The talks are expositions of Paul's letter to the Philippians. They are presented with all the customary Gumbel clarity, charm and enthusiasm, but the format is beginning to feel a little dated (the course was first published in 1999). A Life Worth Living is a resource well worth considering, but in a fresh expressions context it may to be presented with some extra creativity and imagination.
What is it?
A Life Worth Living is a nine-part course (suggestions are also given as to how the talks can be divided to allow for an eighteen week course). In each talk Nicky Gumbel explores the new life in Christ as presented by Paul in Philippians. The nine talks are:
- New Heart (Philippians 1.1-11)
- New Purpose (Philippians 1.12-30)
- New Attitude (Philippians 2.1-11)
- New Responsibilities (Philippians 2.12-18)
- New Friendships (Philippians 2:19-30)
- New Confidence (Philippians 3.1-9)
- New Ambitions (Philippians 3.10-21)
- New Resources (Philippians 4.1-9)
- New Generosity (Philippians 4.10-23)
The course material is available on video, audio cassette or in book form with leaders' and guest manuals also available. The suggested format is very similar to that of Alpha:
- a meal;
- the talk (either Nicky Gumbel's on video or audio cassette, or a locally produced address);
- coffee break;
What does it claim to do?
The publicity for A Life Worth Living is very modest. On the cover of the leaders' manual it says:
In each talk Nicky Gumbel explains how it is possible to live the Christian life, practically and joyfully and is aimed specifically at those who are starting out in the Christian life.
Does it do what it says on the cover?
Yes, it does. The thorough Biblical expositions are well illustrated with examples of people who have lived very full Christian lives. Some of them are famous (such as Rosa Parkes and George Laing); some are not so famous. There are some very moving, challenging and inspiring stories of faith shining through suffering.
Nicky Gumbel's joyful enthusiasm is ever present and uplifting. Particularly helpful is the teaching on attitudes, ambition and generosity (giving).
A Life Worth Living is an exposition of Philippians rather than a complete systematic discipleship course, so, inevitably, not all aspects of discipleship are covered. Those using A Life Worth Living may well wish to follow it with one of the other courses from the Alpha stable (see below for some suggestions).
There is a preponderance of illustrations from Alpha courses. These could be alleviated if talks were to be produced locally. The course would also benefit from more illustrations of the social and cultural outworkings of the gospel. As with Alpha, there are a lot of allusions to marriage which may be a little wearying for single people.
How simple is it to use?
It is as simple as Alpha! If the videos are used, most time will be taken up preparing the questions for the small groups. The leaders' guide is full of suggestions. The talks are shorter than the Alpha talks but may still benefit from use of the pause button.
Prayer is assumed to be open prayer. Some written prayer material and suggestions for music and worship centres would be very helpful. This in particular is where the course feels dated compared with some more recent resources which have much more of a post-modern feel to them.
Using the talks in halves could be very helpful in a lunchtime meeting or in a group for parents or child minders who have energetic toddlers to keep an eye on.
Would it work in a fresh expression context?
Yes, it would, particularly if the Alpha course had been done previously. It could be done without doing Alpha first but the frequent references to Alpha may grate a little.
A Life Worth Living is a useful resource. For those new to the faith it is an excellent introduction to the benefits of Biblical study. If the course proves to be fruitful the other Alpha follow ups would also be worth exploring.
The package and presentation does feel a little dated compared to some more recently produced resources. Those leading the course may wish to think how it can be creatively enhanced and delivered in a way that covers more fully the different ways that adults learn.
How to obtain the material
A Life Worth Living is available through Christian bookshops or direct from the Alpha Shop.
The Alpha Publications brochure also contains details of other Alpha follow up resources including:
- Searching Issues course – looking at the issues most often raised on Alpha courses.
- Challenging lifestyle course – Bible studies on the Sermon the Mount.
- The Heart of Revival course – based on the second half of Isaiah.
- Simplicity, Love and Justice – a course designed to develop the relationship between faith and lifestyle.
For more information on any of the above, visit the Alpha website.