The three main figures of the early church were easily Peter, Paul and John. Besides the gospel writers, they wrote more of the New Testament than anyone, and they are prominent figures within the book of Acts and church history.
Now each of them brought something different to the church – they were unique people with unique personalities and giftings.
Peter was the hardcore evangelist, always telling people about Jesus, but also invariably putting his foot in his mouth. Jesus was astounded at his faithfulness and wisdom, and had to call him satan and rebuke him in the same day!
Paul was the teacher of the early church, the great revealer of grace. He understood the truth that it is by grace, not of your own, that any should boast, and kept the church on the firm foundation of right doctrine.
Now if you look at the church through history, and the dark ages, it was the church of Peter. It won the whole world for Christ, and if you study the church history of the time, you could be amazed at the church’s loyalty, devotion and kindness – and then think it was satan – in the same day.
Then the Protestant Reformation began, an event that parallels the rebuking of Peter by Paul in Galatia. Paul opposes Peter to his face and says “you have to believe in grace”, “you have to believe in faith”, “good sound doctrine matters”.
And now the Reformation has shifted the church so it is on the foundation of Paul’s revelation of grace and Peter’s revelation of Christ. That’s great, but I feel we are about to enter into a second Reformation and that is marked by John.
Remember, Peter and Paul had some charismatic experiences – Peter saw the open vision of all the foods, Paul went to the third heaven, but it was John who was the mystic of the early church, John was the prophet. John was the one who saw the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John was the one who was continually talking about loving one another. John was the one concerned that the church didn’t just go into all the world, didn’t just understand the doctrine of grace, but that the church was infected and consumed by the presence of Jesus Christ in the fellowship, visibly seen by our love for one another.
I believe that what is happening in our churches right now is that this attitude and spirit is being restored – the attitude that we love one another, the tangible and visible presence of God in meetings. The church will be known across the United Kingdom as a place of love.
It’s interesting what each disciple was doing when they first meet Jesus. Paul was on his way to destroy Christians – people whose lives were filled with religion, especially religious hatred often gravitate to the doctrines of grace. In fact even when persecuting the church it was Paul was a teacher, he was obsessed with good doctrine.
Peter was throwing a net into the sea when he met Jesus, prophetic of his attitude of going out and getting the fish.
But John was mending the nets when Jesus met him. It’s great that we have great teachers and great evangelists in the church, it’s great that the church has imbibed the spirit of Peter and Paul, but we need the attitude of the net-menders. Peter’s ministry would be useless without mended nets! Paul’s ministry would be useless without mended nets!
And sadly we see this across the UK, we see evangelists going into the streets and preaching but they have no respect for local church, no respect for mended nets. And so they are leading people to the Lord, but those people are never once followed up, never once discipled, never once become useful to the kingdom. It’s just a number’s game for them, and because the actual evangelists are not even going to church, or if they do, it’s a dead church just so they can say they are going to church, then they are not discipled at all, and so you are impressed with their boldness and faith one minute, and then see them act just like satan the next.
And we see teachers who are not aware of the mended nets, teaching great revelations of grace, but their followers are not involved in local churches, and they surely do not love each other, and they bicker about who has the correct revelation of grace rather than show grace to one another.
Everything must converge on the local church, on the mended nets. The problem is that mending nets is hard work, and especially when those nets are made of people who are easily offended, easily tired, easily rude, easily unloving. But when we start to train and disciple people how to love and mend the nets and build genuine churches of grace and love, not forgetting or despising the Peters and Pauls but rather welcoming them into our nets and flowing with their gifts, with their gifts finding a home – we will see the revival that God is looking to reveal in our nation.
I am telling you now that the revival in this nation will not be achieved by rogue evangelists leading a few people to the Lord but with few relationships, it will not be achieved by tiny groups reading the study guides of their favourite teacher and judging everyone by their response to that teacher. No – it will be by local churches where people are discipled, where iron sharpens iron, where everything is centred on Jesus and love, and everything has a place, and the priority is loving one another, and the presence of God manifests and lives are changed forever.