by Wayne Jackson
Christian Courier: Penpoints
Monday, September 19, 2005
If you could plan a message to be delivered at your own funeral, of what would it consist? You might want to give some thought to this question.
Conducting funerals is one of the most challenging tasks a gospel minister has. Actually, doing funerals is not a part of the preacher’s “job description” – as set forth in the New Testament. Nevertheless, because of the funeral traditions we have in this country, and to accommodate people we love, and for whom we feel compassion, ministers officiate at funerals.
But funerals are difficult situations – possibly the most rigorous of any one is called upon to administer. The funeral environment is tremendously stressful. If the deceased is someone close to him, the minister must struggle to keep his own emotions under control. Sometimes that is almost impossible to do, even if he has spent time concentrating on calmness and praying to God for strength. But his job is to be in control, and not to give in to the pain that may be stabbing his own heart.
Furthermore, the funeral message is not like taking care of one’s regular preaching responsibilities, where hundreds of topics are available for spiritual instruction and edification. At a funeral, the range of subject material is limited. It would hardly be appropriate to speak on “the sin against the Holy Spirit,” “the mark of the beast,” or “the battle of Armageddon” in the presence of a grieving family. It is not the place for detailed grammatical analyses, or the probing of controversial theological themes.
Generally, there are two expectations of the preacher when he conducts a funeral. One of these has to do with biographical data, together with an appropriate proportion of personal recollections that may bring some degree of solace to the family. If the person was a faithful Christian (so far as he is able to determine – only God completely knows any person), the task becomes immeasurably easier. Some of the greatest joys of a man’s role as preacher and friend are to reflect, even through a veil of tears, on the greatness of some of God’s dear saints, and the encouragement they brought to so many lives.
The other expectation usually is to bring a brief message from the Scriptures that will strengthen the loved ones, and perhaps sow a seed of interest in the non-Christian, who may be in attendance at the funeral out of respect.
One must say, however, that the inclination appears to be growing among some that the preacher should just stick to anecdotal material regarding the departed, and minimize (if not eliminate altogether) the “Bible stuff.” My mental response to that is this, “Who’s doing this funeral anyway, you or me?” If someone wants a strictly secular service, with a handful of jokes thrown in, he can find someone else to do it. Or as the Lord once expressed the matter, “Let the dead bury their own dead.”
I have often thought how interesting it might be to take a survey from church members as to what they would like to have said concerning themselves at their funerals. One might ask, rather generically, should I:
- tell the truth about you;
- exaggerate your good qualities and eliminate your flaws altogether;
- or, throw integrity to the wind and simply lie.
If you were asked to write a short paragraph providing the minister with a “script,” exactly what would you say?
Franklin Camp, now deceased, was a great and beloved gospel minister of several years past. He was a gentle and kind man, and one of pristine quality. On one occasion he was called upon to conduct the funeral of a brother who was anything but faithful. He struggled to know what to say. According to his own testimony, this is what he said, as kindly as he could, regarding the deceased gentleman.
“He was a member of the church but was careless in attendance. He was a member of the church, but he did not think Bible study was important, so he never came. He was a member of the church, but he never gave as he was prospered. His funeral is being conducted in this building paid for by others. He was a member of the church, but no one gathered here today has he taught the truth. He has now gone to judgment to meet his God; all he can say to God is, ‘I was a member of the church.’ All I can say about him is ‘he was a member of the church.’”
Franklin Camp later commented that as people filed out of the church building, he heard an irate person comment, “He preached him straight into hell.”
No, he did not. By that time, the brother was already at his destination, and the funeral comments had nothing to do with that.
I have been thinking: if a faithful minister should be called upon to preach your funeral, do you have any suggestions as to what he should say?
Copyright © 1998-2006 by Christian Courier Publications http://www.christiancourier.com/penpoints/whatAboutYourFuneral.htm
A New Study for our Youth
"Straddling the Fence"
Teachers: Dale & Donna Schwartz
"Peer Pressure" - "Marriage" - "Ethics" - "Decision Making"
Christian Youth Fellowship
February 26, 2006
PINELLAS PARK CHURCH OF CHRIST
Our group will leave immediately after morning services and will stop for lunch on the way to Pinellas Park. Should be back at the building around 8:30-9:00 pm. See Tim & Penny Simmons for more details.
Recipe for "A Happy Marriage"
Take two happy people-one male and one female-and separate them from their parents. Add the following ingredients in generous proportions:
Love - Acceptance - Respect - Communication
Patience - Kindness - Gentleness - Self-Control
Commitment - Faith - Hope - Truth
Mix together and then thoroughly sift in daily life. Strain out jealousy, arrogance, selfishness, provocation and accounting of wrongs. Bake in the trials and tribulations of life for 50 years, and then celebrate when golden.