Bishop tells church leaders to listen to the Holy Spirit

Listening to the Holy Spirit must be brought back to the heart of church leadership, says the Church of England’s Fresh Expressions leader.

Bishop Graham Cray said planting successful churches would come through listening to the Holy Spirit, not “cloning” existing churches.

Speaking at the end of last week’s Christian Resources Exhibition, he said that old strategies that had worked 20 or 30 years ago were no longer suitable for mission and church-building in today’s diverse society.

Today’s church leaders need to look at their specific local contexts and lead their congregations in prayer to “discern corporately” the best church for their areas, he said.

The bishop warned that it was an “endemic temptation” among church leaders to make plans based on previous experience and ask God to bless them, rather than “shutting up” and listening to Him in prayer.

“We’re in a very different sort of world where the strategies that used to work are not very helpful now,” he said.

He admitted that the listening process was sometimes “not quick”, citing the example of one missionary who walked the streets of Liverpool for one year speaking to locals before planting a successful fresh expression of church which incorporates the baking of physical bread.

Bishop Cray told church leaders: “Be leaders who listen and enable others to listen and be cultivators rather than controlling.”

He encouraged church leaders not to lose hope if they felt like the answer had not come to their prayers, adding: “God speaks not always according to our time ... Develop a culture that expects God to speak.”