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Earl Marshall

Month: May 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

Recently a group of biblical scholars got together to develop what they call the Evangelical Manifesto.  This manifesto is certainly not a "nail it to the front door of the church" kind of radical reformation of evangelicalism.  It seems to me to be more of a repositioning statement as to how evangelicals should be interacting in the public square in North America and around the world.  While evangelicals are defined theologically not politically or culturally the "correctives" of the manifesto emphasize the cultural and political.

I can’t help but wonder what is driving the need for this kind of repositioning.  Is this a last ditch effort on behalf of some well intentioned biblical scholars for correctness or correction?  We are alive in a most interesting time for "Truth" and the discussion of what is right is prominent in evangelical theological circles.  Postmoderns are being corrected by moderns and vice-versa.  There is a shifting going on and the feeling of the need to grab on to something that isn’t moving is prevalent.  Perhaps this is what is going on here.  Perhaps this is an attempt at legacy building or truth telling.  Who knows? But while important in the ongoing process for the development of the future this certainly will not be a last word.

It is unfortunate the word "manifesto" was used.  I feel as if the proverbial balloon has lost all of its air.  Was that a bang I heard . . . no just a pfffffffffffffffffff!

Ready for Church Multiplication?

Multiplying_church I have been reading Bob Robert’s book, "The Multiplying Church".  Robert’s church, Northwood Church, is heavily invested in the planting of new churches not from a "lets start a new church" perspective but "lets multiply – start churches that start churches". 

It seems that church planting is a hot topic these days.  There is ongoing discussion as to whether or not we need more churches (which may be a statement based on form rather than function).  There can be no doubt, however, that we need more churches that are making a difference.  I see making a difference revolving around gospel ministry. 

This means churches that are

  • committed to Jesus
  • kingdom of God focused
  • community first orientation – connected and ministering to the wounds of their community
  • global mindset through an organic connection and multiplication strategy with the Church here and there
  • committed to a biblical DNA but extremely adaptable, flexible, and mobilized

So here is my question:

100 new Canadian churches making a difference, who’s in?

Preaching Calendar Questions

It is that time of year for me, an annual rite of spring.  It is time to put together my preaching calendar for 2008/09.  I want to engage more people in the process by allowing an opportunity for greater input with ideas for sermon topics, questions to be answered, etc.

I need your help.  Give me the specific questions you would ask people in order to receive the appropriate input into the planning of your preaching calendar.  There are the obvious questions like . . .

  • What do you perceive are the needs of our church family that need to be addressed this coming year through Sunday preaching?
  • What are the big questions your friends are asking about life and God?

Perhaps you have others and some not so obvious questions.  Awaiting your response.  Original work is appreciated.

Prince Caspian Rocks . . . Aslan Rules

I went with my family to the latest Narnia movie yesterday.  The movie version of the C.S. Lewis classic definitely takes some creative license but all in all captures the essence of the book.  Some have critiqued that Aslan is not directly involved enough in the movie (dream scene and the end).  I found, however, this aspect of the movie version strengthens the overall story line of personal transformation and belief in and dependence on God. 

There are so many great allusions to the struggle within especially between Peter and Caspian (the White Witch scene) and this over against the pure faith of Lucy.  Even the change in language from fighting for Narnia at the beginning of the story to fighting for Aslan at the end adds to the story line.  Lucy’s conversation with Aslan in the forest about Lucy knowing that Aslan was there even though the others did not believe it to be so and Aslan’s question, "why did that stop you from coming to me?" is poignant.

Great story . . . if your kids are going to watch this conflict filled movie go with them so you can explain the deeper faith journey afterwards.


Monday through Wednesday of this week I was able to attend the Dwell Conference in New York city.  The focus of the conference was on urban church planting. 

Here are some of the things I really enjoyed:

  • The diversity in the presenters at the conference and the balance between the pragmatic and theological.   
  • The appreciation that each of these unique personalities had for one another.  In particular I was taken by how Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll interacted with one another.  I can’t imagine two people as different as these two and yet both showed a humility in their consideration of the other.
  • Keller’s presentation on the gospel.  He was able to say things that I have been thinking about succinctly.  I will have more on this in another blog in the near future.
  • The passion of the many at the conference for starting new missional communities.  I consider it a great privilege to be able to interact with men and women who have a heart for Jesus, others, and the gospel.  If this conference is any indication the future of the North American church may indeed be a good one even while being a different one.

What I learned . . .

I am convinced that if you can walk away with one thing from a conference it has been a success.  I walked away with a couple of things.

  • CJ Mahaney spoke the first day on "keeping watch over ourselves" (from 1 Timothy 4:15-16).  The learning point for me was that you can’t keep watch over yourself without others in your life.  This reaffirmed my commitment to biblical community and in particular among the leaders in the church.  This is something I am going to give greater thougth to – the development of our staff and elders in this area is so vitally important.  Note Paul’s words at the end of these verses – eternity depends on it.
  • Tim Keller spoke of the nature of the gospel – one gospel but various biblical forms.  There is great theological reflection ahead for me on this but I have for a number of years lamented the simplistic systematic presentations of the gospel of the past and the unwillingness of many today to embrace a diverse biblical theology of gospel (in other words more than just the "red letters" of the synoptics). Keller’s presentation was succinct, thoughtful, and made my heart rejoice.  The challenging learning point will be in how we train people in our churches to a greater understanding of one gospel but multiple presentations of this one. 

Anything else learned at this conference will have to wait for another conference.  I have enough to think about.

New York

Last night I came back from my first visit to New York.  My take on this amazing city is that it is a diverse country within the confines of a city.  It is busy, dense, and amazingly beautiful.  It is every urban childs dream.  There is something right about walking around your corner and being able to visit your own neighbourhood restaurant, deli, and of course Starbucks. 

One night we enjoyed dinner at a Korean owned "roadhouse" listening to a kind of Korean jazz fusion, the next we travelled by cab into the Theatre District to Carmine’s (thanks Steve Chua for the suggestion), and our last night it was Thai right around the corner.  All of this, Letterman and yes even a conference.

There is just something about the energy of the city.

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