And when he [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
When Jesus sent His disciples back out to fish again, they brought in so many fish that the nets nearly broke. It was both a miracle and a prophecy. It was a picture of a coming harvest where multitudes of people would come to know God and fall in love with Him.
“Lord, what’s the story with revival?” I asked one day.
“There can be no revival for the holes in the net are too big.” God used the imagery of people fishing for souls. I pictured a net with holes so big that the fish swam quietly in and out of the net. Not long after this, our family went on holiday and we took one of Jacob’s friends with us. After three days the friend came to us.
“Will you pray for me?” he asked.
“Sure, we’d love to. Do you know God? Have you experienced Him before or heard His voice?” I figured that if he was asking for prayer that he may have a background relationship with God.
“No. Mum took me to church for a couple of years when I was younger, but I’ve never experienced God or heard His voice.”
“Never? You went to a church for two years and you never encountered God?”
“No. After that my sister’s boyfriend convinced me that God wasn’t real. But after being with you guys, I realize that He is real. Can you pray for me?” This young man had sat in a church for two years as an unbeliever. Like a fish, he swam through the net every Sunday but was never caught and brought to the shore. The holes in the net are too big.
Another friend shared with me his vision for a community event he runs every year.
“I can see 5,000 people coming to faith at this event. If the Spirit of God shows up, I can see thousands getting saved.” He spoke with an inspiring passion.
“That would be awesome. But then what? What will you do with them after they are saved?” I was not trying to dampen his vision, but to extend it beyond conversion.
“I hadn’t thought of that.” If a massive revival is coming, then we need to start asking these questions. If 5,000 gave their lives to Christ in our town, how could we effectively disciple them all? Right now, the holes in the net are simply too big. The harvest would be lost. If revival is to come, we need a strong net, tightly bound.
Not long after this, I talked with a man who was visiting from the north. God had given him a vision of the country.
“God showed me a picture of small fires appearing all over New Zealand. As I looked, I saw that each fire was a small group of people, represented by a burning candle. God connected these groups with threads of gold. The gold would weave into the hearts of people and then connect one group to another. From a distance it looked like New Zealand was covered by a net of fire and gold.”
Not long after this meeting, I had an unexpected visit from a Korean man called David. God had been leading David all over the world to show him what He was doing in different countries. He asked about what God was doing in New Zealand. I shared about revival and the restoration of the Body into a wholehearted love for God. I shared about how God is bringing together small groups that are based on the first two commands. I shared about how these groups are connecting like a strong net which will hold the coming harvest. We talked for a long time, but there was almost nothing I shared with David that he did not already know.
“This is what God is doing all over the world. People call it different things. But everywhere God is gathering His people into small groups so they can love one another.” He mentioned several countries where he had seen this recently: Israel, Korea, France, Australia, Indonesia and more.
God is spreading a net of fire and gold over the nations of the world. Fire represents the love of God in all its refining power and radiant glory. Gold represents the love of God as the currency of greatest value. It is the love of God that burns within the heart and creates the perfect bond of unity. The net that God is creating is made up of myriads of small groups that are founded on and knit together by love. Each of these groups will shine like a blazing light because of their love for one another. Each group in the net will be unique in expression, and yet they will all share the same foundation. They will give to meet each other’s needs. They will build each other up. They will equip and empower one another. They will be vulnerable, accepting and real with each other. They will love one another.
Why a Net of Small Groups?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God is love and so He naturally wants us to become known in the world by our love. However, for Jesus’ desire to be fulfilled, two conditions must first be met:
- We must love one another,
- The world must be able to see our love.
When we meet these conditions, something amazing happens.
In First Love, we learn about God’s biological design for our bodies. We react to love by releasing oxytocin, which gives us a sense of wholeness, wellbeing, and deep fulfilment. Oxytocin is the peace that we feel when we are around people we like. It is the inner warmth we feel when we are embraced by someone we love. It is the warm fuzzy feeling that we feel when we watch someone do something selfless to help another person. God has designed the brain to be so affected by love that we do not even need to participate in love to feel its effects. We simply need to see love in action and the flow of oxytocin through our bloodstream will tell us: I was designed for love.
God’s desire is to draw people to Himself through love. Yet, we cannot love a crowd. ON the contrary, love flows strongest in the smallest numbers. When we gather in small numbers, we can be more vulnerable, more real and authentic. We can share our needs with each other and let the love of God flow between us. Then, when we invite non-believers to our small group meetings, their hearts will resonate as they see our love for one another and they will be like fish caught in a strong net. Even if they have strongholds against God in their minds, they will not be able to stop their hearts from responding to genuine love. Just imagine a meeting of believers who truly love one another. Imagine a non-believer coming to a meeting and seeing people—men and women—embracing each other with a pure love and showing a genuine interest in each other. Imagine a non-believer watching people give to each other with joy. Imagine their response as they experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and the love of His people. Imagine their thoughts as they hear the truth of God’s love and see it manifest in His people. Though their minds may not be able to articulate it, their hearts will be telling them: I want this! I was made for this! How can I have this in my life?
The Coming Harvest
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Psalm 107 is a prophetic Psalm for this time in history. The Psalm looks at some of the ways God expresses His love for humanity by bringing us to the end of ourselves. When individuals and even nations become desperate, we turn to God in our distress and find deliverance and love. This is all to God’s glory. It is His amazing, steadfast love in action.
We therefore need to see extreme times of need not as a curse but as an opportunity to love people and restore them to God. When the famine comes, we need to maintain our peace, knowing that the Father is drawing His prodigal children back home. We need to be there as living expressions of the Father, watching for the lost, ready to embrace the prodigal and lavish love without reserve.
Matthew 9:36-38 (NASB)
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
When Jesus looked upon the harvest, He saw people who were distressed and dispirited. The harvest was ready. The people were at the end of themselves and yet the laborers were few. So Jesus called His disciples to pray for laborers to bring in the harvest.
The same is true for this time. The harvest is almost ready. We need to pray and ask God to prepare us as laborers for this harvest. Becoming a laborer does not mean that we will need to leave our jobs and go into full-time evangelism. We become laborers in the harvest simply by letting God weave us into His net. All we have to do is devote our lives to the first command and resolve to love one another. If we do this, God will connect us with other believers who also share His heart. As a group, God will then set us on fire and connect us to other groups by threads of love. Once our nets are mended, Jesus will then send us out fishing. And the catch will be great.
This post uses material from the 17th chapter of One Another. Get your free copy.