Streams of Ministry

God has multiple ways of doing the same thing. The River of God flows in a variety of streams, making room for much diversity and for different types of ministry to work in divergent ways.

Yet Christians fail to understand this and think that their own pet expression of God’s grace is the best, or main way that God operates. So I have had to prompt various ministry people at times with an understanding of the “Streams of Ministry”.

I’m sharing this message with you, in the hope that you will not become blind to God’s great grace and the multiple ways He can and will move in the earth.


Preachers love to extol preaching. Prayer warriors see the importance of prayer. Administrators are offended when they see others who do not value good organisation. Teachers tend to elevate teaching over other ministries.

Chris Praying

Those who see visions and dream dreams feel the value of those experiences. Evangelists can easily see that as the main ministry. And so it goes.

There is great diversity in Christian ministry, not just in modern practice, but in Biblical principles too. And this is not a problem. It is God’s way of making sure there are multiple streams of ministry available to address our needs.

Preaching or Prayer

We know that “the prayer of faith” heals the sick.

“And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” James 5:15

We know that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

Jesus told us that if we ask for things in His name He will do them for us.

“And what ever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13

So, there is no doubt that prayer is a vital ministry. This is so much so that many people are totally committed to the ministry of prayer. Great testimonies, such as Praying Hyde in India, attest to the awesome effectiveness of a prayer ministry.

But prayer is not the only way God gets things done. God has chosen to use preaching too.

Preaching Does the Job

God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to do important ministry work.

“For when in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1Corinthians 1:21

Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the preaching of the Word of God. We are asked how people will “hear” unless there is a preacher.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14

Not only did the preaching of Paul birth churches in hostile places, but great preachers through history, including Spurgeon and Wesley, proved by their efforts that preaching is a powerful stream of ministry.

What is it to Be?

Now, which is it? Do we elevate prayer or preaching?

Can we do without both?

Some people seem to get by with only one or the other. Some people swear by one or the other. You can buy books that push one instead of the other. Which is God’s favourite? Which is best? Which should you pursue and which one should you neglect?

Obviously both are effective streams of ministry. There are people who make one or other work extremely well in their hands. But that does not mean that the other ministry is invalid, less important or lower in spiritual value.

Other Streams

Truth is a stream of ministry. Some people can see breakthrough in the lives of others, through speaking the truth to them, or helping them come to terms with reality. That’s because the truth is an effective ministry tool in itself.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

Laying on Hands is a stream of ministry. This was not only practiced in the New Testament church but it was clearly described by both Jesus and the Apostle Paul. There are spiritual and practical outcomes which spring directly from the ministry of the laying on of hands.

“They will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:18

“Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” 1Timothy 4:14

Binding and Loosing is another stream of ministry. Jesus instructed His followers that they could exercise the ministry of binding and loosing. This includes binding the enemy’s work and releasing God’s grace.

“Truly I tell you, Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven: and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:18

Yet More Streams

Faith is another powerful ministry stream. If we have faith even as a grain of mustard seed we can move whole mountains.

“And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I tell you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it will remove; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit provide yet another important ministry stream. The Holy Spirit distributes gifts so that we all benefit.

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with.” 1Corinthians 12:7

Humility brings powerful results. God gives grace to the humble and if we humble ourselves that leads to us being exalted by the Lord in due time.

“Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” 1Peter 5:5,6

Confession also has a powerful ministry value. We are told to confess our faults one to another.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

Spiritual Warfare, involving the armour of God, is clearly a powerful ministry process, protecting us from the enemy’s attacks.

“Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11

And what about praise, comforting one another, giving, fellowshipping together, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, exhortation, and helps? There are other streams not even mentioned here.

Got the Picture?

I have met people who are totally committed to just one of those streams of ministry, thinking that God can only be effective by that particular emphasis. But the Bible reveals that God has multiple streams of ministry.

Pentecostals may emphasise the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, while evangelicals may steer away from that. Evangelists and preachers may feel that the more ponderous teachers are failing to be effective. Men and women of prayer may be upset by those who don’t spend as much time in prayer. Those who give may be upset by those who won’t. And so it goes.

Our God is an awesome God, who can use each one of us in meaningful ministry, even though we are all doing something different.

Don’t despise those who God uses differently to you. You do not have the exclusive franchise on God’s ministry. Only He has that. So flow with Him, in the stream He leads you to work best in. But don’t stop others from flowing in the way God is best using them.

