What should you “NOT” do at a funeral?

I spend a great deal of time on this blog discussing the right way to approach ministry within the context of a funeral.  In fact, this is the premise of Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals.  Today, I thought it would be helpful to give you a very recent example of what not to do and how not to handle yourself as a pastor in a funeral context.

Last week, my wife’s unbelieving uncle committed suicide.  This was an uncle beloved by not just the family, but especially my wife and kids.  Because of the distance and cost, my wife was the only one able to go.  However, it apparently was quite providential that I was not present for the funeral and discussions that ensued afterwards.  My wife was a bit concerned how I would have reacted.

The pastor leading the service first and foremost did not preach the gospel in any form or fashion.  This was tragic on several levels, but the most obvious was the overwhelming majority of those attending the funeral were unbelievers and needed to hear the gospel.  It did not end there.

After the service as the family mingled and visited, the pastor proceeds to tell my wife and several of the family standing around that he thought this uncle was in heaven.  Not only was this man an unbeliever, but everyone who knew him, knew he hated Christ to the day he died.  This pastor first failed to preach the gospel and give any true form of truth that brings hope, but now he begins to argue with family members that he thinks this man was fine, with God, and shown mercy thinking we are all God’s children.

It is probably good that I was not in attendance as I may have been tempted to tackle this man who conducted the funeral.  Since I was not, I thought I would try to muster some kind of good to come from this atrocious approach to conducting a funeral.  Here is what I got…DO NOT DO THIS!  Sorry, but that is the best I have at this point.

This is precisely the opposite of what any faithful gospel pastor should do in this moment. Convincing a family that all people are God’s children and go to heaven is not only a false comfort, but a heresy that I am convinced leaves the blood of those hearers on the hands of that deceiving funeral preacher.  Dear friends and fellow pastors, much is at stake in these moments.  Whatever you do at the next funeral, do not do this!

 

Posted in Funerals, The Pastor's Soul
12 comments on “What should you “NOT” do at a funeral?
  1. I am in total agreement with you, and thought I might be going crazy because what I have seen at so many funerals was essentially that. I am glad to the voice of reason and truth in this day and age. You have a great site and I enjoy your posts. God bless.

  2. Thanks for the post. Your advice is “on the mark”. My opinion, many, many pastors are trying to widen the “narrow road”.

  3. Amanda Winter says:

    The first conversation I had with my mom was after the funeral was how “generic” the service was. I have MANY fond memories of my uncle and was disappointed that there really was no customization to it.

    I pray for the people who have lost their belief in Christ. I pray for the church that they reconsider banning services inside for those that have committed suicide, and I pray for all the leaders that should be guiding those in sorrow down a truthful path.

    • briancroft says:

      Amanda,

      It is unfortunate that the funeral was not personalized, especially since I know there are many in the family like yourself, who loved him and have many good memories with him. Sharing those things are an essential part of the grieving process and I regret the family was not given the opportunity to celebrate his life in those things. My children loved him, especially Isabelle, as we have been talkng about all the card games on the floor he played with her. Write your memories down, it will help you remember the good things about him in the midst of a tragic ending. I wish I could have been there.

  4. Adam Winters says:

    I’m sorry to hear that. Another sad case of a minister trying to preach someone into heaven because he probably doesn’t know how to do anything else. I hope God was able to use Cara to minister to the family, regardless.

    • Adam Winters says:

      Brian, I thought of one more thing.

      Would you also recommend that a minister NOT go to the other extreme and more-or-less pronounce the deceased to be surely damned, regardless of his/her reputation amongst those who knew him/her best in life?

      • briancroft says:

        Correct. A good general rule is, “Don’t preach them into heaven, don’t preach them into hell, just preach the gospel for the people who are there.”

        • Adam Winters says:

          I’m pretty sure you’ve discussed that in either some of your previous posts or your book. I just thought it would be a good clarification for this particular discussion.

  5. Dan Staifer says:

    I was attended a funeral for a family member who died suddenly passed away. She prayed a prayer and walked the aisle as a child and based on that alone the SBC preacher said that she was in Heaven because of Once Saved, Always Saved (the same minister who ironically told me that Calvinist resurgence in the SBC was a problem prior to the service). I was crestfallen because most of the family are not Christian and this guy totally whiffed on the Gospel. I couldn’t agree more with this and I have vowed to always do this with funerals. Thanks for the advice.

  6. shawn says:

    Also what not to do at a Funeral: Read Dawkins

    http://vimeo.com/39992349

  7. Jeremy says:

    Brian,
    I had the exact same situation occur when my aunt passed away. She hated God, and told anyone who would listen in the nursing home how much she hated God. My mom visited her and cared for her for years, constantly pointing her to Christ and showing her the love of God. My aunt died suddenly in her sleep, so no one knows for certain what happened to her. However, at her funeral, an old country preacher (who just so happens to be my dad’s cousin) pretty much walked my aunt right into heaven. I was so disgusted and outraged. After praying about it and wrestling with whether or not to confront him, I decided I had to confront him. So I confronted him afterwards…which was super awkward being a 26 year old with 2 years of ministry experience rebuking a 72-year old with over 40 years of ministry. I pointed out how he missed the gospel. He was stunned and said he believed in justification by faith through grace and reality of hell for the unrepentant. I told him that if that’s the case, then it didn’t come through. He apologized and that was that. A gospel opportunity wasted. It made a very somber day even worse.

  8. Jack Gandy says:

    Good article! I attended a service recently where the woman had never attended any church service to my knowledge in all the years I had known her. But the minister stood and told everyone what a dynamic faith she had, and how he was sure he would one day meet her in heaven. I turned to my wife and asked, “Is he at the right service?”

    In funeral services, we are not preaching to the one who has died: they have already preached their sermon through their life. Rather, we are preaching to those who remain, pleading with them to make sure that, when the time comes for them to die, no one will be left wondering about their eternal destiny, or having to lie in order to try and console the family.

4 Pings/Trackbacks for "What should you “NOT” do at a funeral?"
  1. [...] Pastor Brian Croft discuss What Should You Not Do at a Funeral. [...]

  2. [...] ….Last week, my wife’s unbelieving uncle committed suicide.  This was an uncle beloved by not just the family, but especially my wife and kids…The pastor leading the service first and foremost did not preach the gospel in any form or fashion.  This was tragic on several levels, but the most obvious was the overwhelming majority of those attending the funeral were unbelievers and needed to hear the gospel.  It did not end there. After the service as the family mingled and visited, the pastor proceeds to tell my wife and several of the family standing around that he thought this uncle was in heaven.  Not only was this man an unbeliever, but everyone who knew him, knew he hated Christ to the day he died.       MORE [...]

  3. [...] wife of the uncle who committed suicide earlier this year, which I reference in this previous post: What should you “NOT” do at a funeral.  This left me caring for our 4 kids and 2 dogs (one was the in-law’s dog who is pregnant) [...]

  4. [...] wife of the uncle who committed suicide earlier this year, which I reference in this previous post: What should you “NOT” do at a funeral. This left me caring for our 4 kids and 2 dogs (one was the in-law’s dog who is pregnant) during [...]

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