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.