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.