Are you ready to conduct your first funeral?

41iBalo6yHL__AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-47,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I once had 5 different men who had 5 different funeral circumstances to relay to me in one week.  Among these scenarios, there were 2 common links.  They contacted me because they were either faced with doing their first funeral in a couple of days with no idea how to do it, or they were sharing they had just finished conducting their first funeral and read Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals the day before to figure out how to do the funeral.  In the latter case, they were calling or writing to say thank you.  This is one of the many reasons I regularly have Q and A sessions with pastoral interns at churches to discuss this very topic.

Many young men either training for the ministry or have just gotten their first pastorate, do not realize that their first funeral they will be called upon to conduct could be tomorrow.  In light of the constant questions I get about this issue, I feel the need to exhort those of you who have yet to dive into the waters of funeral conducting, take time now to learn about it.  Plan out a few funerals in your mind.  Talk to other seasoned pastors about how they approach it.  And yes, feel free to pick up the funeral book Phil Newton and I wrote as its 100 page length is designed to be read in a couple of hours if the pressing need of a sudden funeral arises.

Are you ready to conduct your first funeral?  If not, you need to be!  Having 2 days to figure it out is not ideal.  Prepare now before a funeral comes.  Trust me, you will be glad you planned ahead on this one.

Posted in Funerals

When all else fails, what can I pray during a hospital visit?

When all else fails…pray the gospel.  One morning, I was called by a nurse at a local hospital requesting my immediate presence.  The non-Christian spouse of one of our members was moments away from dying.  I had no idea what awaited me when I arrived.  I walked into a room full of family with this heartbroken husband motioning me over to his wife’s bed.  He was also suffering from some medical problems that resulted in a tracheotomy preventing him from speaking.

However, it did not take me long to see why I had been summoned.  He was asking me to pray over his wife as the doctor removed the ventilator.  Twenty minutes ago, I had been in my office neck deep in my studies.  Now, I found myself being asked to pray a final prayer over a dying, non-Christian woman in front of her husband and fifteen to twenty non-Christian family members hanging onto some miracle with my prayer.  I literally had a few seconds to decide what to do and how to pray.

I decided to pray the gospel for this dying woman, her husband, and this room full of non-Christian family.  I did not pray for God to spare her.  I did not pray that God would heal her.  I did not pray some manipulating request that God would receive her (which is what I think they expected me to pray).  I prayed that the gospel was her only hope in such a way that God could let every person in that room know it was their only hope also.  Praying the gospel does not have to be complicated, just simple and faithful.

God taught me an invaluable lesson that day in the hospital room that has had a profound impact on me and my ministry:

When the gospel is prayed, the gospel is heard.

When I prayed the gospel in the room that day, it was for this dying woman moments from facing judgment, her Christian husband, and her lost family members to hear.  If we truly believe that faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), we should never leave a hospital room, nursing home, rehabilitation center, or home of a sick person (or healthy person for that matter) without praying the hope of God in Christ.

When you visit, it is ideal in the midst of attempting spiritual conversation to speak about God’s righteousness, man’s sinfulness, and Christ’s dying on the cross in our place for our sins.  However, many circumstances can make that difficult.  But nothing prevents us from praying the gospel.  It is God alone through his Holy Spirit who transforms the darkest heart.  Whether through prayer or proclamation, we should see every visit as a divine appointment to make the saving power of the gospel known.

Posted in Hospital Visitation, Oversight of Souls

What is the most common ministry priority that a pastor neglects?

When I became a senior pastor, transitioning from an associate role at another church, my life and ministry suddenly became very busy—busier than they had ever been before. I knew, without a doubt, what I was called to do. I knew what I should be doing. Yet week after week, I saw the things I was supposed to be doing getting squeezed out of my schedule because there were urgent demands on my time. Above all else, the one task that seemed to get squeezed out most was prayer. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. More than any other aspect of a pastor’s calling, prayer is the most difficult to maintain. Prayer requires time. And prayer is usually most fruitful when done in a quiet place, without constant interruption or distraction. Unfortunately, prayer doesn’t demand your attention. In the midst of people wanting your time and urgent tasks to complete, spending time in prayer is easy to neglect.

A pastor knows that he will be preaching every six days, regardless of how busy he gets. The sermon must get done, and so time is set aside for that. And there are sick people in the hospital, and their suffering sits on your conscience so that even if you are busy you’ll eventually make the time to go. Funerals happen as well and a pastor is at the mercy of the plans of that family and funeral home. Pastors’ and deacons’ meetings get planned in advance, and these become default priorities in a pastor’s schedule. Besides, other people are depending upon him to be there and lead. But none of this is true with prayer. Prayer may sit on your conscience, but it isn’t complaining. It remains on the list of tasks for the day, but those who are not prayed for are unaware that they are forgotten. As other demands steal our attention, prayer gets pushed to the background. Many pastors, myself included, will go week after week until eventually that soft but necessary voice calling us to stop and pray just fades out. If enough time passes, the voice of conviction and desire will go away. When that happens, prayer gets squeezed out of our life. Ironically, a pastor can be so busy caring for his people that he never makes time to stop and pray for them.

Pastors, I know your schedule is busy.  I am aware of the great demands on your time that pull on your conscience.  But, don’t forget to pray for your people this week.  Pray with your people.  Set time aside in a quiet place and cry out to God for your people.  Make the other pastoral matters wait.  It is safe to say they are less important than prayer.

Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul

Watch CBTS webcast where Brian Croft talked with 3 other pastors about aspects of pastoral ministry.

Here is the webcast Brian Croft was involved in through Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary (Originally Midwest Center for Theological Studies).  If you watch, Brian had technical difficulties for about 5 minutes and came back into the discussion.

To Watch:  Click here 

 

Posted in Promotion, Training for Ministry
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