Charles Finney Waking America

This is the day that … Charles Grandison Finney was ordained to Christian ministry, in 1824.

Thus began – or “continued” might be a more accurate word – a mighty moving of the Spirit of God through this converted lawyer. Immediately the winning of the lost had become his one purpose in life … as he expressed it – he had been given a “retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause”.

Elmer Towns sums up one of Finney’s revival campaigns: “During his meetings in Rochester, New York … 1,200 people united with the churches of the Rochester Presbytery; all the leading lawyers, physicians and businessmen were saved; 40 of the converts entered the ministry, and the whole character of the town was changed. As a result of that meeting revivals broke out in 1,500 other towns and villages” (Hall of Fame, page 102).

It is estimated that “over 500,000 responded to his public invitations to receive Christ” (ibid).

In 1835 Finney became president of Oberlin College, introducing a curious blend of Calvinism and Arminianism into his theological teaching. The Second Great Awakening in America moved away from the Calvinistic focus of men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, to a focus on man’s responsibility for his sin and man’s need to take moral action in the face of his sin. This could be called practical Arminiansm.

Finney’s autobiography has been republished in paperback (Bethany Fellowship, 1977, 230 pages), and his Revival Lectures are still a classic in their particular field.

“The pastor who ordained Finney later said he regretted this ordination,” writes Jack Hyles in his book Today. “Finney became known as somewhat of a fanatic, embarrassing his old pastor. God give us more fanatics!!”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at

John Charles Ryle

This is the day that … John Charles Ryle was born in Macclesfield, England, in 1816.

As Bishop of Liverpool from 1880 to 1900 he became “one of the greatest and most influential Anglican evangelicals of all time”.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, where he showed prowess as a fine sportsman, his thoughts turned to the ministry after a very real conversion experience.  He was 21 years of age at the time and had attended a parish church.

It was not the sermon that influenced him, but the second reading of the Scriptures.  It was from Ephesians chapter 2:  “By grace are ye saved, through faith …” “It was in the simple hearing of those words of Scripture that he grasped the secret of the Gospel” writes Marcus Loane (J.C. Ryle, page 32).

For a while he worked in his father’s bank.  But by 12 December, 1841, he was ordained a clergyman in the Church of England.  Various ministries followed.

He married in 1845 … was widowed in June, 1847;  married again in 1850, widowed again ten years later; and remarried in October, 1861  (J.C. Ryle, by P. Toon, pages 42, 44, 52).

Ryle was not a good mixer – the two places where he was “genuinely happy” were in his pulpit and when he was “in his study surrounded by books” (ibid, page 43).

Thirty books came from his pen, including a vigorous defence of Anglican theology – Knots Untied.  And a classic work on “Holiness”, from a Reformed perspective.  His commentaries on the four Gospels are still in print.

In his preaching “he was at heart an evangelist whose sermons always sounded the note of a singularly clear call to forgiveness of sin and acceptance with God” (Loane, page 105).

This great Bishop heard his Master’s “Well done!” on 10 June, 1900.

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George Truett

This is the day that … George Truett was born in 1867.

He entered the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, when it had 700 members – and concluded his pastorate in the same Church 47 years later with 7,800;  the largest Baptist Church at that time in the world.

“All evangelical preaching points to Christ,” he wrote.  “The primary work of the Church is to point people to Him Who saves” (Prince of the Pulpit, biography of G. Truett, by J. Burton, page 16).

He had been converted at the age of 19 and ordained to the ministry 11 years later. Interesting anecdotes of this pulpit giant abound.  He was out of his pulpit “40% of the time” each year.  He consulted none of his Church officers about “what or when he was to do anything”.  It is estimated that he preached 17,000 sermons, an average of one a day for 47 years.

And, oh yes, he shot the Dallas Chief of Police!  It was during a hunting trip together that Truett moved his gun from one shoulder to the other and the gun discharged.  Captain J.C. Arnold, his close friend, died a few days later.

For a while he determined to give up preaching.  But when he returned to the pulpit, we are told there was “a new tenderness, a new depth of sincerity and a new power.  The legend grew, however, that he never smiled again” (Tales of Baptist Daring, by B. Browne, page 133).

Dr Truett died on 7 July, 1944.