He preached a nonreligious Christianity that emphasized authenticity, creativity, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Gerald Coates, a church leader who envisioned a new way of doing church, free from formality and the trappings of tradition, has died at 78.
Coates was influential in spreading charismatic renewal in the United Kingdom and helped develop the house church movement into the British New Church Movement. Through his preaching, prophesying, and provocations, he pushed Christians to be more creative, be more receptive to the Holy Spirit, and understand themselves more as pioneers than settlers.
“God will not be tied to 17th century language, 18th century hymns, 19th century buildings, and 20th century religious inflexibility,” he once declared. “God is changing his church. We are part of that change!”
Coates co-organized the first March for Jesus in London in 1987 and founded Pioneer, a network of churches that prioritize the presence of God and seek to be catalysts for Christian unity. Currently there are about 60 churches in the network.
“We will be forever grateful to Gerald for birthing Pioneer and creating a family for activists, creatives and those who didn’t always fit in mainstream or conventional church settings,” wrote Pioneer UK leader Ness Wilson and Pioneer international leader Billy Kennedy in a tribute to Coates.
They said that Coates “continued to live up to the name of the network he founded” to the end, “clearing the ground of unnecessary religious baggage and making a way for what God was doing.”
Kennedy described Coates as “part of a small group of dreamers and schemers … who set out to ‘restore the church’” and “preached a brand of non-religious Christianity that offended and delighted in equal measure.”