What should be the opening words of a funeral service?

Opening a funeral service can feel as awkward as those first words you speak to the family who has just lost their loved one.  Yet, because of the attentiveness people give in those moments, we must seize the opportunity to choose carefully these words as they will set the tone for the entire service.  A good rule of thumb is to always allow God to speak before you do.  Keep in mind, though there are different kinds of people attending the funeral, they are all in their own way asking the question, “Why God?”

Choose a passage of Scripture that cuts through the questions, sorrow, and skepticism to declare the unchanging character of our great God.  Prepare in such a way that you can stand up, move to the pulpit and then say, “Hear these words about our great, unchanging God. . . .”

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.  The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.  He will fulfill the desires of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.  The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.  My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.  (Psalm 145:17-21)

God’s words will always be more powerful, profound, and pervasive than our own.  Begin by allowing God to pierce through the doubts by speaking first.   After you have prepared a welcome for those attending and state why you have gathered, prepare the rest of the funeral service around five areas, asking how the gospel can be accurately portrayed in them:  prayer, music, Scripture readings, eulogy, and sermon.

Posted in Funerals

What are the 5 areas of a local church that need to be addressed in church revitalization?

I am observing a common trend in the effort to revitalize older, established local churches.  I have seen it in my own revitalization efforts with my church for the last 11 years.  I have heard about it as I meet and counsel with other pastors.  And I have realized these trends as I have consulted many churches in the last several years seeking new life.  As I have combed through the avalanche of church revitalization materials that has been published in the last 5 years and much of it being good and helpful, the core issues that need to be focused upon are still getting missed in some ways in my estimation.

Therefore, here are the 5 areas that I have found need to be addressed.  I will develop them in more detail at another time, but for now here are the areas and the central question that must be answered if a church is to adequately address the issues that often cause the decline and death of local churches.  I will also add these 5 areas work from a central foundation of God’s Word being what breathes life into a dead church and a right understanding of the gospel must be the cornerstone.

1) Authority: Who is in Charge?

2) Leadership: Who do I Follow?

3) Membership: To Whom am I Accountable?

4) Unity: Who is my Brother?

5) Worship: Why do we Gather?

 More to come on this later…



Posted in Discipleship, Oversight of Souls

How does a pastor cultivate a ministry of prayer with other pastors?

I know from personal experience that the soft voice beckoning pastors to pray for their flocks grows louder when others are involved and you are accountable to them. I will gladly admit I would falter in this task even more and allow other demanding tasks of my ministry to squeeze out prayer if I didn’t have the accountability of other pastors.

Pray with the pastors and leaders of your church.

I recommend that you schedule monthly, even weekly times, for you to gather with other pastors, deacons, or other leaders in the church to pray for the flock. Have time when you come together and all you do is pray for the needs of people, no other agendas, just prayer. You can start with a simple 20-30 minute time early in the morning before work or school. Pick a time and call your leaders and church to make it a priority. You will learn quickly who is really burdened to gather with others to pray.

Another important way to facilitate praying for the flock with others is to use the meetings you already have scheduled. Carve out the first ten to fifteen minutes of the meeting for prayer. Pastors’ meeting, deacons’ meetings, small groups, pastoral interns’ meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings all are great opportunities to seize. Do more than just an opening prayer of a few minutes. Involve others, pray for specific needs, and dedicate a longer time to interceding for the church.

At our church, the pastors meet together for a four hour pastor’s meeting once a month on Sunday afternoons.  We met yesterday.  We use half of that time to go through the prayer guide mentioned earlier and pray for different people on the list. There are always more church issues that need to be discussed, and it has been tempting to use some of this precious meeting time for business discussions. But I am grateful for the accountability of our other pastors who won’t allow me to squeeze out that time. They share the same burden I have to give regular time to pray for our flock.

Pray with the pastors of other churches.

Fellowship and association with other pastors outside your own local church is essential for many reasons. Pastors need friendship. Pastors need wisdom and counsel from those outside their church to get another perspective. Pastors need to collaborate ministry efforts with other pastors and churches to utilize resources and partner together to reach the lost for Christ. However, another important reason for pastoral fellowship is the unique way God works when pastors come together from different churches and ministries to pray together for their individual flocks.

We started a pastoral fellowship in our city several years ago for many of these reasons. We have over one hundred pastors involved in this group that meets every other month. One of the most meaningful meetings we had was when we fasted from our typical lunch and teaching time and just prayed together for a couple of hours. Each pastor brought great burdens from their own congregations to request prayer from their brothers. It is a special thing to hear another pastor pray for the burdens of another pastor for only pastors know the full weight of those burdens and what it is like to carry them.

Pastors, pray for your flock with other pastors and leaders in your own church as well as other local churches around you. You will find God will stir your soul uniquely through the joint intercession of this band of brothers.


Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul

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Oversee God's people

Oversee God’s People: Shepherding the flock through Administration and Delegation By: Brian Croft and Bryce Butler





Pray for the flock


Pray For The Flock: Ministering God’s Grace Through Intercession  By: Brian Croft and Ryan Fullerton


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