Funerals. Pastors often merely tolerate them; pastors in training are terrified by the thought of doing one. Ministers of the gospel, however, should love doing funerals. Funerals provide opportunities for gospel ministry and caring for hurting people than maybe any other ministry scenario. Here are 5 reasons we should love doing funerals:
1) Spiritual attentiveness
A spiritual attentive atmosphere pervades funerals in a way that cannot be produced by the most rousing church service. Losing a loved one often makes people evaluate their own life. This setting almost always leads people to consider their own state before their Creator and an openness to talk about spiritual matters increases.
2) Reality of death
Regardless how hard we try to ignore the reality of death in our daily life, an open casket occupied by a deceased loved one is an inescapable reminder. The most zealous of efforts to deny the reality of death crumble when you see and touch the cold hard shell that was once someone you loved. The open doors for spiritual conversation and life and death in those moments are invaluable and the opportunities should be seized.
3) Opportunity to preach the gospel
Ministers of the gospel exist to preach the gospel. Though we have the opportunity every time we preach on Sunday to preach the gospel, funerals bring a group of unbelievers to the funeral home that may never darken the door of a church on Sunday. Here we find a captive audience looking for answers. That is not just an opportunity, but a gift from God for those of us who want well-timed moments to preach the gospel.
4) Opportunity to lead people through their grief
The loss of a loved one is a good time to learn how to grieve and how to deal with suffering. Our role as pastors is primarily to minister the gospel, but an additionally helpful role is to lead these hurting people through the practicality of grieving. Helping them see it is good to talk about the deceased, share their memories, laugh, cry, and remember the impact of the deceased in their lives will often lead to a trust that is built with you for future ministry.
5) Keeps us focused on what really matters
Even pastors get caught up in silly and meaningless tasks that occupy too much of our time. I have found as I prepare to walk into a funeral and care for a grieving family that all meaningless struggles in my life are exposed and I am reminded of what really matters. One of the many gifts and privileges of pastoral ministry is being constantly in the midst of real life circumstances where death is undeniable, people are hurting and searching for a reason to go on, and the need for the gospel is divinely renewed.
I pray these reasons would challenge you to not just tolerate the task of funerals as a pastor, but see them as the front lines of ministry to which we long to find ourselves with numerous opportunities to minister the grace of God in Christ.