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.