A Course in Christian Discipleship for Africa










What is the difference between RinJ and Alpha?

In recent years Alpha has expanded from the UK to Africa, and as a result we are often asked to explain the difference between Rooted in Jesus and Alpha. Both are highly successful courses in wide use, and both are grounded in scripture and dependent on the active involvement of the Holy Spirit. But the two programmes are designed to do different things, and they work in different ways. The purpose of this page is simply to answer this frequently asked question.

1. The nature of the course

Both Alpha and Rooted in Jesus are designed to present the gospel and bring participants into a personal relationship with Jesus, but they are very different in both background and aim. Alpha is a highly regarded ten week evangelism course, originally designed for the UK but now in use all over the world. Its aim is to bring participants into a living relationship with Jesus. Rooted in Jesus is a two year discipleship programme, commissioned and designed for use in Africa. Its aim is to help people become disciples of Jesus - not just taking that first step but learning to apply their faith to all aspects of their lives, and utimately discovering their own calling to ministry.  

“Growing the Church has adopted RinJ as one of the core elements in growing God’s church in our Province of 28 Dioceses. We see RinJ as Alpha and 2 years of discipleship rolled into one” - Revd Trevor Pearce, Director of Growing the Church, Anglican Province of South Africa

“Alpha leads people to faith, RinJ goes way beyond that to make disciples. The whole process of memory verses is very powerful, as is group study. Book 1 more or less covers everything done in Alpha. It can also spread easily. Once people have done a book in a group, they can go on to form a new group” - Bishop Martin Breytenbach, Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, South Africa

2. The context for which it is designed

Alpha was developed  by Holy Trinity Brompton in London for a UK context, and due to its success there it is now being used in other cultures too. Rooted in Jesus was developed specifically for an African context (the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania), and over the last 15 years has spread to 16 African countries. It covers issues relevant to the needs of African Christians, such as traditional religion, traditional medicine and tribal loyalty, as well as many lifestyle issues commonly faced in Africa. It is not normally used in the UK, where people face different challenges in their discipleship.

The UK is a post-Christian culture, and so Alpha begins with Jesus. Rooted in Jesus was developed for use in cultures where the shared heritage is African Traditional Religion, and so it begins further back, with creation. This helps participants build a strong and distinctive biblical foundation for their faith, and eliminates any confusion between traditional deities and the God of the Christian faith.

"Rooted in Jesus was written at our request. It is used throughout Kiteto but has now spread to many other lands. We are highly indebted to Alison Morgan for the course and for the training of our teachers" - Bishop John Hayden, Diocese of Kiteto, Tanzania

“Attending and participating in training and teaching Rooted in Jesus course to clergy and leaders of the diocese of Kadugli gave strong encouragement as the course was designed in a African context and (with Guide Book) will be easy to be communicated to people in the local Church. Secondly the course covers most practical issues of Christian life” - Bishop Andudu Elnail, Diocese of Kadugli, Sudan


3. The method and approach

Alpha is based on a series of invitation events, with shared meals, a DVD or set talk, and discussion. Rooted in Jesus is based on relationships rather than on events or presentations, and it uses materials and methodology which are particularly appropriate to an African context. No imported resources are needed, and no skills or materials except those which are readily available in any location. The leader’s books are supplied in the local language, and group members do not need books, or to be able to read and write. Group leaders do need to be trained, but they do not need to be highly educated; groups are led through discussion and practical demonstrations, and everything is carefully explained in the booklets. Rooted in Jesus is a challenging programme; but the challenges are designed to be spiritual rather than intellectual, so that it may be followed by people of any educational background.

“On the outset, Rooted in Jesus may look like a simple course in Christian discipleship; but upon a closer look, it is a powerful and meaningful course, equipping Africans in their faith in a context that is relative for them" - Nicole Corlew, after a conference in the Diocese of George, South Africa

"Rooted in Jesus is a true discipleship tool that every Church that serves the resurrected and living Jesus should embrace wholeheartedly. It has both Spiritual and Social components” – Canon Eric Twine, Diocese of Bunyoro Kitara, Uganda

4. The strategy for growth

Alpha is designed for a trained leader to run a series of courses for successive groups of participants; it works by addition. Many people have come to faith through Alpha. Rooted in Jesus is designed for a trained leader to take a group through the course, equipping participants to become leaders in their turn so that the number of groups multiplies. It is based on Matthew 28.19-20 (make disciples) and 2 Timothy 2.2 (who will teach others also), and it works by multiplication. Many people who began as ordinary group members have gone on to become group leaders themselves, helping others to become disciples who will disciple yet others. All Rooted in Jesus group members are expected to become active in ministry by the end of Book 4 – some as new group leaders, some using Rooted in Jesus Junior in Sunday Schools, some becoming active in different areas of ministry – eg healing, evangelism, preaching, works of compassion.

"Rooted in Jesus looks strategically designed for building from foundation for programme expansion by local staff. It fits well in our common way of starting community-based courses here" - Bishop Jackson Nzerebende, Diocese of South Rwenzori, Uganda

"RinJ is the basis for all our ministry and mission training, supporting as it does our diocesan vision to ‘become a communion of communities in Jesus’, ie small groups studying, discipling one another, church planting and rooting, growing in faith and changed lives together" - Revd Helen Van Koevering, Director of Mission and Training, Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique


5. Ownership and support

In recent years Alpha has been seeking to expand all over the world, building on the fruit which has come from the course in the UK, and providing the financial support to make that possible. Rooted in Jesus, by contrast, is a low cost programme designed for local ownership and implementation. We do not seek to advertise or to promote it, but simply to serve the needs of each diocese by providing facilitators and books when invited to do so. We send teams to run training conferences and provide ongoing advice and prayer support, but the ownership of the programme lies with each diocese which chooses to use it. Our experience is that dioceses which invest in the programme experience spiritual, numerical and ultimately financial growth; but we are not able to provide ongoing financial support. Our long term aim is that Rooted in Jesus should be indepdently run in each Province, as it already is in South Africa and in Tanzania.

5. Can we use both Alpha and Rooted in Jesus?

Book 1 of Rooted in Jesus can be used as an alternative to Alpha, but Rooted in Jesus also makes an excellent follow-up to Alpha. Rooted in Jesus provides an answer to the question ‘What do we do after Alpha?’. Books 2, 3 and 4 contain material which Alpha does not seek to cover – discipleship, fellowship and ministry.

Alpha, being designed for a Western context, has been successfully used in Africa, particularly in urban areas and amongst professional people. Rooted in Jesus works particularly well in rural areas, although it is often enjoyed by those in urban environments too. Because Rooted in Jesus has been so successful in Africa we have developed a UK version, The God Who Is There. This may be preferred in some urban contexts, particularly in South Africa; it too may be used as an alternative (book 1) or as a follow-on to Alpha (books 2 and 3).

There is also a Rooted in Jesus Junior programme for use in Sunday Schools with children aged 8-14.

"I have no doubt that God has commissioned and anointed this course for Africa in much the same way as he is using Alpha in more urban and 'western' settings. We are already starting to see remarkable things in this Diocese as people and congregations are set on fire with the love of Jesus" - Bishop Martin Breytenbach, Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, South Africa.


6. To find out more

For more information on the syllabus and methodology of Rooted in Jesus visit the Course Contents page.

For more information on its vision and aims visit the Introductory page.

To find out what people say about Rooted in Jesus visit the Commendations page.

Alpha is an excellent resource for evangelism and has brought many people to faith. For more information about Alpha visit the Alpha website.

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. For more information please contact us.

"Go, and make disciples ... who will teach others also"
Matthew 28.19 & 2 Timothy 2.2