The new Bishop of Durham challenged the church to abandon he “mindset of decline” as he was enthroned at the weekend.
The Right Reverend Paul Butler told a packed Durham Cathedral: “We need to look to God to keep His promises that when the seed of the Kingdom is scattered, it will grow.”
He also told worshippers that the church should engage with the community rather than act as a “holy club”.
The Rt Rev Butler was speaking at a formal ceremony to welcome him to the cathedral on Saturday when he pledged to tackle poverty, engage more young people in the church and to grow it.
He said: “Poverty – economic, social and spiritual - is a scourge whether it would be here in the North East, or in Lesotho, Burundi or Romania.
“It has to be confronted and tackled. But this has to be done by all sectors of society working together.
“The church has a key part to play in this and we must play it to the full.
“Children and young people have a vital contribution to make to our society, and to our churches now.
“They are not just ‘the future’, they are part of all our present.
“They must be listened to, encouraged and nurtured, protected appropriately and offered hope for their and all of our futures.
“Every church needs to engage with children and young people, in schools and villages, in uniformed organisations, clubs and on the streets.
“The Church as agent of God’s Kingdom should be growing – growing in our love for God, his world, his people.
“A healthily growing church will be a church that engages with its local community, seeking its welfare.
“This will not always mean a church that grows in number, although such growth is far more likely when we do so engage than when we try and be simply a holy club.”
The Rt Rev Butler comes to Durham after four years as the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.
The 58-year-old will have offices at Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland, and now lives in the nearby village of Etherley Lane with his wife Rosemary. He replaces Justin Welby, who left Durham last year to take up the role of Archbishop of Canterbury.
This week he appeared to set himself on a collision course with the government as he was among the bishops to condemn the coalition’s welfare reforms In his sermon on Saturday he said: “Don’t underestimate the small – whether that be the small child, the small project, or the small congregation; from the smallest of seeds can come much growth.”