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?