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Andrew Atherstone – Repackaging Christianity: Alpha and the Building of a Global Brand

Hodder and Stoughton

Hardback

ISBN 978 1 399 80131

Price £22

307 pages

You would have needed to be marooned on a desert island for 30 years not to have heard of the Alpha Course. This book, that marks the retirement of Nicky Gumbel, the face of Alpha, tells the story of its beginnings, the main characters that shaped the course and its phenomenal global reach.

If Alpha is to be thought of as a “brand”, it is probably the Coca-Cola of evangelism. It is estimated that 28 million people have attended an Alpha Course worldwide. One cannot deny the global reach of either Coke or Alpha – but how do we assess the impact they have had on the world?

Andrew Atherstone has had extensive access to relevant Alpha archives and private papers in telling this story, and goes about his work in a diligent manner. Even the greatest fan of Alpha will discover facts about the course that they didn’t know before.

The book also carefully narrates some of the many criticisms levelled at Alpha over the years. These criticisms relate to the underlying theology of the course, its methodology, its marketing techniques and its ecumenical reach. It also relates the way in which Nicky Gumbel has been willing to extensively adapt Alpha’s content and mode of delivery, whilst retaining its essential core.

Anyone interested in the development of the Christian faith in the past three decades will be informed by this book. Whether a fan or a detractor, Andrew Atherton’s contribution makes clear how the Alpha brand has changed the landscape of modern Christianity.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex. He is Director of the Training at the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia

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