Personal thoughts on the death of Jeremy Marshall

Some of you reading this will know Jeremy Marshall and will already be thanking God for him just at the mention of his name. Most of you probably don’t know Jeremy, and I can only say that is to your great loss.

Being a church pastor, you meet all sorts of people you’d have no business meeting in any other walk of life. It wasn’t until I became a pastor that I met real people who had actually been to Eton (Anglicans, obviously, but still…) In what world would a lad from an obscure village, from a very lowly background, who now ministers in one of the most deprived towns in the country have anything to do with a bloke who was chairman of the UK’s oldest privately-owned bank? In the ordinary run of things, there really is no way. In the church, it becomes a possibility. But perhaps most amazing of all, Jeremy became my friend because he sought me out.

In his final years – facing as he was inoperable cancer – Jeremy was characterised by a burning zeal for the gospel. He became a tireless evangelist, always looking to meet and talk about Jesus with whoever would let him. Armed simply with the question, ‘would you like to read the Bible with me?’ he insisted almost everyone said yes. He was a passionate advocate for the Word One-to-One and he began bible studies with high flying city bankers, investors, and countless others.

His zeal for the gospel also led to him backing – financially, prayerfully and with much actual and specific encouragement – many gospel endeavours. It was his realisation, in line with what some of us in such contexts were saying, that there is a gospel deficit in our country and it is poor and deprived areas who suffer from it that we were brought into contact. Jeremy sought me out having followed my blog for a while. We developed a friendship that led to him supporting the ministry of our church, linking us with others keen to do the same and becoming an advocate for the gospel in areas like ours. There are, without question, people who have heard the gospel in Oldham from the poorest and most deprived backgrounds, from Muslims backgrounds, from all around the globe who would not have heard it today if it were not for Jeremy.

Jeremy’s evident zeal for the gospel made him ardently non-tribal. The great strength of that position, and of Jeremy’s particular character, is he had a way of bringing together people who would really have nothing to do with one another otherwise. He had an enormous network of people he was happy to link together and he was always ready to lend his credit in support. This tended to mean Jeremy had less time for ecclesiological points of difference, and we had many interesting and stimulating conversations about the importance of these things for the local church. But despite often not agreeing on these things, sometimes strongly so, it never stopped Jeremy supporting what we were doing wholeheartedly, which speaks to the character of the man and his evident lack of tribal instinct.

I met up with Jeremy numerous times. Usually for a day and always including lunch, which Jeremy would insist on buying. Any time I did try, he would firmly insist not. Though only a small example of his generosity – which was far greater and goes well beyond such things – this was the heart of the man. He was generosity personified. The church, both literally and figuratively, will be considerably poorer without Jeremy.

What drew me to Jeremy was his unassuming nature and wicked sense of humour. The man had no ego and seemed to relish it when I, and other pastors working in deprived areas to whom he was introduced, mercilessly took the mick out of him. Never did I worry about offending him and never did I worry that any conversation would end our friendship. He, in turn, had little problem returning the banter. What drew him to me exactly, I can’t say but I do remember him saying – after one of our usual conversations where we disagreed strongly about some church matter but we were laughing and joking at each other too – ‘you remind me of my father’ which he quickly followed up with ‘and that is intended as a compliment!’ Whether it was him telling me he never forgave us for John Barnes (he a Watford fan, me a Liverpool supporter) or pulling one another’s leg about our respective churches and convictions on which we didn’t always agree, Jeremy was always good humoured, always ready to engage and seemed to respect those who had the gall to directly and frankly disagree with him rather than courting obsequious fawning affirmation. That always made me respect him.

I am so sad that my friend is no longer with us. But I rejoice that Jeremy loved the Lord Jesus so clearly and evidently that I know I will see him again one day. I look forward to that day and seeing my friend again.


  1. Thank you, Steve. I didn’t know Jeremy myself, except by reputation, but that’s a lovely tribute.

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