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Earl Marshall

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 17)

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?


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!


Planting Churches that Plant Churches

@harvestbiblefellowship we are devoted to establishing, growing and multiplying churches that plant churches. Multiplication is what we are about. In my conversations with church leaders I am finding that there is a strong desire among many to experience multiplication. For all multiplication is a worthy goal and yet one that seems so far beyond the reach of the day to day reality that many leaders of new and established churches are experiencing.

This weekend I was in Texas assisting @harvestsa train and install their elders. This was such a great weekend but the story of Harvest Bible Chapel San Antonio is really the story of Harvest Bible Chapel Austin.

IMG_2231When you consider what it means to multiply as a church think of the definition of a church planting church as, “one that either sends out a group of people to start a new church in a community or sends out a man to be the Senior Pastor of a new church in a community.” This has to be built into your DNA from the beginning of your church or in the case of a transitioning church, become a value that is promoted and celebrated time and time again.

Bryan Payne even while his church was small numerically and young in age released Joshua de Koning from Harvest Austin to plant Harvest San Antonio. There is no rational reason for this to have happened the way that it did but when planting churches is in your DNA you look for the God given opportunity. We celebrate along with Harvest Austin and Harvest San Antonio the multiplication of churches for the glory of God in Texas and around the world.

On Racial Divide

For the past few months I have been a Canadian living in the USA (Chicagoland). This hardly makes me an expert on anything American but it certainly does give me an unique perspective on the reaction to the events that have happened in Ferguson. Racial divide is not just an American issue. Growing up in the Toronto area has given me enough exposure to know that racial conflict is a sin problem shared by many around the globe. What seems to be unique in the USA is the reaction to racial issues. No doubt this is because of the history of this wonderful country. Knowing that so many fought and died over this very issue gives it a “just below the surface” feeling within the culture of this country. So once again the events of Ferguson have sparked national attention on a significant problem.

Yesterday I listened to Pastor Bill Hybels address the issue at Willow Creek Community Church. He spoke from a heart full of personal passion and angst. He did not preach on the topic but he obviously believed it important to speak to the issue pastorally before his congregation. He spoke of the importance of understanding each other’s stories. He rightly noted that in conflict there are always at least two narratives. He wisely noted that the problem is when the two narratives don’t intersect with one another. My narrative as a white Canadian does not include being perceived with suspicion because of the color of my skin. For many, unfortunately, this is exactly the case.

We need to listen to and understand one another’s narratives. This is important but there is a greater narrative that if we are willing to submit to, believe in, and celebrate can lead to the solution of the sin problem of racial divide. This is not a uniquely Canadian perspective but it is a uniquely biblical perspective. The grand narrative of the Bible tells me that what Christ has done in the past informs the present. Ephesians 2:19-22 speaks of peace, bringing together, and being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. The church is the picture of reconciliation. Because Jesus has died and through faith in who Jesus is and what he has done on the cross, this results in a family relationship that surpasses racial divide. The Apostle Paul makes this so clear in Galatians 3:28-29. We are all one in Christ Jesus and heirs according to the promise. The truth of what Jesus has done informs how I view those around me. The church leads the way in this kind of reconciliation because we have been reconciled to one another and to God through Jesus Christ. The grand narrative of the Bible tells me that what Christ has done in our future informs the present. Revelation 5:9-10 is a picture of heaven, of eternity, of a reality that is so much more than what is presently realized on this earth, and an understanding that there is more than now, not all is as it seems to be. As we catch a glimpse of the eternal we are reminded that from every tribe, language, people and nation there are ransomed people for God, a kingdom of priests to our God. Worshipers of every race surrounding the throne of God declaring their love and praise for Jesus Christ, the one who died for them and who is alone worthy to hold God’s plan for history in his hand. One biblical narrative that informs the present.

We need to listen to one another’s stories but do this within the context of a greater narrative, a biblical story. The gospel changes things!

