Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It is Christmas Eve and the hustle in preparation of family gatherings has given way to a quiet morning when all are asleep. Later today hugs will be shared with those we have not seen for some time, as well as with those we saw just this week. Our family will eat, sing, and watch as our youngest act out the Christmas story.

Every year it is different as new grand and great-grandchildren take their places in the drama. It may never win an award, but it has been done every year for as long as I can remember, and its importance to the family is reflected as each new generation of young adults assume roles in costuming, composing, and producing. Some who once “played” the baby Jesus now wrap their own babies in “swaddling cloths” as they become the celebrated child born in Bethlehem.

That story continues to serve as the platform for the ministry of Missional Church Center. We exist to assist the church in reclaiming her role in sharing that story until every neighbor and all those in the nations have opportunity to know and worship Emmanuel.

As this year closes, I have just returned from Latvia where I taught Empowering the Church for Mission with future church planters and pastors at Baltic Pastoral Institute. I invite you to pray for these students as they move from classroom preparation to starting churches in the cities of their nation. Their challenge is great in a country of 2.5 million people where less then five percent know the Christ of Christmas.

It was wonderful to return home last Sunday to Northway Church, our faith community in Dallas. More than ever before, the Northway family evidenced the practice of missional churches to “Rewrite worship every week.” This means maximum participation by those in the congregation, bringing their sacrifices of praise to God, the audience of One. It was awesome! He was glorified. I was blessed!

We are working to complete video updates from the Latvia mission. Watch for them to be posted in the days ahead. Christmas blessings of joy and peace to you and those you love.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Return from Latvia: Economy class seats need thicker seat cushions!

As an author one thinks in terms of titles and subtitles. I wanted to let you know that I arrived home from Latvia yesterday evening. And in reflecting upon waking today, I realized just how much economy class seats need thicker cushions. Title and subtitle.

In reality, our subtitle would be diverse based upon the experiences of the last dozen days. Relationships are of course the most significant part of any mission experience. More important than what we may be allowed to do, are those we come to know as friends. We now have dear friends, associates, colleagues in ministry, brothers and sisters in Christ in Latvia. I will look forward to sharing some of their stories with you in the next days.

Latvia is just now seeing the first generation to become adults whose only experience has been freedom in Latvia. They never personally knew the depth of pain associated with the occupation of their country. They are none-the-less aware of the privilege that is theirs.

On my final day in Riga, Pastor Peteris Eisans spent an hour with me describing lessons that the Latvian church learned during and immediately following the occupation. Lessons that can be shared with those of us in the west. He spoke of the importance of being able to adapt to culture shifts that take place and the church’s challenge in this regard. The wisdom and insight of this key Latvian pastoral leader will be a blessing. I am excited about getting the interview edited so that it can speak into our experience as God’s church in the west.

In our final session at Baltic Pastoral Institute, my class presented me a box of Laima chocolates as a gift. I am learning that most nations in Europe have their own chocolate company…and that it is perceived as the world’s best. After Pam and I opened the box today we think the Latvian’s may have earned the right to say theirs really is!

Being home with a hot cup of coffee and a rich piece of dark Latvian chocolate can almost make me forget just how thin economy class seat cushions really are. Almost.

Thanks to the many who have faithfully prayed during our time away. Please keep praying for our new friends in Latvia.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Missional Church Center Latvia Update 3

It’s Christmas time, and everywhere you turn in Latvia there are reminders. Notices of concerts are posted throughout the cities, decorations adorn homes and businesses. Traditional carols play in elevators and lobbies. Christmas trees light the night. In Old Town Riga, vendors are set-up for the traditional fair-like atmosphere that accompanies the Christmas season.

But, according to the Riga in Your Pocket visitors guide provided in the hotel rooms, Latvians still celebrate their pagan holidays and Christmas is celebrated with feasting, drinking and singing. Unfortunately for 95% of Latvians, Christmas is celebrated without a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. They do not know the meaning of this Holy Season.

I want to thank you for your support during these wonderfully rich days of ministry here. God has been so good to us and your partnership has meant much. Now I ask you to continue to pray for the students who are now completing their year of intense training at Baltic Pastoral Institute. As their year of study concludes, they will be going to pastor churches and start new churches in the days ahead.

