What is a most unique opportunity for a pastor to do evangelism?

I get asked often 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 meant 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 almost ten years now at the same church in the same community, 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, some of 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.  In fact, I have a funeral at this funeral home tomorrow.  Pray that gospel seeds get planted in the hearts of people and bear fruit.

Posted in Evangelism, Preaching
16 comments on “What is a most unique opportunity for a pastor to do evangelism?
  1. Dave Moser says:

    How have you dealt with the elephant in the room – the deceased is probably unsaved in a situation like this. How do you best present the gospel winsomely to the living while recognizing that their loved one isn’t covered in the blood?

  2. john sullivan says:

    ” just preach the gospel for the people that are there.”

    how do you preach the gospel without telling people about heaven and hell? that doesn’t sound like the gospel anymore…

    • Brian Croft says:

      What I mean is that if you do not know the person you are doing the funeral for, you are not in a position to weigh in on the state of their soul before they died. You preach the full gospel with heaven and hell, but directed towards your hearers, not to the deceased. People will connect the dots in regard to their deceased relative or friend as you preach the gospel, but ultimately you want them to consider their own soul.

      • John Sullivan says:

        ok gotcha. that makes more sense.

        man, thats amazing. i would think you’d get alot of people connecting dots and getting angry.

        • Brian Croft says:

          Sometimes…yes. However, you will be amazed at how much people try to be on their best behavior at a funeral.

  3. Michael says:

    Very good advice, indeed. Where I minister (northern Portugal) there are no non-catholic weddings, unless the person is a member of an evangelical church. Oh, how I wish that I had a similar open door. Keep up the good work, brother. Thanks for the post.

  4. Brent Ward says:

    Thank you Brian so much for this suggestion. I have been praying for additional ways to reach the community with the gospel, and when I read your blog today it struck a cord with me.

  5. Mark Escalera Sr says:

    Thank you for encouraging others to do this. I have been bi-vocational in ministry for several years and have also worked in the funeral industry. To date, I have had the privilege of preaching at 271 funerals since 1997. What a blessing to see some small indications of The Lord working in hearts at some of these. I agree with you about not knowing someone and how to handle it. I always conclude each message by saying, “If Mr or Mrs So-and-So could come back for just a few minutes, I believe this is what they would tell each one of you their family and friends…” Thank you again.

  6. Jeff Downs says:

    Pastor Croft,

    Perhaps you will offer an outline (an example) of a sermon you have preached, in context of “knowing” the family are unbelievers? Thanks!

  7. Scott W says:

    Brian,
    Thanks for this post. As a church planter new to the community where I am ministering, this was one of the things I did right away. In 2 years I have been asked to do about 8 funerals (most have been local). It has also given me the opportunity to work for the funeral home helping them carry out the funeral (drive a family, etc.) and gives me the opportunity to see & make contact with people in the community (and surrounding communities) that I could likely see and make contacts with. I just did a funeral and there was a lady who just checked out my groceries the night before. Thanks again Brian for your blog!

  8. Bart Watts says:

    An outline of a sermon would definitely be helpful.

    • Brian Croft says:

      There are outlines and full sermons in my funeral book in this regard. If you don’t have that, I will try to post some kind of outline on the blog.

  9. Great blog. Thanks for the challenge. I notice that many of the comments were about “knowing the state” of the deceased person and preaching the Gospel. A very wise mentor gave me priceless advice that has enabled me to preach the Gospel without judgement or compromise. When it comes time to preach the message: “I’m sorry that I didn’t have opportunity to know Bob. But one thing I am certain of. If Bob were standing here today–if he would speak to us–there is something that he would want all of us to know.” Then I share the Gospel. I have not declared what I don’t know about Bob AND have stayed thrue to my theological convictions.

  10. Elizabeth Gingell McAdams says:

    My great-uncle, who was the pastor of my home church for 25 years, did exactly this with a local funeral home. After he retired from regular pulpit ministry he was able to offer his services more regularly, sometimes conducting funerals for the unchurched as much as 3 times a week. His many years in this particular type of ministry had an incredible impact on our community.
    Uncle Peter’s standard funeral sermon began with a reading of John 11 (raising of Lazarus). He’d talk about God’s love for hurting people, then the whole sermon pivoted on this line: “If [name of the deceased] could give you a message today, he/she would want you to hear…” and then he transitioned into the gospel. He steered completely clear of talking about the deceased’s eternal destiny and instead talked about using this opportunity to consider your own.

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  1. [...] in Sociology. He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is from his blog, Practical Shepherding, and is used with [...]

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