Who will preach at YOUR funeral??

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2

This may seem like a morbid topic, but if we can take our minds off summer barbecues and the dilemma of what sunblock to purchase I think there may be something of value here to consider.  Have you ever thought about who you would like to preach at your funeral?  I think this choice tells a lot about a person.  For the Christian, it may even be a good way to take a long look at your own values, beliefs, and indeed even your own standing before God.  Let me throw a few funeral speaker options at you to show you what I mean:

1) A Friend – Would you like a friend to give the message or eulogy?  Someone who knew you well, who shared the same interests as you, who laughed at your jokes and overlooked your faults for the sake of a good friendship?  While this person may be able to bring the mist to more than one pair of eyes when sharing the funny stories and  tales of your qualities, I must ask… how does this bring glory to God?  Is it not true that a message like  this would be centered around a man (you) rather than God?  If you are truly a Christian, saved by Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross, would a man-centered message be appropriate?  It would be tragic to be seated at the Lamb’s table in paradise while a friend shared stories of your good deeds with others, as though it was those deeds that got you there! 

2) Pastor – How about some Pastor or preacher?  You know, whoever it is that does these things and has an opening for that date.  Undoubtedly, he will ask as to whether or not you were a believer, and if the answer is yes (the living always say “yes” to a preacher asking this question about the deceased) then the message will be a general run-of-the-mill funeral message. You know the one, “He was a good man, one who is now with His Lord after living a life of good deeds…”  He may even have a few people stand up and tell a short story of how good you were.  If he knew you himself, he might throw in a few personal items in as well.  After telling everybody how you were a good Christian man/woman he will then suggest that those in attendance should be good christians as well so they can go to heaven (where all good people go).  These messages are usually very bland and intentionally avoid any sharp call to repentance or a strong Gospel proclamation.  The speaker gets paid to perform these ceremonies, and the last thing they usually want is to get “doctrinal” and offend half the people there!  

3) Gospel Preaching Evangelist – Picture this:  A man gets up and solemnly tells Mom, Aunt Betty and the crowd of mourners that if you (now being dead) were getting what you truly deserved, then you were roasting on the spit of Hell even while the message was being preached.  You were a wicked person at heart who deserves Hell in payment for your acts of rebellion against the one who made you.  But he then informs the crowd that it was by God’s grace alone that He sent Christ to take the punishment for your sins, and so that while the message was being preached you were not beginning an eternity of torment, but rather were seated with the one you love in paradise.  Your good deeds were, in fact, all a reflection of your savior, not you, for you were a wicked man.  It is those same good deeds that were part of a testimony to your savior, and indeed give comfort to those still alive in mourning.  “Repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name,” the speaker shares, “is the message this man believed and clung to for the salvation of his soul!”  If this message was preached, what would the reaction be?  Aunt Betty would probably pass out and some friends from work might start feeling really uncomfortable, eh?  But do you truly want anything else?  Funerals bring about solemn reflection.  They are a time when mortality and the afterlife cannot be pushed to the back of the mind, instead they are front-and-center.  With all those who you value being in one place, in a somber state of mind, do you love them enough to have the truth boldly proclaimed no matter what the consequences?

Obviously, I am drawing sharp and unnecessary lines of distinction in this post .  A friend can give a great Cross centered Gospel based eulogy with a personal touch, and a pastor can relate how the good deeds in your life were evidence of your salvation.  An evangelist can be a friend and a pastor…you get the idea.  I am not trying to cast all relationships into concrete categories, rather I hope to stir up some reflection and self-examination.  Who will preach at your funeral?  Why?

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2 Comments on “Who will preach at YOUR funeral??”

  1. telltheirstories Says:

    “Who Will Preach At My (or Dad’s or sister’s, etc.) Funeral? Overwhelmingly, people today tend to bypass that question and quickly and unequivocably have an answer to a slightly different question. “Who will I not permit to speak at my funeral?” And their answer is, “Not some pastor who never knew him who will disrespect me or my loved ones with his hidden agenda.” They will never say this to a pastor’s face, but I’ve heard it and felt it for years in the funeral arrangements room when the family is asked if they have a pastor to lead the service.

    Having said that, let me say this:
    1. If statistics are true, clearly 50% of Christians don’t have a pastor or he is a dead man from a church they attended in their youth. These people are not looking for a pastor.
    2. What these people want from a funeral is a reminder of the significance of the deceased. They want to know he counted and touched the lives of others. They want to hear his name and tell his stories.
    3. They don’t view the funeral as a morbid topic at all. They see it as an opportunity for the living to recognize the deceased, comfort one another and support one another.
    4. The shotgun approach of trying to emphasize the sins of the attendees and bring them to Christ is probably one of the most worthless gestures a pastor can make. I suppose, if you view the gospel of birdshot, you might, you just might, hit a few quail. But will they die (to sin) or will they walk away wounded, a scab growing over the injury, making it all the more difficult to reach them at another time?
    5. When will pastors do the hard work of being a shepherd to the most broken-hearted at the time of death? When will they do the hard work of loving, comforting, confronting and tenderly giving the ministrations and the gospel of Jesus to those who are most receptive to the Lord’s salvation? These people are the mourners most attached to the deceased and they have the right to expect the pastor to model dignity and sensitivity to their grief. I’ve found the best ministry is to privately approach bereaved with comfort, care and the gospel. I mean, let’s face it, how many people have you ever heard say, “I accepted Christ at my brother’s funeral?” In my opinion, the wise pastor views the comfort and ministry to mourners as a long term affair, not an afternoon visit to a shooting gallery.

    I was a pastor for twenty years and saw far more good come out of the ministry to persons, one at a time, than to the crowds. The supportive grace of a good pastor in life’s most difficult times bears fruit.

    If you go to my blog, http://telltheirstories.wordpress.com/ , you will see a portion of the ministry I have to people in grief. I am that guy that’s asked to speak on behalf of the family and minister on behalf of the savior to people who answer the subject question of your blog a bit differently.

    “Who’s gonna speak at my funeral?” I am through the lives of my wife and kids and those I’ve touched through all these decades. They will mirror Jesus in their radiance. They will tell the story of grace and hope, love and peace. They will emit the vivacity of Christ, the Shepherd who faithfully, consistently walks us through “the valley of the shadow of death.” And they will find comfort in those who do and those who don’t love Jesus. They will send forth an aroma that’s irresistable.

    Reply

  2. revivalandreformation Says:

    I would love to go to a funeral and hear the pastor get up and give a sermon about where buddy ended up. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear him warning the congregation about hell and pressing the need to put their faith in Christ Jesus? Of course, we shouldn’t evangelize by using hell as a scare tactic, but in this day and age where people are stumbling around in a humanistic-fueled stupor, I think a little bit of fear would go a long way to getting their attention. Very interesting idea. I’ll have to talk to my friend in Texas about that one…

    Reply

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