Moving On

Something strange, surprising and totally unexpected happened to me last week.  I am in Chicago at the Harvest Training Centre preparing for what is the next step for us in ministry.  So when I learned last week that our previous church, Compass Community Church, had announced my replacement I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that I felt. My head has been so focused on what is next that I have had little time to continue to think about what we have left behind. There have been these moments that have jolted me back into that reality. When our house finally sold I felt elation of what God had done and at the same time the loss of the disconnect from a community of people that we love dearly. I felt all of that again when I read that Andrew Gordon will be considered for the role of Senior Pastor at Compass. I am very happy that God has provided for Compass and for Andrew and his family. I feel the delight but I also feel the sadness of the finality. I am certain someone out there is saying “suck it up buttercup” or “what did you expect would happen?” Yes, I get it. We are all moving forward as we should. I have been wondering since the beginning of September, what is taking you so long and then last week, “it only took you that long?” There have been a lot of mixed emotions.

I am so thankful for a dear friend who took the time to send me an email on the Sunday of the announcement expressing appreciation and care for me. It is hard to explain the relationship between pastor and those he is watching over, as one who gives an account (Hebrews 13:17). Pastors care and even when we have supposedly moved on we continue to care deeply.

Dr. Roy!

Dr. Roy died last night.

The Canadian evangelical church has few iconic heroes.  I don’t think that is such a bad thing but it is also a Canadian thing. But for me Dr. Roy Lawson fits that larger than life status.  His booming voice, one of a kind gate, his bold proclamation of God’s Word, and his leadership had a priceless impact on me and the lives of so many of my generation.  I won’t name names but I could and the list would be very long of men and women who God changed, called into ministry, and impacted through Dr. Roy.

God graciously worked in and through Dr. Roy and we all got to watch the grace of God unfold in front of us.  As a 19 year old I listened to Dr. Roy preach and God propelled me into a life changing direction.  I’d like to think that the sermon he preached was his “Peter the Rock” message, just because I loved how he said “Peeeeter the Rawk!”  But whatever the sermon God changed my life, he called me into ministry.  As a 20 something year old it was the legend Dr. Roy who encouraged me with specific words after sitting and listening to me preach about being a servant. Looking back that seems so crazy to me.  As  a 30 and 40 something I was always amazed that every time I saw him he remembered my name and he always had words of encouragement for what he was “hearing” about our ministry.

So I want to, along with so many others, thank God for how He chose to use Dr. Roy Lawson.  All glory to God for how he fulfills his plans through His faithful servants.

With a thankful heart and eyes full of tears of gratitude,




On Changing Tribes

Well we finally made our decision or as I like to say, we “LeBroned” (some will understand).  After an interesting journey Brenda and I are looking forward to starting the process towards planting a church with Harvest Bible Fellowship in Canada.  We are not clear as to where that will be but we are looking forward to what God has in store for us.  Actually this has been exactly how our decision making journey has taken place, one step at a time, without a clear destination.  It has been a deep trust building time in our lives.  I am thankful for what God is teaching us during these months.

This means that we will be changing “tribes” even while we stay in the same family.  For the past thirteen years we have had the privilege of being part of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.  Brenda and I are thankful for the many colleagues that we have through our association with FEB.  We have been impressed with the care that we have received from the leaders of FEB during this time of transition and we are encouraged with a renewed direction and emphasis on church planting within this group of churches.  We leave this tribe grateful.

We are excited about beginning our journey with Harvest.  We are encouraged by the deep commitment to God and the mission of the church among the leaders of Harvest churches.  Brenda and I are looking forward to a new beginning.

We are grateful that in both of these church movements (FEB and Harvest) there are leaders who have “kingdom of God” mindsets.  We all love our tribes, as we should, but we also love the family, God’s family and its diversity.  Max DePree says, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.  The last is to say thank you.  In between the two the leader must become a servant and a debtor” (Leadership Is An Art, 11). As I see it the reality is that within God’s family there are many different tribes.  My hope is that Brenda and I have served the FEB tribe well and encouraged the nest generation of church leaders even as we are indebted to those who have poured into our lives while we have done so . . . men and women like Roy Lawson, Paul Kerr, Gerry and Liz Benn, and our scores of friends whom I won’t mention because I would forget someone and never hear the end of it 🙂  All we have left to say is “thank you.”  Thank you for your prayers on our behalf.  Thank you for investing in us your God given wisdom.  Thank you for teaching us to be passionate about God and His word.

Now it is our hope, desire, and our commitment to do the same in our new tribe even as we celebrate what God is doing in other tribes.  Go Harvest!


