The Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, commended the work of the fresh expressions movement and encouraged new ways of evangelism in an address to the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops in Rome.
Speaking as the Anglican Fraternal Delegate to the Synod, Steven's comments - on the theme of 'new evangelism' - were outlined in a Church of England media release. The former leader of the Fresh Expressions team also spoke of the need for life long discipleship to be at the heart of evangelism.
New evangelization calls for a clear vision of what it means to be a disciple,
The new evangelization is a call to whole life discipleship: an invitation to follow Christ for the whole length of our lives, with every part of our lives, and into wholeness and abundance of that life.
Reflecting on the last 10 years of the fresh expressions movement, Steven spoke of the emergence of new communities of disciples who had grown from seeking a new engagement between culture and service.
They are formed by a process of careful double listening to the culture of a particular group and to the Holy Spirit. Contemplation is at the heart of the methodology. The listening is followed by discerning paths of loving service. The fruit of the service is often a new community of young people or families or the elderly. Within the new community the seed of the gospel is sown and evangelism takes place. Only then can the new group of Christians begin to offer prayers and worship and continue their journey to the full sacramental life of the Church.
Steven also reflected on the nature of the diaconate and the role that pioneer ministers - and pioneer ministry - have played in developing new communities of service and worship.
This process of going and listening and serving and forming new communities requires particular gifts. In the Church of England we have named this cluster of gifts 'pioneer ministry'. We have recognized pioneer ministry as a focus of both lay and ordained ministry in our Church. Pioneer ministry is rooted theologically in diakonia and the ministry of deacons: listening, loving service, and being sent on behalf of the Church.