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Each week, my friend Matt Steen and I compile the top 50 stories that we think you should be reading in a publication we call Ministry Briefing.  Here’s a sampling of FIVE stories from this week’s edition:

Majority of Americans Seek Deeper Meaning and Personal Calling

A new Barna poll found that 40% of American Christians have a sense of divine calling in their lives, and 48% of Millennials sense a call to do something else with their lives, but they have yet to make the change. Overall, 75% of American adults are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life. Source: Barna Research

Church Stops and Cancels Funeral in Progress Because of Same Sex Spouse

Pastor Ray Chavez of New Hope Ministries in Colorado stopped the funeral for Vanessa Collier when he noticed pictures of Collier with her wife, Christina along with their two children, who were 12 and 8. The funeral was cancelled because Chavez refused to officiate a funeral for a gay couple, and the church has yet to reimburse the family for the funeral expenses. Source: Denver Post

Vanessa Collier died on December 30. Vanessa was a lesbian. According to ABC News:
Hundreds of Collier’s closest family and friends packed into New Hope Ministries in Lakewood, Colorado Saturday to celebrate her life. But minutes before the start of the funeral service, relatives say they were shocked to hear that the funeral service would not be able to continue. New Hope’s Pastor Ray Chavez informed the mourning family that the services for Collier would not be able to go on because of the “inappropriate” video that Collier’s family wanted displayed at her casket, relatives say. The video contained photos of Collier kissing her wife on the lips. Another photo captured Collier leaning down on one knee, proposing to her wife. Family members were told that they would be able to proceed with the funeral as long as those images were edited out of the video… Collier’s family decided that they would not edit the video, and instead moved the funeral to Newcomer Funeral Home, which is located across the street from the church. The family carried Collier’s flowers and photos to the funeral home. Collier’s casket had to be closed, placed in the hearse, and driven across the street.
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It’s uncomfortable at best.  You get the call.  You’re asked to do a funeral for someone you are pretty stinkin’ certain was not a believer.  Maybe they were even defiant toward God and the church.  Well… Jared Wilson has some great thoughts on how to properly handle conducting a funeral for an unbeliever.  Jared writes: Although I had been in professional ministry (off and on) for 15 years when I moved to rural Vermont in 2009, I had never officiated a funeral. Weddings, yes. Funerals, no. But I was quickly baptized by fire in this small town, and in the last two-plus years as pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church I have lost track of the number of funerals I’ve either participated in or officiated over. And the majority of those funerals have been for those who did not publicly profess faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of eternal life. It turns out that even in irreligious New England, where a large percentage of the populace have not set foot in a church building in several decades, and a growing percentage have never set foot in a church building their enter lives, tradition wins out when a loved one dies. You can ignore religion your whole life but never at death. And because I am the pastor of the only Protestant church in our town, I most often receive the call to bless those who mourn. I have officiated funerals for old men who went out shaking their fist (metaphorically) at God, for middle-aged men well-regarded but without much use for religion, for young men who overdosed and committed suicide. (In God’s providence, I have also presided over the funerals of dear saints—all elderly women so far—and I am grateful for the tone of victory that more accompanies these services.) Each of these funerals presents its own unique challenges. As I have preached several funerals for one large family in the last two years, I have even presented the gospel from different angles and from different biblical texts than the customary funeral references. I am still learning how to do this. I don’t believe I have it all figured out. But I have done a lot of thinking through this sort of service and the stakes involved. While I would not say everyone ought to do it the same way, here are some thoughts born from much reflection and continued experience with preaching the funerals of unbelievers. Click here to read Jared’s advice… QUESTION:  What do you think?  How do you approach these situations? What’s the best (and worst) or weirdest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while doing a funeral?

A mourner must have felt his cheeks burning after his phone went off during a funeral. But when the ringtone that echoed round the church was Staying Alive by the Bee Gees, it is fair to say he wished the earth could have swallowed him up. Now Reverend Martin Morgan from St Margaret’s Church in Rottingdean has urged parishioners to make sure earthly communications are switched off while their thoughts turn to heavenly matters. “It took a while before people realised what the song was and then fortunately most people found it quite funny. The culprit looked very embarrassed. I think they probably looked in the other direction and tried to pretend it wasn’t them. That’s what people usually do.” via Rottingdean rev’s warning after “Staying Alive” funeral blunder (From The Argus). What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to YOU during a funeral?

The Bible Belt Blogger shares a story as told by Marilyn Hickey at Oral Robert’s Funeral:

She said the first time that she preached at an Assembly of God Church, she commanded a man in a wheelchair near the back of the sanctuary to stand up and walk. But the man didn’t budge.

So she hollered at him again: Stand up and walk. But still he did not move.

So a third time, she thundered: Stand up and walk. But still no movement.

About that time, the pastor of the church stepped to her side and whispered: “Mrs. Hickey, he’s not going to stand up and walk. He has no legs.”

Oh, the story brought laughter to Oral Roberts’ memorial service. And Hickey laughed along.

I share BBB’s response: “I didn’t laugh, however. I’ve seen too many self-proclaimed faith healers use desperately-ill people as props over the decades. And if Hickey’s Almighty God is incapable of healing legless men, he isn’t much of an Almighty God.” You can read the article here. Amen. What do YOU think?