One Month Check Up

One of the questions I get asked over and over again these days is “how are you doing?” This is not asked in the obligatory welcoming way but in the “tell me, really, how are you doing?” way. Usually I answer with a perfunctory “fine” or “OK” but perhaps one month in to my journey it would be helpful to take an account.

It will be four Sundays this Sunday, May 25th, since our last Sunday at Compass and in many ways it feels like our good-bye was much longer than one month ago. It has not been hard to distance myself emotionally from Compass. I admit that I am surprised by this. I would have expected a greater challenge. Even as I write this I feel a twinge of guilt expressing this (just a twinge). I have experienced a number of moments of reconnection. These moments of reconnection include simple little things like driving by the church building, running into someone at Starbucks, or the occasional email with someone from Compass. None of it is bad, all of it is normal, enjoyable and necessary.

Overall I would say I am much more relaxed. I knew I was wound tight but I didn’t know how tightly wound until the string was pulled. The responsibility of church ministry along with all of its privileges has been removed and every week I am feeling more and more weightless. I imagine part of this is also because of the simplicity of our home life right now. We are experiencing this time without children at home and with parents in good health. I am grateful for the gift of this moment in time.

I miss the rhythm of preparation and preaching. I am enjoying the break and having others shepherd me in the ministry of God’s word but my passion for preaching is undeniable.

I am more appreciative of my time with others. When I left Compass I removed myself from an entire network of relationships. I am not part of that normal flow of relationships and I miss that very much. So when I get the opportunity to spend minutes or hours with someone it just brings that much more joy.

I am thankful for God’s care. I am confident in his call. I am blessed with an abiding relationship with my Heavenly Father.  I am enjoying the present even as I am hopeful for the future.

I am appreciative of God’s clarity. The past six months and in particular the past month has been full of helpful conversations with others, which has led to dynamic conversations between Brenda and myself. It has been exciting to reach out to God with Brenda in prayer. God has used all of this to help us discern the desires he is placing in our heart for ministry.

One month in I am grateful.


In Praise of Slacking

We have all been made by God with an undeniable creativity. We all express it differently but nevertheless we are creative.  I have found that in my life creativity flourishes under different conditions. There are times when  a moment of stress births a necessary creative response. A crisis can do that, whereas living in perceived crisis mode will usually suck any creative juices dry. Second, surrounding myself with other creatives has and does cultivate creativity. There is nothing like the energy in the room filled with creative minds committed to sharing a creative spirit. I have found, however, that this also has its limits. Too many creative minds for too long of a time has always resulted in copying rather than creativity in my life. That is why my motto for the conferences I attend is, “get one thing and then I’m out of here.” I believe that when choosing a conference to attend your motto should be “location, location, location.” Third, I have found the discipline of “working it out” and in particular with others has many times produced a creative result. Sometimes the process produces a creativity that I would or could not have expressed on my own, the type that comes only as a result of being developed by a team. I have often found that this team does not need to be full of people that others would label as “creative” but that when people of all creative stripes are given a clear purpose and put their minds together in a disciplined process amazing things can and do happen.

But for me, by far, the greatest means of engendering creativity in my mind and spirit is space in my life. You can call it, “boredom”, “stillness”, even “wasting time” if you want, but I prefer to call it “space”. This space has a physical, emotional, and spiritual aspect to it. Space in my life is when my focus on the presence of God is heightened. I love the fact that I live a creative life. I also know that being connected to the Creator is essential to all of this. This is why we sabbath. One day a week where we “do nothing”, “veg”, “be lazy.” A day to rest and to live as unto God. That is space! The problem is that so many of us don’t have this regular rhythm of space. We get weighed down and personalize our responsibilities and decisions instead of living our lives reminded that our lives are part of God’s everlasting legacy.

I am presently experiencing a self imposed, God directed, sabbatical. I was reminded of Buchanan’s words that one won’t be able to fully experience the beauty of a sabbatical if they don’t know how to sabbath. These words are painfully true enough. Even as I learn to embrace “boredom”, “stillness”, and “laziness,” I am finding that God is birthing in me a new found creativity and passion for what could be. So today I am thankful to God, giving Him praise for slacking!

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