Death's Opportunity
Using a funeral for God's glory

by Cary Borkert

Death!. No one likes to think about it. The word it self has a coldness about it. It fills the heart with fear and confusion. But death does hold an opportunity, an opportunity to glorify God. How can a pastor or a layman use a funeral to glorify God? The key to any funeral service is communication.

There are three things I try to communicate to all that are involved in the funeral. These may over lap in ways but the distinction help in preparing a funeral service. (For this article we are assuming that the individual was saved, and truly a child of God. In later articles we will deal with the task of a funeral for that unsaved individual.)

First: You want to communicate God's love and comfort to the grieving. A funeral is for the living not the dead. When I hear of a death in our congregation, I often think of Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. The right words at the right time can be a blessing to those that are hurting. However, it must be understood, there are no magic words to take away the pain of a grieving individual. But, on the other hand, there are words that can compound the pain. That is why we must pray for "fitly spoken words. What you want to do is communicate God's love and comfort. What words you use to communicate God love and comfort will vary with the individual. One thing for certain, your personal presence will be needed. In fact by setting aside what you are doing at that moment and going to the one in sorrow speaks volumes. Think about it, isn't that how God communicate His love to us. He came to us in our deepest need.

Second: You want to communicate God's goodness in behalf of the deceased. We have heard it said, that "dead men tell no tales." That is not true. In fact, at a funeral you want to let the deceased tell as many tales as possible of God's goodness in their life. In order to communicate the goodness of God in behalf of the deceased it will involve some work on your part. In order for this to happen you will need to ask some question. How I do this is as soon as I can I meet with the family, and I learn as much as I can about the deceased. I have with me a list of question and gather the following information.

  • Birthday, and place of birth.
  • Hobbies, and favorite foods,
  • Did they serve in the arm forces, what branch, any special honors
  • Family vacation, special place they like to go
  • Favorite memory, special time.
  • Humors events or circumstance. (Remember, Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. If possible a little humor can be very therapeutic for the grieving soul. But don't over do it.)
  • What favorite Bible verse, or book in the Bible.
  • Favorite hymn.

By doing this research, you have information to weave throughout your funeral message. This information helps those who are listening see and experience the goodness of God as the deceased experienced it.

Third: you want to communicate God's saving Grace to the listeners. This is the greatest opportunity that death brings. It puts people in touch with the reality of their mortality. No one lives forever here on earth. As Hebrews 9:27 says, "…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." It is very important that you communicate God's way of salvation through Jesus Christ. If the one that has died had a good testimony, then use it. Tell those that are listening how they can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Keep it simple, but make it clear. Man without Christ is lost, Christ died for their eternal salvation, and they can be saved if they will receive Christ.

Some does and don'ts

  • Do listen to the family and their wishes. (Such as songs, scriptures, and order of the service.
  • Do remember that in every community there can be certain traditional expectation. (such as reading the obituary, Letting family member speak)
  • Do encourage (in fact insist) that if family member want to say something they write it out.
  • Do share the clear plan of salvation. (If family member ask you not to share the gospel, than politely let them know you cannot do the service.)
  • Don't over do the humor.
  • Don't be to long. (Work towards thirty minutes, from start to finish. If family members are speaking it may be longer.)

Death does have many opportunities. Funerals, thought filled with sorrow, do afford for us a chance to glorify God. As we grasp up those opportunities, God will be please and many grieving souls will be comforted.



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