Baptist History Spotlight: Daniel Marshall

March 4, 2015

Dr. Dan Nelson | Pastor
First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA

Daniel Marshall was the brother-in law of Shubal Sterns and his partner in starting churches, encouraging men to go into the pastoral ministry, and aiding existing churches. His lack of formal education, his limited skills, and notable weak physical frame are amazing considering all that God accomplished through him. The many Baptist Churches in North Carolina and Georgia owe their origin to God using men like Sterns and Marshall to birth new churches out of a virtual wilderness at that time. Marshall’s limitations show how God can use people despite the limitations we seem to have. God gets the glory when we see His power displayed in our weakness. 

An estimation of Marshall’s natural abilities is based on a Baptist historian, Morgan Edwards, evaluation of him through his first-hand knowledge. Edwards honestly said that he was, “a weak man, a stammerer, and no scholar,” and admitted that Marshall’s success was “surprising when we consider that he is a man of no bright parts, nor eloquence nor learning. Piety, earnestness and honesty are all he can boast of.” One may ask how God can use someone like that. Yet, what Marshall lacked in natural abilities God more than supplied in His power and supernatural strength to be a stalwart church planter and evangelist. His association with his Brother-in-law, Shubal Sterns, accounted for something.

Marshall is regarded as the first great Baptist leader in Georgia. He founded the Kiokee Baptist Church which is the oldest continuing Baptist church in Georgia. His steadfastness and pioneering spirit in the state served him well as a respected leader. He in essence did in Georgia what Sterns had done in North Carolina.

Marshall was born in Windsor, Connecticut in 1706. He was not formally educated. He started as a farmer and was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Windsor—one of the oldest Congregational churches in the state. He married his first wife Hannah in 1742. They had one child: Daniel. Marshall heard George Whitfield preach in 1745 and was strongly influenced through his ministry. Marshall became a Separate Congregationalist and preached as a layman in New York and Pennsylvania for three years. This Itinerant ministry marked a radically different approach from his previous experience in the Baptist church. He was preaching the gospel everywhere.

Marshall’s wife died and in 1747. He then married Martha Sterns the sister of Shubal Sterns. They had ten children. Martha greatly assisted Daniel in his ministry. Marshall began his trek south ministering in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina ministering with his brother-in-law Shubal Sterns. During this time Marshall returned to his Baptist roots and joined Sterns in the Separate Baptist movement. Marshall served as a revivalist and influenced others, as did his brother in law. It is estimated that he influenced fourteen men to enter the ministry and founded at least eighteen Separate Baptist churches. He founded two associations of Baptist churches.

The movement of the Separate Baptists began to expand all throughout the coastal southern colonies. This led Marshall to Georgia and the founding of the Kiokee Baptist Church near Appling, Georgia. As a Baptist patriarch in the area he mentored another group of young men of about sixteen preachers. This in itself is quite remarkable considering Marshall’s lack of formal education. His zeal in inspiring others was truly amazing.

Marshall was a great patriot and supporter of the American cause in the Revolutionary War. He was influential in supporting religious liberty during the outcome of the war and favoring legislation to this end. Marshall served as moderator of the Georgia Baptist Association which began in 1784 just before his death. The work continued with at least 104 churches that were organized in Georgia. The churches traced much of their beginnings to either Marshall or one of his successors.

Marshall was succeeded as pastor of Kiokee Baptist by his son, Abraham, who was succeeded by Marshall’s grandson Jabez. This successive pastorate represented a 61 year ministry unbroken by the Marshall family. Marshall owned 400 acres of land but did not own slaves. The simple preacher was a man of incredible zeal, meekness, and patience despite limitations that most pastors did not possess.

The double-barreled energy of Sterns and Marshall was one of the secrets of their successful ministry in the Carolina’s and Georgia. Marshall’s life and ministry left a lasting legacy among Georgian Baptists. His life is an inspiration despite the limitations he began with in ministry. He serves as an example of how God can use anyone in a powerful way if they are committed to going anywhere and doing His will despite all obstacles. Daniel Marshall is such an example of what God can do in an amazing way through His direction and leadership being followed completely.