World will be dark unless Christians have 'spiritual ambition' - Bishop

More than 1200 church leaders from 77 countries and 28 denominations attended Alpha International’s conference for leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) last week at Holy Trinity Brompton in London.

Among them were eight archbishops and 38 bishops including six orthodox bishops from Bulgaria and Romania.

The week aims to train, equip and encourage leaders who are heading up Alpha courses in their nations.

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, opened the conference with an address in which he told delegates, "The Christian movement throughout the entire world has really got to develop and increase in this century; proper spiritual ambition for the sake of Jesus Christ.

"This is a very turbulent world, a world where we’re facing huge promise and huge peril and unless the followers of Jesus Christ have spiritual ambition and a real burning zeal to present Jesus Christ as part of the truth that will bring to fulfilment the promise of the 21st century, then things will look dark indeed."

He spoke about recent research undertaken of how many Londoners actually passionately want to convert fellow citizens to their worldview.

"Thank God the largest group that want to do that are Christians."

The second largest group were agnostics and atheists and the third largest group were Muslims, who he said have "burning zeal to see London as one of the great Islamic capitals of the world".

"I believe passionately that if the reference to God as we see him in the face of Jesus Christ is edited out of our world view, then this world becomes a flat land in which the only truth is competing human desires.

"Genuine conversion to the way of Jesus consists in precisely this: Turning away from making a god of our own desires.

"This is a thrilling agenda for the 21st century. This I believe is the heart of what we’re gathered here to be and do together."

The following day, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, gave an address at Westminster Cathedral for EMEA delegates, including seven Roman Catholic Bishops, and four Archbishops.

At a reception following the event he thanked "those who work on the shared ventures between Alpha and Alpha for Catholics".

"I pray that God will guide us all in this journey of deeper and deeper understanding and greater visible unity between our churches."

During ‘News from the Nations’ feedback sessions on the growth of Alpha around the world, delegates heard from the Polish Alpha course leader how they republished Nicky Gumbel’s chapter ‘Why does God allow suffering’, following the tragic plane crash which killed President Lech Kaczynski and 96 others in April.

A delegate from the Balkans spoke about how he is working with a Croatian to bring Alpha in unity to the Balkan states including Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

In Albania, which only has 0.5% evangelical Christians, there are now 48 Alpha courses running since Alpha was launched two years ago.

EMEA week also included specific ministry training for running the Alpha course in different settings including; Alpha in the Workplace; Alpha for Forces; Alpha for Prisons; and Alpha in a Developing World Context.

On the Thursday night, EMEA week closed with a night of prayer and worship, led by Pete Greig and Tim Hughes. Delegates who experience persecution in their home countries were honoured and prayed for. They included Alpha advisers from the Middle East and Zimbabwe who face danger running Alpha.

Inside a church decorated with flags representing the different nations present, instead of traditional prayer, they crowd surfed over the worshippers. Hands held them up as a physical manifestation of prayers holding them up at this time.