What is one of the best ways for a pastor to gain evangelist opportunities?

I was emailed recently about how the pastor can better engage in evangelism.  After all, we can easily remain in our “bubble” as we shepherd the sheep.  The pastor must be arguably more deliberate than anyone to engage non-Christians throughout the week to share the gospel with them.  Deliberate spiritual conversation with your neighbors, frequenting the same stores and restaurants, walking the streets knocking on doors, and meeting with the non-Christians that are visiting your church are all good and fruitful ways to increase evangelism in the pastor’s life. 

There is, however, a very fruitful and unique way for a pastor to do evangelism that can only be provided to the pastor: 

Offer your services to a local funeral home to do funerals for those families who use their services and don’t have a pastor. 

Not long after I came to pastor Auburndale Baptist Church, a local funeral home a block from the church approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing funerals for them when a family came in who had no connection to a pastor or knew any clergy to conduct the funeral.  I agreed thinking it would provide some opportunities to meet some people in the community as the new pastor.  I also thought the challenge and opportunity to preach would do nothing, but help me grow as a preacher.  Little did I know what fruitful opportunities it would lead to share the gospel with non-Christians.

Through meeting with the families of the first few funerals, I realized that most, if not all of them were not believers.  I began to see a pattern.  If the funeral home was calling me, it met that the family was so detached from any church involvement that they didn’t even have a distant uncle or friend who could conduct the service.

Unless you are Whitefield preaching in a field in New England, where else can a pastor get a captive audience full of non-Christians who unavoidably are facing the reality of death and are looking for answers? 

There have also been other benefits from these opportunities.  One is serving a local funeral home that needs help.  Our church had a terrible reputation in the community when I arrived (another story).  The years I have served this funeral home and many families in the community as a result, have given a new, warm, and welcoming message to others about our church. 

In seven years, I have conducted over 100 funerals for non-Christians in this funeral home alone.  I have very close relationships with the owner and staff (some non-Christians), and it has without a doubt been and remains, by God’s grace, the most fruitful opportunities for evangelism I have experienced.

Oh yeah…if you take my advice, make sure you preach the gospel clearly when you do the funeral.

Posted in Evangelism, Funerals
15 comments on “What is one of the best ways for a pastor to gain evangelist opportunities?
  1. Rob says:

    A couple of observations.

    Pastors do seem to get in a bubble. They went to Bible College, they went to Seminary, they were hired by a church. ” Friend of sinners” is not a label many of our pastors are able to bear; yet our Lord was identified in his culture by his actions that made him a doctor for the sick and a pariah to those that thought they were righteous.

    Funeral services are one of the best opportunities to exercise compassion the way Christ did. Think of Lazarus (obvious.) Even more importantly as a shepherd, think of when John the Baptist was killed and Jesus went away to mourn; yet the people came after him and he ministered to them. Even in sorrow, the true shepherd still ministered.

  2. Outstanding post. Fantastic idea. Who else has the truth? No one. If we don’t step up and offer, someone else will, like the Unity Church or the Liberal super seeker sensitive Methodist down the street.

    Very encouraging post, thank you!
    paul

  3. Tara Barthel says:

    Thanks for this post!

    And thanks, too, to all of the faithful Christian pastors who serve in the way you described.

    As one example? When my (estranged) father’s second wife died, my husband and sister and I went to the funeral to show our concern and honor him. I think there were maybe ten people there total—except for us, all unchurched.

    But we heard a powerful, biblically-faithful, Christ-exalting gospel-proclaiming sermon. It was wonderful. And the pastor had never met my father or his wife, he was just willing to serve and share the gospel with a room full of (mostly) non-Christians.

    I will always be grateful.

    Thanks again for the great blog!

    Your sister in Christ,
    Tara B.

  4. David Knapp says:

    I found your site through Marshall Jones Jr’s bondChristian.

    I am a rookie missionary in Germany. My desire is to be a good pastor. I have you added to my sidebar for good resources.

    You said, “Oh yeah…if you take my advice, make sure you preach the gospel clearly when you do the funeral.”

    If you haven’t already you just come up with an idea for a series of posts on how to preach the gospel clearly when you do a funeral.

    I would be interested in reading how to do this.

    Thanks for your wisdom.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Great to hear from you David! Look back at some of the other funeral posts. Write back if you would like more detailed examples than those.

    • Ken says:

      Brian – Excellent advice. I too would be interested in your thoughts of ways to present the gospel clearly to a room full of non-Christians at the funeral of someone you don’t know.

      Thanks!

      • Brian Croft says:

        Check my previous posts for funerals and see if that helps as much of its content is for those types of funerals. If you want something more specific, just write back and let me know. I would be glad to email you my manuscript for those funerals.

        Thanks for your encouragment!

  5. Kris Drees says:

    Brian – I have followed your example since I have become a pastor here in Muskogee. In less than a year’s time I have been a part of eight funerals (5 for my church and 3 for a local funeral home).

    At the funerals that I preached my message was the gospel, but I have found that at the funerals I performed for the funeral home the families did not want a message preached. They just wanted someone to officiate the service. Ironically, at one of these funerals they even played the song, “Burning Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.

    In spite of there being no message, I decided that I would perform the funerals. I made this choice because I could at least pray the gospel. I thought this was better than nothing.

    My question is, what do you think about officiating funerals where they don’t want a message preached? Should we, as evangelical pastors, still be a part of these funerals?

    Thank you for your past advice, and I look forward to continuing to receive it through your blog!

    • Brian Croft says:

      Yes, better to pray the gospel than nothing at all. Remember, if you don’t do the funeral, someone else will who may not care about making the gospel known. I try my best to not give the family the option, but I know that is going to be situation by situation.

  6. Colin Mattoon says:

    Brian,
    I read this post the day you posted it and said to myself ‘I will never turn down an opportunity to do a funeral unless it conflicts with another ministry opportunity that I need to make a priority’. Shortly thereafter my wife and I started attending a new church (a 4 year old church plant) so we could pursue church planting in the future. A guy who attends the church is a funeral director at a local funeral home and I offered my services to him. He called me last week and I am conducting my first funeral tomorrow. Thanks for making me aware of this great opportunity!

  7. colin says:

    Hey Brian,
    The funeral went really well. I got to preach the gospel clearly and give the family encouragement and hope in Christ. A few family members seemed very appreciative after the service, including one of the sons of the deceased who thanked me for clearly preaching Jesus and the cross. I didnt get to spend much time with the family and wasn’t really sure how to interact with them and how much to interact with them since I was basically like a mercenary pastor coming in just to do the service. So thats something for me to think through and work on, but it was a great experience overall and Im looking forward to doing it again. The funeral director who asked me to serve told me I will be his first call whenever a family needs a minister so I will probably get another shot at it soon.

    Colin

    • Brian Croft says:

      Colin,

      Great brother! Glad to hear it went well and that you made a good impression on the family and funeral director. Let me know if I can serve you in the future as more opportunities come. Grateful to the Lord for these important doors of opportunity for you and your faithfulness in them.

  8. John Brand says:

    Brian, thanks as ever for your faithful, God-honouring, gospel-honouring blog. Having done many funerals in the course of my pastoral ministry, because of a change in ministry I have now also offered my services to a local Funeral Directors as an opportunity for evangelism and pastoral care. One of the things I would like to do is leave a small book/booklet with the bereaved family. I have one or two ideas but wonder if you have any recommendations or advice based on your own experience.

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