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Earl Marshall

2017 Reading Challenge – Book 2 and 3

31 plus years into our marriage and we finally figured out the beauty of the winter vacation. Nothing like sitting in the sun and getting a break from the cold. While basking in the captain obvious moment I decided to take two easy read books with me that both turned out to be fully entertaining and insightful.

99 Stories of the GameThe first book was 99 Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky with Kirstie McLellan Day  This book took me back to the formative years of my childhood. I was intrigued with Gretzky’s knowledge of past generations of hockey players and his depth of knowledge on the details in their stories. But it was his writing of his time with the Oilers, Canada Cups, and Kings that was so much fun for me. These are the teams I watched. These players are my peers. Having grown up around the corner from Paul Coffey, I could see his poke check in the Canada Cup as Gretzky described it like it was yesterday in my mind. This is a good book for anyone into hockey. I would strongly recommend it. The only objection I have with the book, tongue in cheek – sort of, is Gretzky’s version of the 1993 Leafs versus Kings semi-final. Sorry Wayne, I just didn’t see it the way that you did, #bloodisblood!shoe dog

The second book was Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight. This is a great read. I highly recommend that anyone who wants to be inspired about their leadership potential and entrepreneurial spirit read this one. Knight, recounts his story of the start up and development of Nike. The risks taken, the failures along the way, the key relationships developed and the needed timing to make Nike into what it is today. No doubt this story is full of revisionist history but it is still worth the read. A quick read that I found insightful.


2017 Reading Challenge – Book 1

The Promise Of A Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change makes my list of books read in 2017 for two specific reasons. First, it tells the story of Adam Braun, in his own words, of the start and development of Pencils of Promise. This book is worth the read for its inspirational and motivational story of establishing and developing a nonprofit (for-purpose) from nothing into a global something. Anyone wondering if it can be done needs to read this book. But the biggest add for me is the leadership principles smattered throughout this book. Each new chapter begins with a leadership mantra. Some of these mantras are helpful but I found the real gold in the principles found in the paragraphs of each chapter. Here are a few of the principles that stood out for me:

  • Big dreams start with small unreasonable acts (page 75)
  • Practice humility over hubris (page 85)
  • The best presentations – the ones that inspire action – are those where the same journey is portrayed, except the audience is the focus. It’s not about the presenter, it’s about the chance that the audience has to become the hero by completing a well-defined task (page 136)
  • Those I met defined themselves by what was on their mind not on their business card (page 145)
  • For one day a week, it is important that you allow yourself to be a human being, not a human doing (page 146)
  • But nothing is more potent or deceptive than the competing interests of another great opportunity. In those moments when priorities clash, always stay guided by your values, not your perceived necessities. Necessities exist in a state of mind that will not last, whereas values are transcendent and enduring (page 160)
  • The single most wasted resource on earth if human intention. How many times have you wanted to do something but not acted right away and forgotten about it later? (page 172)
  • The biggest opportunities for growth are not found in the midst of success, but in the methods through which we address failure (page 184)
  • Make the little decisions with your head and the big ones with your heart (page 191)
  • Treat your work like a business not a charity (page 197)
  • The role of the founder should eventually be to listen to the echoes of his or her initial words, and then encourage and amplify the most genuine among those you hear (page 234)

His chapter Vulnerability is Vital  is insightful to addressing the fears that most have with the direct ask in fundraising. Every church-planter should read this chapter.

Thankful In Chicago – #40inTheFall

img_3697It is Thanksgiving Day this Thursday. Being a Canadian in the USA has meant adjusting the rhythm of the fall and celebrating thanksgiving a month later than normal. Multiple options for turkey is always a good thing. This year I am thankful for the forty men and their wives and children who are stepping out in faith to plant churches all across the world in 2017. They are doing something that very few people ever think of doing, starting something when your not 100 % if there is anything. What lies ahead of them is great opportunity and challenge. They have submitted their dreams of locations to the leadership of Harvest Bible Fellowship. They have exercised humility in coming to learn from us. Some have put plans on hold and have seen God move them in a different direction. It has been amazing to work with each one of them.

