I’m a philosopher by nature and education. Like pretty much every ancient Greek I know, I love the idea of getting together in a public setting, maybe around a meal, to talk about life, beliefs, and all the questions in between them.
On the other hand, I’m a Christian by birth and persuasion. Like the first century disciples, I enjoy studying Jesus’s examples and seeing how I can apply them to everyday life.
So what if you combined the deepness – for lack of a better word – of philosophy meetings with the foundation of the Bible, God’s Word? I’m all over that.
Enter the Alpha Course.
The Alpha Course is for people who might not necessarily go to church but are still interested in trying to answer deep questions. The course gives an overview, in 10 sessions, of what the Bible is all about while trying to answer some of those deep questions, or at least point in the right direction.
I say all this because… well, first off, because I’m a fan of these kinds of courses. But secondly, because I connected with Mikey Robinson who blogs and helps run the Think Alpha website. He actually reached out to me first but then agreed to do an interview here to explain more about what he does and – more importantly – to help us share the meaning of life with others.
Here’s the interview…
Marshall: So, Mikey, how did you get involved with the Alpha Course? What attracted you to it?
Mikey: I was aware of it for a number of years before I got involved in helping with Alpha. I arrived in London a couple of years ago, and one of the first things I felt I should do is an Alpha course. I volunteered to help cook or be in a group, but ended up leading one. It was definitely a steep learning curve, but one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Marshall: I bet. What are some of the most common questions people ask in the course?
Mikey: Each week raises a whole lot of new questions. Personally, I’ve found that depending on a person’s prior knowledge the questions can be quite wide ranging. Some of the most common are who exactly is Jesus and if He is God as He claims, why God lets bad things happen, and who is the Holy Spirit.
Marshall: I think that’s one of the toughest parts of sharing with others, figuring out what they believe already so I can respond appropriately. Do you have any tips for quickly getting to understand where others are at? Like how can we find out what assumptions they’re bringing to the conversation?
Mikey: That’s a tricky one. I don’t personally have any miracle short cuts, but what I found works best is listening, and building friendships, and making sure that you always do this FIRST before you even think about saying what you think, and this is what you can expect on an Alpha course – friends and people who listen. At some point in the process hopefully you get better at noticing the subtleties of how they react (body language, tone, etc). I know I so often fail to listen, and this is something I consciously work on.
Marshall: I’m with you there. Not everyone’s going to join a course, though, or initiate these big questions to give us a chance to listen. So how can Christians help others discover the meaning of life, on a practical level?
Mikey: A great question, and one which is best answered by others wiser than myself. I find that the best way to help others discover the meaning of life is often the simplest, that is to live it. I’ve found that when your life is filled of meaning, others will notice.
Marshall: What does a life filled of meaning look like, compared to one without meaning? For instance, what are maybe a few ways you try to live that out personally?
Mikey: I don’t know if this is the question that needs to be asked here. Everyone finds meaning in their lives, as I mentioned in this article about the Meaning of Life.
I’ve found that in my life if I focus on living my life filled with joy, it will make people curious, and is extremely satisfying and fulfilling. I’ve found (by trial and error) that joy is a distinctly different concept to happiness. Happiness is doing what you want. Joy is doing what God wants, and His way is better because he wants what is best for me.
For me, this is a process, a balancing act, and a life work. Psalm 16:11 says that “in His presence is fullness of joy” so first up, I want to learn how to remain in His presence, and then it’s finding what you’ve been made to do, doing it with all your heart, and loving the people around you with that same devotion.
Marshall: Wow, thanks for sharing that. Let’s shift focus. Can you share a specific example of something amazing that’s happened through Think Alpha, the blog?
Mikey: Personally, I find it amazing every time someone hits our Facebook page and website, and finds a course near them. I mean, it’s no small feat going to all that effort to find out more about God. You’ve got to really want it.
Marshall: Yeah, definitely. I’m constantly amazed too with not only how far but how deeply the Internet can reach. About that, what do you think is coming in the future with the way Christians interact with the Internet?
Mikey: I think particularly with Web 2.0, it gives us a great opportunity. We get a chance to get a lot more personal with people in our audience, and if we create content right, access to their friends as well. I suspect that there is a lot in store in this regard.
Marshall: What are some ways to create content right? What are your suggestions?
Mikey: Again, I think it’s primarily about listening. Most bloggers write about what they’re interested in. Which can be fun, but less relevant, and hence less read and shared. If you learn how to write great headlines and great articles about things that people are interested in, they’ll read it.
I try and write stuff people want to share, which means asking the question, “How is this going to make their lives better.”
Marshall: As regular readers might have noticed, I’m a big fan of all things online. But what about those who aren’t on Facebook every day or don’t have their own blog and so on? How can they get involved?
Mikey: This is pretty common among Christians, as we’re often tech laggards (late adopters of new technology). With web 2.0, we see a gaping opportunity to harness connections between people that we would otherwise never reach. So I’d say “get on board”!
I think this means that we all have a responsibility to learn how to use it better. A good place to start is learning how to share things on Facebook, email, and Twitter.
Marshall: All right, to wrap this up, what would you say Think Alpha’s main mission is, and how can bondChristians help, online and offline?
Mikey: ThinkAlpha itself really isn’t a brand as it’s purpose is to target keywords in Google that are related to people searching for answers and to create content that people will want to share with their friends asking these questions.
As far as bondChristians helping, at the moment, any feedback as to what they would find useful would be great, particularly things they would share and use online. If you have any ideas for E-books, PDF downloads, videos etc, it would be awesome if you could drop us a line.
Marshall: Will do. Thanks so much for your time and insight, Mikey. I really appreciate it and think readers will too.
(1) Check out Think Alpha where Mikey blogs. When you find something you like, share it with your friends. It’s good practice.
(2) As Mikey said, let him know if you have any ideas or suggestions on things that would be useful or spreadable or just plain awesome.
(3) How can you share, by example, the meaning of life? What are some things you can do that are different from what you might otherwise do if you had a different purpose or a different meaning to life? Start a list of ways and then check one off today.