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Blogity-blah-blah-blog: Inspiring Minds Monday ~ Gumbel

Monday, June 29, 2009

Inspiring Minds Monday ~ Gumbel

I know what you're thinking, "the picture above doesn't look like Bryant Gumbel." No, it doesn't. That's because it's a picture of Nicky Gumbel. Nicky Gumbel is the senior pastor, or vicar, at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Growing up, Nicky considered himself to be an atheist and he encouraged his friends to stay away from Christians because he thought they were dangerous people. It wasn't until his first year at Trinity college in Cambridge that he started reading the New Testament. It was then that he started following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Nicky said "I was enthralled. It was as if I had found what I had been looking for all my life." I learned about Nicky when a course was offered at my church called the Alpha course. I was intrigued, so I signed up.

The Alpha course is an introductory course to Christianity and it is presented in a very relaxed, low-key way. But it is definitely not presented in a bait and switch kind of way which is a tactic I'm afraid is used way too often when trying to present Christianity to others. I think I had mentioned the bait and switch approach in an earlier blog post. What I mean by that, is too many times Christianity is presented in a way that says "Give your life to Jesus and everything will be hunky-dory." (Does anyone still say hunky-dory?) Then somebody decides "Yea, sounds good, sign me up!" Then when they find that things aren't always hunky-dory, they drop out like a college freshman. Anyway, after the first meeting at the Alpha group, I was hooked. I remember thinking "That is one witty, straight-to-the-point, British dude." Even though Nicky didn't start the Alpha course, he took it over in 1990 and made it what it is today. The Alpha course is presented on a set of DVDs featuring messages by Nicky Gumbel and is shown all over the world. Like I said before, the Alpha course is an introductory course to Christianity, but it's also designed for people who have been Christ followers for a long time as well.

After taking the Alpha course once, it was offered again at my church and I came back as a helper/co-leader. I don't remember all of the details of this, but one of the most memorable stories Nicky told on one of the Alpha DVDs was about the time he was in college and he was renting an apartment which was above a bank. He had some friends over one day and they decided to do an experiment. They wanted to know how many people would have to jump on the floor at the same time before it would be noticeable to the people downstairs in the bank. There were about ten people in the apartment and they sent one down to see how long it would take before the noise was noticeable. They started off with just one person, then, two, three, and so on. They didn't hear anything from their friend so then they started jumping off chairs and then a table. Finally, their friend came back up to tell them to stop. The fact was that the noise was noticeable when the first person jumped the first time. The friend who went down into the bank decided not to go running out the door and back up to tell them because he didn't want to make it obvious that he was a part of it. But he felt he needed to go up and tell them to stop when parts of the ceiling started to fall to the floor. I did a horrible job of telling that story, Nicky tells it better.

One thing someone in our group noticed was that he wore a blue shirt on every single talk that he gave. The rest of us hadn't really noticed. So the following week, that person said, "I wonder if he'll be wearing a blue shirt again" and he was! We all started cracking up laughing, ha, ha, ha...uh, I guess it was one of those "You had to be there" moments.

I've mentioned this before, but one of my favorite Nicky Gumbel quotes is "When people say 'Christians are such hypocrites' I say 'Duh!'". That quote is not only funny, it's true. I like how Nicky doesn't present Christians as some kind of polished squeaky-clean group of people. He doesn't sweep the dirt under the rug.

You can listen to Nicky's messages by searching for HTB Sunday Talks in the iTunes podcast directory. Nicky doesn't always give the message every week. Many others on staff at HTB are also given the oppotunity to speak and I've heard some great messages by them as well.

When I was taking the Alpha course, I noticed on one of the messages he had mentioned that he and his wife, Pippa, were married in 1978. I was born in 1978 so I knew they would be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary since I was turning 30 the year I took the course. Yup, I did the math. So I went out and bought them a really nice anniversary card and I had everyone in the group sign it. I later received an e-mail from Nicky which said:

Dear Daniel

Thank you very much indeed for your kind and thoughtful Anniversary card. Pippa and I were delighted to hear about how God is working in people's lives. Please pass on our thanks to all of your team who signed the card.

With very best wishes

If you ever see an Alpha course being offered in the area where you live, I suggest you check it out. It helped me take a look at my faith in a different way and it got me interested in learning more about God again when I was going through a dark time. It helped me to focus on God and start figuring out what my life should be about.

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