The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him (Matt 13: 10-12).
The Methodist Church in Britain is one of the Christian denominations in the world that is able to express itself effectively in quantitative terms through the regular collection and publications of statistics which began as far back as 1766. It is pertinent to note that, Wesley was after quality and not just quantity of people. Alan Piggot, a Methodist Research Officer explained that ‘although the founders of the movement wanted as many people as possible to have access to Methodist preaching and ministry, they were careful to count as members only those who had been moved by the experience and persevered in the life of discipleship. Early Methodist statistics were descriptive, distinguishing members who were established in their faith from those less so, with a view to devising pastoral remedies for strengthening discipleship.’ The reflection is that the main use of statistics is not in managing decline but in making disciples.
The October Count among other Methodist reporting systems provides a process for membership development, missional accountability, and effective tending of people through class meetings. Beyond the emphasis and mere supplying the church data, October Count is essential for local and ministry planning, stewardship, and feedback. The parable of October Count calls us to a renewed tending of God’s vineyard, bringing about fruitfulness in soul winning. The reflection is that Statistics for Mission report is not only to examine data trends, but the tending and growth of God’s people.
The parable and principle behind October Count summons us to abundant life, truths in soul winning, and opportunity to spring forth in the face of old memories and declining figures. Parables are told to know the truth, and to know the truth like the disciples who asked what Jesus meant after the crowds left, one must have a soft and open heart. Just as a blind man can look at the sun and not see a thing, as fallen people, we lack the capacity of understanding and apprehending spiritual truth because sin blinds the human intellect to the light of God revelation in Christ and the gospel. A parable in relation to our own life or church beyond a fictitious or made up story or figure, is designed to teach us a lesson through comparison in order to grow in God’s mission. In essence, parables conveys message of truth through comparison or contrast. The reflection that prompted the parable of October Count resonates with how Jesus was dealing with either a question or attitude of people to mission. The context of the parable of October Count calls for a new attitude and passion towards soul winning. In Luke 15, the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost sons reveals the Pharisees anger towards Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners and tax collectors. The reflection and question behind the parable of October Count is our attitude towards soul winning, church planting, and evangelism.
The parable of the Vineyard in Matthew 21 explains how God has bequeathed us as faithful servants and tenants His vineyard to tend (vs. 33-46). Beyond the narrative of the wicked tenants, the text summons us to a missional multiplication in relation to Jesus’ vision for a new community, learning, and response to the practice of repentance. The parable of October Count calls us to a renewed interest and accountability in God’s mission especially on the part of those entrusted with the oversight and stewardship of God’s people.
The reign of the marketplace is about what we do for the sake of ourselves unlike the reign of the Kingdom of God which is about what we do for the sake of God’s vineyard, tending of God’s people before sending into mission. God calls us to move from speech that are ‘mere passivity and consolation to prophetic preaching that is about judgement and hope’ of eternal life in Jesus Christ Beyond the imprisoned ‘market ideology that preys on our fears of being exposed for lack of productivity, … fears of being found inadequate disciples,’ the parable of October Count summons us to a renewed attitude towards discipleship. October Count has to do with how God’s garden is growing under our stewardship. The parable of October Count is about the kingdom at work in our lives and the extent that we generously give in turn to others. Like Jesus’ parable about ‘two sons,’ the parable of October Count challenges our leadership and membership participation and understanding of God’s activity in the world (Matt 21:33-46).
God counts on us to spread the Gospel and this gives meaning to our October Count, a call to account for the given vineyards, the people that God has entrusted to our care for tending before sending. The fruits produced comes together to qualify us sharers in God’s kingdom and not just as managers in the marketplace. October Count could also confronts us with the degree we are not producing kingdom fruits. The parable of October Count beyond membership balancesheet reminds us that true faith always bears fruit. Christian faith always bears fruit, hence, the problem is ‘not with the vineyard’s production but with the tenants themselves.’ The parable and principle of October Count summons us, the tenants and stewards of God’s vineyard to arise with holy passion towards soul winning and evangelism. Truly, the harvest is plenty, therefore, the parable of October Count calls us to a renewed class meeting fellowship and prayer for more labourers in church planting and dynamic evangelism.