How do I prepare Scripture readings for a funeral?

On previous posts we have considered how to prepare to pray and choose music for a funeral service.  The third of the 5 main areas is the careful and diliberate choosing of Scripture passages to effectively communicate the gospel.

Scripture readings need to be carefully chosen.  In trying to be gospel-centered, you can never go wrong with passages that make the gospel clear in plain reading (Eph. 2:1-10, Rom. 5:5-11, 2 Cor. 5:17-21).  You also want to prepare to read passages that will complement the main text of your sermon.   For example, a great passage to preach for funerals is John 11, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  A complementary—but not redundant—passage to read somewhere else in the service is the end of 1 Corinthians 15, where Christ takes the sting of death and gives us victory through him (1 Cor. 15: 54-57), allowing us, as a consequence, to be steadfast and abounding in the work of the Lord until his return (1 Cor. 15:58).  In services for those where you are confident of the deceased person’s conversion, passages that speak of the resurrection of our bodies to live eternally with Christ when he returns for his people, are very appropriate (1 Thess. 4: 13-18), since they speak of a Christian’s comfort when faced with death (1 Thess. 4:18).

Next up…Eulogies.

Posted in Funerals
7 comments on “How do I prepare Scripture readings for a funeral?
  1. ualtaher says:

    How do you you deal when you are unsure of their ( the deceased) treasuring of Christ, but so many say cliche things ( their in a better place)?

    My only hope for my friend was that at some point in his life and not just looking to his baptism, that he trusted and treasured Jesus. So, many are looking at those admirable qualities of compassion and caring for others, but I’ had those spiritual conversations with Him and I am very unsure.


    • briancroft says:

      Great, thoughtful question. My general rule I apply is if I am not certain of someone’s salvation upon their death, I am uncomfortable speaking in such a way that they are in heaven with Christ. It is unwise in most cases, however, to try and argue with those who think they are “in a better place” or give reference to their eternal state. You cannot be responsible for them, but only what you think and say. In those cases the best thing to do is, “Don’t preach them into heaven, don’t preach them into hell, just preach the gospel for the people who are there.” This is the best advice I’ve ever gotten for preaching funerals. May the Lord give you grace and discernment as you care for the family.

  2. Beverly says:

    I have been asked to say a few words at a co-workers memorial service. There was a lot of anger and hate between her and her children and many of them were not very forgiving of past issues of which I am not privy to. What scripture or words could I use about forgiveness which would not be condemning but thought provoking to those who are living to help them to deal with the past, and give and receive forgiveness.

    • briancroft says:

      Talk about the deceased in whatever positive way you can. No hope comes apart from the gospel, so if you get a chance to briefly talk about that, it would be bold, but a good thing. Other than that, just love on the families, especially since it does seem there is much of an example of that.

  3. stella says:

    Your information was very help full. Q. Is a license required for a minister to just pray and sing a song at a funeral in California ? Thank you!

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