Monthly Archives: May 2011

Preaching Advice for young pastors: funerals – part 3

Random pastor/funeral thoughts:

  1. Spend an hour or so with the family early on – during that time, plan the service, but also let them tell you things – take notes – use some of what they said in the sermon.
  2. Always open the service yourself.  Introduce yourself even in your own church – this isn’t your Sunday crowd.  Welcome people and on behalf of the family and your congregation thank them for coming.
  3. Be in charge.  Do an order of service and give a copy to everyone.  The Funeral Director will appreciate it too.
  4. If you have guest clergy assisting, invite him or her to read the obituary and then offer personal remarks.
  5. Take a text and preach a real sermon as described in the previous post.
  6. In a traditional funeral, stand at the head of the casket as mourners pass by.
  7. At the cemetery, walk ahead of the casket to the graveside.  In some places, the pastor is expected to ride in the hearse.  Otherwise, drive behind it to the cemetery.  You are, in a sense, the “spiritual guardian” – no, I can’t explain it, but people are equating you with Jesus, walking with their loved one to the grave.
  8. Make the committal short, thank people for traveling this last mile – then, if you have a boutonniere, remove it and place it on the casket.  Then, go to each primary family member and assure them of your prayers for them and their family.
  9. If you are offered an honorarium, don’t make a big deal out of it.  Just say thank you and that it was an honor to serve.

Preaching Advice for young pastors: funerals – part 2

Here’s my advice to young pastors concerning funeral sermons:

  1. You need to develop at least five different sermons…although some can be just variations of another
      • A sermon for a saint who lived long and well
      • A sermon for a younger person who lived for the Lord but died too young
      • A sermon for a person who had no testimony
      • A sermon for a person you never knew personally
      • A sermon for a person who died tragically
      1. Those sermons, though, basically use just two approaches
          • We celebrate the victory we have in Christ over even death and our hope of resurrection
          • We point people to the comfort that is ours in Christ
          1. Not all funeral sermons can operate at the celebration level but all should offer comfort
          2. Don’t make the person’s life your text. If you can preach about our victory in Christ – make the sermon about Jesus. If you emphasize comfort in grief – make the sermon about the Lord’s willingness to comfort even in times of loss.
          3. Do use the person’s life in illustrations – include some heartwarming memory or some conversation or something that connects them to your sermon. Caution: don’t make the sermon about your relationship with the person. That does more to impress people that you’re a wonderful person than it causes them to remember that we have a wonderful Lord.
          4. Remember that a funeral sermon is an opportunity to minister to people who are thinking about life and death – and often they are people who don’t hear many sermons. If you can point them to Jesus as our hope and comfort you might move them a step closer to coming to Christ.

          Preaching Advice for young pastors: funerals – part 1

          Over the years I’ve preached my share of funeral sermons. Funerals are unique on the church calendar because they trump everything else. One time I left on vacation following the Sunday morning worship service and drove 300 miles to a commercial campground. I had just gotten settled in when someone from the office knocked on the door to inform me that I had an emergency phone call. The next day I ended my vacation and drove 300 miles home to officiate at the funeral of a dear lady who had called me “pastor.” I wouldn’t have had it any other way; still, it’s an example of how funerals trump everything else. They offer the pastor an unprecedented opportunity to minister at a level and to individuals who the pastor would have little opportunity to impact with the gospel.

          Preaching advice for young pastors: Mother’s Day

          I know I’m risking becoming the target of mothers everywhere, but I’ve got to say it: pastors shouldn’t preach about mothers on Mother’s Day. Take time early in the service. Give ’em flowers or bookmarks or some other nice gift. Pray a fervent prayer, thanking God for moms and asking his blessings on them.

          Then…get on with the service. Don’t sing “My Mother’s Old Bible is True” and “When Mama Prayed Heaven Paid Attention.” Preach whatever you would have preached otherwise. Stick to the schedule…stay in your series, etc. After all, while “honoring mother and father” are certainly Biblical concepts, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day aren’t actually Biblical holidays. Change the schedule for Pentecost and Easter and maybe Ascension Day but stay the course for “Hallmark holidays.”

          Moms, we love you and appreciate you, but we hope you’re okay with us not building the entire service around you.

          Sirius XM, Southern Gospel, and Enlighten

          If you don’t have satellite radio in your vehicle (or listen to it on satellite TV as I do) and aren’t a fan of Southern Gospel music you probably aren’t aware of recent events. Sirius/XM is redoing their channels and, to make room for other programming they decided to kick Enlighten, the southern gospel channel, from their satellite programming. The move created a firestorm of protest. Sirius XM’s response was that the channel would still be available on their internet mix. They suggested that listeners might enjoy listening to some of the other Christian channels that feature Praise and Worship or Christian Contemporary.

          The thing is that Southern Gospel fans may be outnumbered by Christian Contemporary listeners, but the SG fans are very loyal.

          Almost by accident, XM (before the merger) created a national SG outlet that became a magnet for fans in North America. Every gospel group wanted to be on Enlighten. When Enlighten was threatened those same gospel groups told their audiences everywhere to contact Sirius/XM and protest the move.

          And protest they did. Most of these satellite subscribers joined to listen to that specific channel. If Enlighten was gone so were they. Using the Internet they informed people about this and organized to fight back, especially in the language New York executives understand: money.

          To the NY programming people there’s no difference between Contemporary, Black, and Southern Gospel so they thought they could herd all the SG fans over to one of the other channels. When people complained, they just offered them three months free to “try out” the other Christian music channels. How shocked they must have been when several responded with, “no thanks – just cancel my subscription.”

          I know this cuts both ways. There are many Contemporary Christian music fans who would just walk away if they were being herded to an all SG channel. On the other hand, CCM fans more often have a local radio solution than do SG fans. We have the largest Christian station in the country(KSBJ) here in Houston and they do a fine job. It’s unlikely that a lot of people from this area have gone to satellite to listen to CCM.

          On my last few major road trips I’ve looked for good SG stations and have been disappointed. In one case the local station was obviously an amateur operation, almost entertainingly so. In another case, they were dropping in about 4 SG songs an hour between commercials and paid programming. In my opinion those stations had the most to win in the latest satellite saga. They exist in the US southeast, which is the heart of SG. I’m sure they’ve been abandoned in favor of the non-stop music format of Enlighten.

          Anyway, it’s only because of thousands and thousands of emails, phone calls, and especially cancellations of service that SG remains on Sirius/XM today. Indeed, money talks. Enlighten has survived and Southern Gospel fans are rejoicing!