Wednesday, January 23, 2013

6 Great Streams for the Spiritual Life!


Foster identifies the six great streams of the Christian life as, “the prayer-filled life,” the virtuous life,” “the spirit-empowered life,” the compassionate life,” “the word-centered life,” and the “sacramental life.” Each of the great streams fit into the six great tradition of the church as, “contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnation.” It is through the dedication and development of the streams that a Christ-follower grows in faith and spiritual formation.

“The prayer-filled life” is the first stream Foster notes on the Christian walk. This stream is to be contemplative while offering oneself to God in reverence and dialogue. It is to give special attention to loving God with supplication while committing to multiple forms of prayer in which a person offers themselves to God. The second stream is, “the virtuous life.” This second stream is “concerned with the personal moral transformation that comes through the development of what the old writers called 'holy habits'.” It is through this stream a person develops a heart and desire for holiness and living a life set apart.

The third of the great streams is “the spirit-empowered life.” This third stream focuses on the “Holy Spirit who comes alongside us and animates and empowers our efforts.” Foster refers to it as a great gift and blessing for the Christ-followers. It is this stream that develops the individuals ability in submitting oneself so as to hear the discerning guidance of the Holy Spirit. The fourth great stream is that of “the compassionate life.” The compassionate life is to demonstrate social justice in a daily walk. Foster describes it as, “a trumpet call to a freely gathered people who seek the total transformation of persons, institutions, and societies. We are to combine suffering love with courageous action.” Thus, the Christ-follower demonstrates a compassionate life in the stream of liberating the oppressed and standing firm for the Christian principles.

The fifth stream is that of the “the word-centered life” or what is also known as the evangelical tradition. This fifth stream has a double focus. The first focus is the importance of the centrality of the word of God, and the second focus is the importance of evangelism. The word and evangelism dictate a humble approach that internalizes the word of the scriptures and then courageously shares the word with all people. The sixth and final stream is the “sacramental life.” In this stream the Christ-follower uses the material world to embrace the spiritual world. Foster states that the sacramental life is to, “participate in the physical sacraments of the church and live as God's people on earth, thus eliminating any material/spiritual dichotomy.” The goal of the sacramental life is to embrace the “physical world as good and full of mystery.” Thus, the final stream is the stream that allows for the world in which we live to bring revelation of the God that created it.

A Christ-follower is to grasp each of these streams in order to develop a healthy spiritual formation that leads to a relationship with God. Each of these traditions will throw us out of balance if one stream is all a believer knows or is willing to embrace. Thus, it is critical to acknowledge the stream that comes naturally to our personality as well as recognize our traditions that direct us to a particular stream. In response, a Christ-follower will seek to develop the stream not so natural or in our tradition so as to seek balance so that the Holy Spirit can use the streams to bring transformation in the life of the believer.

The stream that I feel is more natural to me or another way of stating the stream is a default for me is the streams of a “prayer-filled life” and the “the virtuous life.” I was blessed by a sixth grade Sunday School teacher named, Joanne McManus. She wrote out personal devotional thoughts with scripture and prayers for each of her class. It started me on a devotional journey that still resonates with me today. I am a person that looks to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through his power and mercy that grants the strength to live everyday as if eternity matters the most.

The compassionate life is not the default stream for me. I struggle because I grew up in a family that had to work for everything. We are a group of people that strive for excellence and while we are do the striving, we are also too proud to ask for help. Thus, granting compassion is difficult because there is no excuse why another person cannot work hard and seek success. I am a person that often fights too hard for the social justice of the unborn or senior citizen, but in the end the compassionate does not strive for equality for all. My DNA does not naturally allow for grace, but my DNA does pronounce truth.

I don't view any of the streams as unattractive. I see great value in each of the six streams. On a personal note, the stream is not what is unattractive, but my lack of courage and dedication to implement the stream on a deeper level is what I find unattractive. As Paul would say, I want to do these things, yet the flesh restrains me and keeps me from embracing the action.

Just a few ways that I am implementing some of these streams is as a parent and in the Johnson master's program. I am growing in my head knowledge and in my heart knowledge. The children challenge me to be a better father. I want them to know Jesus on a personal level. Therefore, I seek to demonstrate a strong dedication to each of the streams so that I might have a healthy relationship with my God. This healthy relationship will be my guide in being a living demonstration of God's grace and truth. The master's program is causing me to look at the Scriptures with fresh eyes. There are nuisances in the text are coming forth so as to bring God's truth to fruition.

You know I love ya and together we travel these streams of life, Don


Fore More Information: 
Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds., Devotional Classics. (Rev.; New York: Harper Collins, 2005).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My personal "stream" has almost always been the philosophical/reading stream. I am drawn to concentrate on learning, reading what the great minds of the Church have written and said -- while also being in each of the other streams. The sixth, the incarnational, God-with-Us, the Word made Flesh stream, this is the Catholic, liturgical stream, as what is physical (water, wine, bread) are empowered with spiritual power, sacramental power, through the Word of blessing -- this is power indeed.