The best part is knowing what God is about to do. In places like Charlotte, Seattle, Spokane, Madison, and Wichita, God is going to start a vertical oriented church for His glory. In the USA, Canada, Mexico, St. Vincent, Barbados, Belize, Uganda and Rwanda churches will be started with unapologetic preaching, unashamed adoration, unceasing prayer, and unafraid witness.

In three weeks, December 15, a new chapter of God’s faithfulness will begin to be written. So many great stories yet untold.



Harvest Training Center – Week One #40intheFall

We are off to a great start. Our #40intheFall families have arrived. Last week we started by laying the right foundations.




Humbled and excited about the next four months.

Thinking on Prayer – Entry Two: Luke 18:8

Luke 18:1-14 is full of practical do’s and don’ts on prayer. The examples of the widow, judge, Pharisee and tax collector are teeming with analogies to our lives. It is, however, the words in 18:8 which have always posed the greatest challenge to my life. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

When I first read these words that end the parable of the widow and the judge and precede the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, I found their placement odd. It felt like an unnecessary “add on.” But the link between faith in God and prayer to God is unbreakable.

In this season of my life my pastoral responsibilities could be described as studying, preaching, teaching, mentoring, training, caring, leading. All of these bring rich joy to my life. Most of these, however, focus on my ability to discover, get things done, and can at times require small expressions of faith on my part.

The sign of real faith is prayer.

  • Prayer that is persistent, “crying to him day and night.”
  • Prayer that is desperate and dependent, she “kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
  • Prayer that is humble, “standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  One of the signs of faith is persistent, desperate, dependent, humble prayer. A lack of this kind of prayer in my life is an indication of a lack of faith in my God.

We are called to watch and be ready for the return of the Lord (Matthew 25:13), to set our hope on the return of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13), to long for the return of Christ (Romans 8:18-19).

If he were to return right now would Jesus see in your life, persistent, desperate, dependent, humble prayer?

Would he find faith in your life?


Thinking on Prayer: Entry One – Hebrews 4:16

For those who lived during the era of kingship, I imagine receiving an invitation for a hearing with the king would have conjured up all kinds of emotion. To be asked to stand before the one who could with one word bring blessing to or curse on your life could be troubling.

When I read Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” my mind thinks of that peasant who is coming to the palace for the first time. They have heard stories of the grandeur but now for the first time they are experiencing it for themselves. What must have been running through their minds as the entrance doors to the throne room are pushed open for them. “If only my mother could see me now!” might be their thought. I am especially drawn to consider what kind of emotion would be running through them as they make their way down the marble aisle towards the throne of the king. With each step taken is their an increase in excitement or hesitancy? Does fear enter their mind or only anticipation?

I suppose that it all depends on the reputation of the king who sits on the throne. I am reminded in Hebrews 4:16 that my King is no King Henry VIII.

Yet how often do I or you come down the prayer aisle to the throne of grace in confidence? Confidence because we know that our God is all about grace and mercy to those whom He loves. Are my steps towards the throne room of heaven filled with anticipation or with hesitancy and perhaps even fear?

How To Respond When Things Aren’t Going As Planned? The Gospel Power of Submission

I have been studying 1 Peter the past few months while observing sweeping political and cultural changes in North America. Evangelicals are continually finding themselves on the outside looking in through these changes. Our noses are pressed against the window watching a theater of activity that feels all to unfamiliar to us, This should not surprise us. For years the position of the evangelical church has been from the borderland of the public square and not the town center the church once occupied. But the speed of change the past couple of years has been mind-blowing. For example, I certainly did not foresee a transgender restroom law for public space on the political agenda. Nor did anyone seemingly anticipate the cultural conditions that have cultivated an uncertain leadership future for one of the world’s greatest countries.

The church continues to struggle with how to respond to these sweeping changes. We are citizens of heaven but also citizens of earth and citizenship requires a reasonable response. So in a culture that continues to change and create an unfriendly context for the gospel what should the response of the church be?

I have been challenged with Peter’s response in 1 Peter. In the midst of an unfavorable context for the gospel he promotes submission. His words were not written to Christian citizens in a democracy but to Christians under emperor rule, some whom were enslaved. How does a Christian respond when cultural conditions are not favorable, when they don’t have a strong voice in the public square, and when they are ridiculed and maligned for following Jesus Christ?