It was my privilege to ride along with the Bishop of the Evangelical Union to a little community near the Estonian border, where one of the students was installed as pastor and licensed to the Gospel ministry. As he and his wife knelt while hands were laid on them and prayers asked God’s blessing, I was deeply moved. This young couple represents the future of what our Father will do in Latvia. In rural villages and metropolitan centers, the spiritual needs are great. But our God is a great God. The faith of Pastor and Mrs. Valter Mitans is great faith. God is beginning a new work in Latvia. His churches have committed to begin one hundred new churches across Latvia in the next eight years. For this country it is a giant sized vision. And it is the best Christmas gift they could ever give to the people of Latvia.

If you will commit to remember Latvian Christians during this Holy Season, please let us know by placing a comment below. Your prayers will encourage the hearts of your brothers and sisters here in Latvia.

See Milfred Minatrea's video updates from Latvia at

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Missional Church Center Latvia Update 2

Thank you to the many who are praying during the time we are ministering in Latvia with future church planters and existing church pastors at Baltic Pastoral Institute. It is amazing how much “at home” one can become in a just a few days.

After seven sessions, students in the classes have become more than students. I am learning to appreciate their individual gifts and passions. Andres Prieditis invited me to lunch next Monday saying, “I want to discuss what we might do to help our older churches engage in mission. When communists ruled, some churches survived by isolating themselves from the world. Now, they have to learn again how to focus beyond themselves.”

Young entrepreneur, Janis Gravitis, is in the class as well. His businesses display Kingdom values in a half dozen countries of Europe and Asia. He has developed Christian-value-driven table games that are popular with youth in several nations. He asks, “How can churches more effectively prepare Christians to serve God in their vocations?”

As I said when speaking at a donor banquet last evening, “I thought I would be spending time with young adults who would be used by God to impact Latvia in the next decades. After experiencing the quality and commitment of these dedicated students, I now believe I am investing in those through whom God will touch not just Latvia, but the world.”

To learn a little more about what God is allowing us to be a part of in these days, please see our latest video update. Then stop and breathe a prayer for your Christian brothers and sisters here in Latvia. By their assessment, only two percent the countries’ citizens are followers of Jesus. Their mission task is massive. But our God majors in using a radical minority who are sold out to Him.

I am grateful for your prayers and the many encouraging words you have sent. Please leave a comment below so that others can know that you are praying. Share the blog with another praying friend as well.

See Milfred Minatrea's video updates from Latvia at

Monday, December 8, 2008

Missional Church Center Latvia Update

See Milfred Minatrea's video updates from Latvia at We are working out the technical glitches as we go.

After a good rest, I awakened this morning to find every building below my hotel window covered with frost. The appearance was totally white. In the cold and early of Sunday morning few people were moving about. Then I heard, that portion of the carol, “sleep in heavenly peace,” playing in the hotel as I went down to breakfast. It was a quiet confirmation of the Father’s presence.

Did I say breakfast? I had forgotten the bounty of the European hotel breakfast buffet that is included in the room rate. I enjoyed people watching as I ate breakfast and drank coffee. So many young adults were in the hotel restaurant and on the streets of this metropolitan center as well.

One of the students from the Empowering the Church for Mission class that I will be leading during the next ten days picked me up for worship. Martins is also a youth leader at Matthew’s Church of Riga where I worshiped. This is one of the largest evangelical churches in a nation of 2.5 million people. Pastor Peteris Eisans and I had opportunity to spend a few minutes talking. Matthews Church was the first in Latvia to seek to move beyond traditional internal focus seeking to become intentionally focused on reaching out to those who are not part of the church through incarnational ministries.

Three different worship services are held each Sunday with the last being a contemporary worship that is reaching a younger population. Pastor Eisans spoke of the significance of being part of a learning community with about 40 other pastors from Eastern Europe who focus on starting new churches. We briefly spoke about disciple-making in the church, lamenting that it appears churches around the world struggle with this central imperative. Later in the week, I hope we get to spend a little more time on this important subject.

Throughout the morning, I tried to capture some video to allow you to experience with me some of what God is doing here in Latvia. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Latvia and for those young adults who are responding to God’s call to start new churches in this gracious nation.

