The Six Streams
Jesus gave us a complete and perfect picture of God, and demonstrated how we can experience vitality in our life with God. The historical Church (Christians), despite its divisions and differences, has upheld the core characteristics of Christ’s life through what we now call traditions. We like to call them “streams,” each flowing out of the river Christ.
Taken together, these traditions help us move toward a balanced spiritual life while showing us how we can all come to a Christ-centered table in unity, despite our diverse personalities, passions, and gifts. The streams serve as a guide as we seek to become like Jesus ourselves, and they remind us to remain open to the various ways which God chooses to reveal himself.
The Six Streams of Historical Orthodox Christianity
Contemplative Stream – the prayer-filled life
- Purpose – To go beyond intellectual religion and fan the flame of our first love through steady attention on God.
- Practices – silence, solitude, different types of prayer
- People – Jesus, Apostle John, Brother Lawrence, Henri Nouwen
Holiness Stream – the virtuous life
- Purpose – The re-formation of our hearts so that we are able to respond appropriately and with integrity to the demands of life
- Practices – spiritual disciplines, accountability, mentoring, discipleship
- People – Jesus, James, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Charismatic Stream – the Spirit-empowered life
- Purpose – To live fueled by the presence and power of God, embracing all that the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through us
- Practices – following the Spirit’s lead boldly, healing prayer, charismatic gifts rooted in love
- People – Jesus, Apostle Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wimber
Social Justice Stream – the compassion-filled life
- Purpose – To emphasize compassion and justice in order to bring all relationships into harmony and shalom
- Practices – volunteering, cleaning up a park, use skills to advocate for the poor
- People – Jesus, Amos, John Woolman, Mother Teresa
Evangelical Stream – the word-centered life
- Purpose – To live the “good news” that all can be redeeming and restored to its original design
- Practices – Bible study, small groups, relational evangelism, missional communities
- People – Jesus, Apostle Peter, St. Augustine, D. L. Moody, Billy Graham
Incarnational Stream – the sacramental life
- Purpose – Growing in our recognition that God is truly among us and working through us in our everyday life
- Practices – using skills and talents in everyday life, practicing the presence of God, financial giving/generosity
- People – Jesus, King David, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Dag Hammarskjold
The starting place for our understanding of these streams is found in a book called “Streams of Living Water” by Richard Foster. While each tradition has been labeled many things, we land on Six Streams to represent the great traditions of historic Christianity.