.

Love your neighbour
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating throwing in the moral towel, but why expect a secular society to act like a Christian one?
According to Jesus, loving God comes first – followed closely by loving people. But it takes a new kind of Christian to live and minister in the mess of society and that is precisely where we now live!”
By: John Burke
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