Christian entrepreneur Jerry Marshall is celebrating the 10th anniversary of founding a business in Bethlehem, which now employs over 170 staff.
As a young child, Jerry always wanted to be financially successful, which he succeeded in being. And then one day, after attending a Bible study class he reflected on Mark 8:36:
"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
Jerry says God was calling him to take a different road: "I knew then that God wanted me to deal with my financial ambitions. Money is an amazing invention but it can have a dark side and God knows I was in danger of becoming a money addict. I had to learn to defile it by giving it away. It was hard at first, but a breakthrough came after which it became exciting to be able to give more. Tithing is only a start point."
Jerry, second from right, relaxing with some of the Transcend team
In that moment of realisation he was convinced that he needed to reassess his career and to use his time for the benefit of others, especially those in need.
Related to this was his experience of redundancy. He'd been given just one week's notice, no settlement, and his wife Sue had just left work to look after their first baby. Jerry says: "We spent a day in the Cotswolds fasting and praying...I ‘pushed some doors’ and was offered a fabulous job, which came with a 40% pay rise. And God said turn it down. I was angry with God – he had messed up my CV!"
But Jerry knew that God wanted him to break the expectations he had placed on himself to accumulate wealth and so he focussed on developing several social care and Christian projects and established one of the most successful just over ten years ago in Bethlehem called Transcend.
Transcend started life as a call centre that would help to sell language courses to people in the Middle East. They chose the idea because it was a business that would be resistant to border controls or curfews, which were particularly problematic at the time. The company transcends the Israeli West Bank barrier by creating jobs unaffected by movement restrictions, building skills and hope, and developing relationships across the divide. The business started with 21 people, expanded into software, and now employs 172 staff.
Jerry says of God's calling on his life: "I believe all followers of Jesus are called by him to use their particular God-given talents for the benefit of the Church. We are all part of the body of Christ. Leaders are called to different ministries 'to equip his people for works of service so the body of Christ may be built up.' I see myself as a Kingdom Entrepreneur, which covers everything from church planting to setting up charities / social enterprises to for-profit businesses."
Jerry set up a new charity this year to help other business people use their skills to fight poverty. Transformational Enterprise Network has already provided business start-up training in the UK and Africa. You can find out more about the business he set up in Bethlehem here.
For those trying to discern what it is God is calling them to be and do, Jerry says prayer is important as is simply starting: "There are all the usual answers on guidance - looking for multiple sources and finding out what works for you in terms of listening to God - but I would add this: a rudder only works when the boat is moving forward. I find I need to cast off and gently move forward; then I can begin to feel God’s steer."
Called to Serve
Are you financially successful but now sensing God calling you to be and do something different? The flagship diocesan vocations day, Called to Serve, will take place on Saturday 29 January 2022. Fifty places are available to individuals who want to find out more about the different ministries, both lay and ordained, that are available in the Church. Register for Called to Serve.