I appreciate so many of you who have committed to pray for me while I am here in Latvia. Your intercession and support mean more than I know how to express. Thank you and until the next post…keep serving, sharing and praying!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Urgent Call to Prayer - December 6

Today I received word from India that there is credible evidence that in the “…highly charged atmosphere of Orissa and the crucible of Kandhamal in particular…this Christmas could become a “Good Friday” for the Christians there…a bloodbath” in which many Christians may be killed. Terrorists have given the state government notice that if their demands are not met concerning resolution of the killing of a Hindu cleric and his associates, they will shut down the state on Christmas day.

We have been praying for brothers and sisters in Orissa, where more than 125 Christians have been murdered and where homes and churches of Christians have been destroyed. Now the climate of terror for these brothers and sisters escalates in this season.

I am inviting those whom God leads to join this Saturday, December 6, in a day of prayer and fasting for fellow believers in India. On that day, a strategic meeting will take place in Orissa that will seek resolution to this urgent situation. Without going into detail, requiring lengthy explanation of the sources of unrest between various socio-political and religious groups, my friends indicate that this meeting may well prove a “final opportunity” for resolve before even greater terror befalls Christians of Orissa and Kandhamal during this Holy Season.

Please join other brothers and sisters in intercession for God’s purposes to be realized and His name to be glorified in this situation. Ask God to grant peace to our fellow believers…not as the world gives…but that of the Prince of Peace, His shalom.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Missional Church Center Interview w/ Andrew Hill

Recently I spent some time with Andrew Hill, youth pastor at Grace Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Having served in that leadership role for seven years, Andrew has seen children grow to youth, graduate and go on to college. Grace Church is located in a very affluent area south of Atlanta and since being started over 30 years ago, has had a history of significant missionary support. More than 35% of the church budget has been invested in international mission ministry.

While the church celebrated its international involvement, over a period of years it grew less engaged with people in its own community. This realization led church leaders to rethink the reason for which Grace exists. Ultimately congregational elders became convinced that their church must experience a culture shift with regard to their community involvement.

Hill shared how church leaders came to realize that the ongoing resource for international mission would be diminished if the church failed to reach people in its own community. Yet, growth for growth sake was not an acceptable focus. Instead, Grace Church sought to become as active locally as it was globally. While some feared funds would be diverted from the important task of international mission, leaders sought to ensure the church’s continued engagement with nations beyond, while enhancing their own relevant impact at home.

Today, the emphasis toward a truly missional focus, both locally and globally has moved beyond the elders to garner the support of a larger segment of the congregation. Now youth ministries tend to look less like good times and entertainment, and more like mission as calendared youth events express the compassion of Christ for those who live near Grace Church. Youth activities tend to center more around doing life together while serving others.

Speaking of how disciples are being made among those in his youth group, Hill stipulated that the most effective disciple-making is not taking place in formal structures or typical discipleship classes. Rather, youth are growing as followers of Christ as they relate to adult “mentors” who join youth as sponsors in youth mission experiences. In Hill’s words, disciple making happens more when youth just hang-out with adults who are passionate followers of Christ. It is in those contexts that lives are being transformed and authentic disciples are maturing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Report from Delhi, India - Join us in Praying

I just received the following update from dear friends in Delhi, India. Please join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in India and for God’s peace to be manifest in the midst of terrorist attacks.

For their protection, I have deleted the names of my friends, replacing their names with I and S.

New Delhi, India

November 27, 2008

21:30 hours IST

It is now exactly 24 hours since the first terrorist attacks began on Mumbai/Bombay – I
ndia's first city and commercial capital. And it has not yet ended. After 125 confirmed dead – including seven foreigners – and almost 300 injured, India's crack anti-terrorist squads in their hundreds have engaged the terrorists, and armed forces troops in their thousands have been on the streets, there are terrorists still holed up in the top two five-star hotels with hostages and one house with Jewish residents in downtown Mumbai, with a curfew in force. The city is at war!

The good news is that our family is safe in Delhi. Our daughter, who was supposed to
go today to lead an educational seminar in Mumbai, has cancelled it. Our families – S's eldest sister in downtown Mumbai, I's mother and younger brother's family in northern Mumbai – and friends are also safe though shaken, as are we.

Both I and S were born in Bombay (name changed to Mumbai in 1995). I was educa
ted and had his first job as journalist in Bombay. In fact, I's office was very close to the then new five-star Oberoi Sheraton (now Trident) hotel, the scene of many press conferences. But it was with the beautiful 105-year-old Taj Mahal hotel across from the bay and the Gateway to India that I had a close association. He did regular travelogues for their glossy house magazine and had his hair - that's when he had hair - cut there by the hairstylists to Bollywood's stars. So it was very difficult to see portions of the heritage Taj hotel go up in flames last night.

