Tell me about your funeral messages.

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by annsni, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. annsni

    annsni
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    A dear man from our church and a good friend of ours passed away today. We were able to be with him as he went to the arms of Jesus (yes, he was saved, thank God!). This man and his wife's marriage was my husband's first wedding 2.5 years ago and now this will be his first funeral.

    So hubby and I were talking about what he wants to do for this funeral and I told him I'd ask for some advice here. We don't want to do the "altar call" sort of thing where we have people raise hands to show that they've responded but the Gospel is going to be preached unapologetically.

    Do you do an altar call? Do you have people respond to the Gospel in some way? How do you approach the presentation of the Gospel? I've been to funerals where it's a kind of "Do you want to see your friend again? Then get saved!" and I don't like that.

    Thanks for your help! I'd also appreciate prayers for this man's wife, daughter and step daughter. They are so lost right now.
     
  2. TomVols

    TomVols
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    I don't do an altar call. I always present the gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to do His work. NEVER manipulate, especially at a funeral. Tensions and emotions can be high. But never back down from the gospel.

    I never preach anyone into heaven. NEVER. ANYONE. What about this beloved saint? Well, simply say he trusted Christ, and those who do will be with Christ in glory. I've seen preachers talk about how they know brother so and so is walking around with Jesus even now. Maybe, maybe not - what if you find out later brother so and so was a demon? (I know of several who have experienced this). In short, it's not our job to locate the departed. (You'll thank me for this advice when you have to preach a lost person's funeral).

    I don't euologize much. Dont get me wrong: I'm not impersonal. Share some personal stories and what not. Memories are fine. But we're not there to glorify the departed. We are there to glorify our Savior and proclaim Him. Some Christian funerals are little more than talks that preach Sister Bessy with a cameo mention of someone she believed in.

    Don't use trite phrases. "We're not here to mourn a death but to celebrate a life." BULL. Mourning must happen. That mourning is not as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4), but remember again who we're there to honor. "If XXXX could talk to us now....." I get nausea when I hear that one. "I know what you're feeling...." No, you don't. Every family dynamic is personally different. My first funeral after my dad died, i said "guys, I've been where you are....not even a month ago." That's more empathetic than presuming omniscience.

    Be brief. Very brief. 10-15 minutes is more than enough. Anything more and you'll lose 'em. And this is doubly true if you have more than one speaker. I attended a funeral where there were three preachers. 2 took 20 minutes or so. 1 took ten. I remembered his words and forgot the other two, even though he was first.

    Comfort the hurting. They're at every funeral. And they hurt in not so obvious ways.

    I have a lot of funeral experience. And one of the last funerals I preached was that of my own dad. So this isn't textbook stuff here, though you would likely find it there. I'd rather preach ten funerals than one wedding because you actually get to do ministry at a funeral.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. pinoybaptist

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    When I was pastoring I did my best to stay away from funerals AND weddings.
    I agree for the most part with Tom in what he said.
    Heck, as far as I'm concerned, even in my own burial I don't want to have any services at all. I mean, at all, if I can have my way, but dead people can't have their way.
    Just dig the hole, wrap my body in a blanket, throw the carcass down the hole, bury it, and go on with life.
    No tears, no songs, none of that.
    There'll be enough tears shed when I open my eyes in my Lord's presence because I don't deserve a nanosecond of it, and enough songs to sing and listen to in eternity.
     
  4. annsni

    annsni
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    Thanks Tom.
     
  5. Tom Bryant

    Tom Bryant
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    Tom nailed it! I've done over 200 funerals through the years and he speaks words of wisdom.

    I believe that there is a real need for a book for young pastors about "doing" funerals. I got out of seminary and was absolutely unprepared for my first funeral.
     
  6. Joseph M. Smith

    Joseph M. Smith
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    I agree with those who caution against longevity and manipulation at funerals. I too have done a good many, maybe more than the 200 one person cited, and my strategies are:

    [1] Make the service liturgical, using the grand words of Scripture rather than lots of "howya doin" stuff;

    [2] Use the King James Version (I am decidely NOT a KJVO type, usually preaching out of the NRSV) because of its dignity and majesty;

    [3] Preach in such a way that the Gospel is declared through aspects of the deceased's life and testimony; I always tell families that I do not do eulogies, designed to pretty up the deceased person's story, but that I do messages;

    [4] Plan for the service to be not more than 45 minutes in length and the message 10-15 minutes ... which can be tricky if there are lots of tributes ... I have been known to be forced to pare down my planned message to a mere outline because of the jabber of others, the worst one of which was a man who stood to say, "I did not know .... ....., but I'm sure he was a good man" [Sir, why are you even here, much less speaking, if you did not know the deceased?].

    [5] A day or two after the funeral, give or send the family a printout of the funeral message, realizing that they may have been in no condition truly to hear it; I have had families tell me that they cherish receiving it and even go back and read it again on the anniversary of their loved one's death.

    Two special notes: [a] Planning the service outline usually means I have to get ahead of the funeral director, who will have a generic and typically uninspired outline that he will use if I do not insist on my own.

    If you would like to read any of my funeral messages, go to http://www.sermoncentral.com/contributors/joseph-smith-sermons-1335.asp and look for the category "funeral" among all the sermons I have posted there.
     
  7. annsni

    annsni
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    Hubby just read all of the responses and he said it's all been really helpful. When we were talking last night, I knew that I could come here and get some experienced advice. You guys are awesome. :jesus:
     
  8. Cutter

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    I don't do an altar call and keep the focus on the family and how I can find some comfort for them through scripture. Maintaining dignity, solemnity, and respect for the service and family should be the desire and primary objective of the Pastor.
     
  9. SBCPreacher

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    I just did number 48 yesterday, and seminary didn't come close to preparing me for preaching funerals. The best help I had was from an older pastor friend I have.

    The message I preach - hope. And hope is found in Jesus.
     
  10. dh1948

    dh1948
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    I have officiated around 300 funerals over the years. I always present the gospel and explain to the attendees how they can go to heaven when they die.

    I do emphasize that we are celebrating a homegoing if the person was a faithful Christian. In fact, I am finding that more and more families are requesting this.

    Since I pastor in a rural county, I tend to make funerals more "folksy." By that I mean that I talk about the deceased's life and share some of the things the family has told me about the deceased (with their permission, of course). This type laid-back funeral service is what is expected in this area. "When in Rome do as the Romans!"

    As far as an altar call, I don't recall ever giving one at a funeral. There have been a few times when I sensed the need to ask people to raise their hands in response to the gospel.

    I always let the people know that I am available to talk with them about their desire to become a Christian.
     

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