When I was in my parish, I would sometimes look at the geography and say, “If I went and started a congregation in that locality, a number of Anglicans who live there and who want to come to church can actually be served better from there.” Most people are not readily mobile and cannot afford to spend money going far to church on a Sunday morning when they need it for Monday to take them to work. They want to go to church, but they would rather go to a next door church. So we find that if the church is right there, they will come, and, over time, they will become members.
As a result, we are doing quite a bit of church planting. In fact, at our last Synod in Nairobi we passed a motion stating that we do not have to have land or buildings in order to start a church. We can use a classroom in a school to begin our services, or indeed a cinema if it is what is available.
This brings in the question of visitation, and the readiness with which people visit one another’s homes. Africans say that if you welcome a man of God, he leaves a blessing behind. So for example, when I was working in a parish, I might visit a home, even if that person was not a member of my church. I would just say, “Well, I was passing by, and it’s nice to come and say hello to you people. I’m the minister in this particular local church, and just wanted to say hello and to pray for you.” They would say, “You’re welcome. Come have a seat, have a cup of tea, share with us the Word of God, pray with us.” I might do this two or three times, and after the third time I would see them in church. Before I realized it, they had become members. That happened to me quite a bit when I was in the parish.
On other occasions, I might just ask one of my parishioners in a particular area, “Would you kindly allow me to have some of your time, and you take me to your neighbours, even if they’re not our members, because they know you, and introduce me to them.” Sooner or later those neighbours will begin coming to your church.
Alternatively, parishioners will sometimes tell you, “I have a neighbour who doesn’t go to church and we think about him and his family a lot. They may have had some problems. Would you like to come and see them?” So the neighbour invites you on behalf of the other family. You go and visit, and after two or three times you find one member coming to church, then two of them come, then finally you find the whole family is there.