I was up working on his PhD studies when around 1:30AM a CNN Breaking News email alerted him to what was going on in Mumbai. Since S woke up a little later they put on the TV and watched in horror and did the only thing they could – prayed and prayed. A call to S's eldest sister who lives not far from the Taj hotel put any fears to rest. The rest of family and friends were contacted in the morning. I stayed up till 5:15AM following developments in the unfolding macabre drama. A lot of today has been spent "watching and praying".

I and S are no strangers to terror attacks on Bombay. They were traveling out of the city, about half an hour ahead of the very first serial bomb blasts in March 1993. This was Islamist vengeance for the killing of over a thousand mainly Muslims during the earlier communal riots in Bombay. The current dastardly attackers also came by sea – possibly from overseas (Pakistan?), possibly at least trained by Al-Qaeda. Whatever their immediate motivation there is, as Vishal Mangalwadi would call it, an underlying "spirituality of hate". Ditto for the so-called "Hindu terrorists" who reportedly were behind bomb blasts against Indian Muslims in recent years. The head of the Anti-Terrorist Force who was leading the investigation against the "Hindu terrorists" was shot dead by the Islamist terrorists in the Taj last night. The only answer to tit for tat terrorism is the spirituality of love (agape). Join us as we watch and pray for India.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Latvian Mission to Baltic Pastoral Institute

Next week Milfred Minatrea will be in Riga, Latvia where he will be spending twelve days (December 6-17) with church leaders and church planters in training. As Baltic Pastoral Institute completes its first year in existence, Minatrea will facilitate the course, Empowering the Church for Mission. The course will be offered as a one week intensive and will provide opportunity for students to interact with Minatrea in both pastoral ministry and the development of missional cultural expressions within existing congregations as well as new churches being started.

Bishop Peteris Sprogis extended the invitation to Minatrea after obtaining a copy of his book Shaped by God’s Heart: the Passion and Practices of Missional Churches. Since regaining independence in 1991, the 88 churches in the country of 2.3 million people have struggled in a society with the fourth highest suicide rate in the world, where only five percent attend church regularly and only 1.5 percent of the population have the Bible.

Today there are 66 pastors for the 88 churches in Latvia. Leadership for both existing churches and for new churches is critical. Developing those leaders is the reason Baltic Pastoral Institute was begun. The Evangelical Union of Latvia has a goal of starting 100 new churches over the next eight years. New churches are essential if the Gospel is to reach the massive population of this country once dominated by communist occupation.

If you will pray for Dr. Minatrea in this mission to invest in leaders for Latvian churches that exist today and those that will be started tomorrow, please communicate via email to Simply indicate “I will support you in prayer during the Latvian mission.” If God prompts you to provide financial resources to help cover the costs of this mission, please make your check payable to Missional Church Center and designate those gifts on the memo line of your check For Latvian Mission. Checks may be mailed to Missional Church Center, PO Box 142412, Irving TX 75014-2412.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Word From the Other Side

Timely insights from a friend on the other side of the pond. Reflecting on the recent Cliff Lectures, Andrew Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) wrote:

The emerging church movement is a sustainable church movement and as the country enters recession, as budgets tighten, and as creativity is ignited, the emerging churches have already learned to start off without a budget, without buildings, without paid professionals and can offer the wider church the gift of their experience - which means that the mission of Christ can still go forward and even thrive, despite the economic woes around us. (emphasis added) Read more

Whether you see eye-to-eye with everything in the emerging church movement, the missional movement, or embrace neither of these terms, be thankful that the Church is not dependent on budgets, buildings, or staff but on Christ alone. Tough times do not threaten His mission!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Is Big

On Thanksgiving Day 70,000 people will gather in Texas Stadium to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks. That is a mega-environment, and it will possess an energy that is virtually impossible to replicate. People will gather in the stands with thousands of others who share a similar passion for America’s team. It will rock. This is big!

The face of America is freckled with sanctuaries. Some are big. Many are small. They are found in metropolitan centers, urban sprawl, rural communities and farming cross-roads. Some are in areas of rapid growth. Some have lost population through decades of decline. Each scenario becomes a unique setting in which Christ’s church is on mission. In those contexts, what does a successful ministry look like? What are the measures of effectiveness?