In the face of suffering the Christian chooses submission.

This truth conjures so many emotions. I certainly do not believe that the church should give up trying to influence the development of public policy through public debate. We should continue to struggle for God’s righteousness. His ways are always the best ways. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the spirit of anti-Christ is growing stronger and stronger and short of a massive revival in the church and a Christ centered spiritual awakening in the hearts of the lost it will become increasingly more difficult to follow Jesus in the public square of North America.

Our learned response must be the same as Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:1 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” When Christ suffered in the face of darkness it was his submission that was brightest.  1 Peter 3:15-17 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ that Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

I love a fighting heart but in the face of suffering for the gospel a submissive spirit is more powerful.  The light shines brighter in the darkness. These are great days for the power of the gospel. Submission is our gospel response.

Happy Mothers Day

I am so thankful to God for my wife and the mother of our children. I feel compelled to express how much I appreciate Brenda. She is an amazing godly example to many but it is her ministry to me and our family that continues to move my heart to love her more every day and year that we are blessed to be together.

IMG_2508Many women know this truth, being a mom is both a joy and a crucible of sanctification. In most cases being a mother also means being a wife and many days that requires an entirely deeper level of endurance. Such has been the case for us these past couple of years. We finished serving in a church, thought we were going to plant a church, ended up moving to Chicago, and have dealt with the ongoing challenges of relocation. It has been a marathon full of joy and the constant hurdling of obstacles.

This beautiful woman that is my friend and cherished love has been dragged through so much the past couple of years that words hardly do justice the amount of gratitude I have for her. She has shown grace through all of it and a strong call of God on her life as she has walked with me through all of this.

So this is for you Brenda. You are an amazing woman of God. I love you so much. God has forged in you a deep contentment and joy for serving others for His glory. Your life is a constant overflow of the close relationship you have with Christ. Thank you!


Lessons Learned from Taco Bell

It has been a long time since I ate at a Taco Bell. There was a day when it was my late night stop of choice but not anymore. But clearly it is still the choice of many and mostly because of its recent willingness to try new things. I don’t have a high need for change. I work with others that do have a high need for change. Even though that can create moments of tension we do share in a clear commitment and understanding that change is necessary as we pursue the mission that God has called us on to plant churches around the world.

Taco Bell has a similar perspective. Niccol the head of marketing at Taco Bell says, “If you have the belief that there’s still work to be done, then you’ll figure out how to break a little glass.” What I see at Taco Bell is a company that is trying new things and seeing if it works. Whether it is the creation of Beefy Frito Burritos or Dorito Locos Tacos, Taco Bell is looking for ways to break a little glass. Pastors need to learn how to break a little glass but not like a bull in a china shop.

As is the case at Taco Bell so should be the case in our churches. Innovation doesn’t rest with one person. The architecture of a culture of innovation may be a primary leader’s responsibility but innovation is a team thing. “From an innovation perspective, I’d love it if we had one person who just comes up with great ideas. But it doesn’t work that way,” says Matthews of Taco Bell. “The strategy is getting different people together, having food around, and having conversations.”

Sounds like a great idea!

Lessons Learned From BuzzFeed

I love to learn and some of my best learning over the years has come from what I would call my non-traditional resource base. My traditional resource base is church people writing about church things. As one of my prof’s used to say, “sometimes you just have to go to the symphony to solve a problem.” So when I was in the San Antonio airport this past weekend and saw that Fast Company just released it’s list of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies,” I just had to have it. Learning 101, look for ideas everywhere that you can.

Church planting is about connecting with people and in our world that means having a strategy where you can be found. Social media is a big part of that. BuzzFeed changed their social media strategy in 2014. “Instead of trying to lure eyeballs to its own website, the way most publishers do, BuzzFeed would publish original text, images, and video directly to where its audience already spent its time, some 30 different global platforms . . . Rather than write one definitive article and publish it on every platform (the de facto standard in the media business), BuzzFeed would tailor content specifically for the network and audience where it’s being viewed.”

Organizations that need to be found should take notice. Pastors take notice. Don’t create a strategy that is always trying to get your prospective audience to come to you but go to your prospective audience with a tailored message.

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