Whether we admit it or not, unspoken tension often exists between small and mega churches. Which is better? More influential? More authentic? Effective in meeting needs? In sharing the Gospel? In making disciples? Be honest. It is easy to become jealous of one. It is easy to dismiss the other.

While some church leaders may be well known, the majority serve week in and week out in relative anonymity. Both, however, walk with those in the Body through hours of darkness and trauma; through broken marriages and wayward children. They pray, cry, and counsel. They rejoice when a broken marriage is restored, and when sons and daughters find their way home. Some have multiple staff to provide such ministry. Other pastors serve alone, without a single colleague to join in the load.

One thing I have learned across years is that the size of a congregation has little to do with the depth of her commitment to living the purposes of Christ. Clearly the ministry “cafeteria” of a larger church has many more entrees to offer. For those who are interested in the quantity of offerings, the small congregation cannot begin to compare with her larger siblings. But, if quality and depth of relationships are criteria for effectiveness, then I know many smaller congregations who excel. While relationships are formed within mega churches as well, those relationships are usually created in smaller units, subsets of the mega body, where people interact one-on-one.

In the smaller context there is little room to remain anonymous. Smaller congregations will often have strong relationships across generational lines as older members raise spiritual children and grandchildren together. Personal hurts are harder to hide in face-to-face and heart-to-heart relationships. When one member suffers others suffer as well. The same is true in situations that call for rejoicing! The shared suffering or joy grows as the grapevine relays news with in the Body. Those grapevines are amazing… faster than the internet.

Thanksgiving afternoon, my family will watch the game together with those 70,000 spectators in the stands of Texas Stadium. But we will do so from our den, with just a handful of family and friends gathered. And if one of the grandchildren shuts a door on a finger (please no!) or falls and bruises a knee, we will all know, and all care. For us, relationships matter most. We will watch the network broadcast of the game while Texas stadium is not a mile from our house. We can go outside and see the blimp flying over, hear the ruckus of the crowded stadium. But we will not miss anything…for we have each other. When you think about it, the same can be said of those who are family members in mega churches…and in smaller churches. Both have their place in the Kingdom. And this is big!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Candies Creek Report

As I write, I am sitting in a log cabin adjacent to the Smoky Mountain National Park in Townsend, Tennessee. My wife Pam and I arrived here late this afternoon after a two day Disciple Making Emphasis at Candies Creek Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. During his ten year pastorate, Dr. Jamie Work has led this congregation progressively toward a missional culture.

Pam and I were blessed not only to share the rich services of the Candies Creek congregation and staff, but to enjoy the marvelous ministry of Wings of Morning as well. Directed by David Edwards, for more than 24 years Wings has served God through dynamic worship and praise. Built upon a foundation of mission ministry, the young adults have among the most comprehensive repertoire of missional praise and worship music that I have ever heard. Check out their website and order their CD at

Pastor Work has led Candies Creek to support members who are living and working among unreached people groups globally. This emphasis was primarily devoted to enhancing the commitment of each member to the task of disciple making wherever they are. Our emphasis concluded a year of four focal weekends challenging the congregation to move to the next level in its mission strategy, as an equipping center, through intercession, and finally in disciple making.

Disciple making is centrally critical in any congregation seeking to pursue a missional culture. At the same time, it is an area in which church leaders routinely indicate the difficulty in constructing systems that consistently move members from convert to authentic disciple. Throughout the Disciple Making emphasis, we rehearsed the ministry of Jesus, who “went about doing good” modeling every one of the “one another” commands of Scripture (pray, encourage, etc) as a summary of his ultimate command, “Love one another.”

His teaching of the disciples was wrapped in the experiences encountered as they lived each day. His ultimate command to his followers came not at the outset of his ministry, but only after he had modeled what love looked like; how love behaves. Our disciple making is best accomplished by teaching in the context of relationships that reflect on the issues followers are facing in everyday life situations. We assist them to ask, “Where was God in the midst of the day’s experiences?” “What do His teachings say about how I should respond in those kind of circumstances?” “What can I do differently next time in order to allow Christ to live through me?”

His mission takes place in the context of the going about of his followers on a daily basis. We make disciples as we model righteous behavior resulting from valuing His Word that transforms our minds as we seek Him.