Funeral Do’s & Don’ts - part 1
I am not planning on dying anytime this year, but I have informed my wife about what I want
my funeral to be like when it happens. What I want for my funeral is what I want for your
funeral too. A funeral service expresses what we believe about Jesus. Well meaning Christians
often unintentionally incorporate practices into their funeral that are not a part of the
best Christian tradition and do not fully express the Christian faith. Pastors have shied
away from talking about the topic. When death comes the mourners are not interested in
listening to sound advice and good judgment from the pastor, and so it is best if people are
informed about appropriate funeral practices before the day arrives. The following are
a list of things to consider when planning and thinking about a funeral service, some of
which were discussed at the recent Bible Study on the topic that caused a bit of a stir.
- Items placed inside the casket should be in good taste. A funeral director
from our area told me about a woman who requested that her husband be buried with several of
his pornographic magazines. At a recent funeral service several men put a can of beer in
their friend’s casket. Such things are completely out of order and should be entirely
avoided. While tasteful mementos in the casket are appropriate, the casket is a place where
one’s faith in Christ is prominently displayed. A symbol such as the cross of Christ, or a
Bible in the hands, can point mourners to lasting hope. At Russ Cline’s funeral this past
year, his grandchild drew a picture of him in heaven that was very comforting.
- Keep personal mementos to a minimum. The funeral is not about your life, but
about Jesus. Excessive storyboards, videos, and objects from your life distract from the real
point of your funeral. One pastor in our circuit came to a funeral where the man’s Harley
Davidson motorcycle was parked right next to the casket. "It wasn’t as if he was going to get
up and ride it off into the sunset," the pastor said. "Celebrations of life" also are of no
lasting value or comfort. For the Christian, headstones with pictures of your hobbies or
serene scenes you like from "Up North" are in poor taste. A Christian symbol or message is
most appropriate. One grave I saw had these simple and fitting words inscribed, "Jesus died
so I may live." Put only on your gravestone what will matter on the Day of Judgment. Use your
gravestone to confess what really matters to you.
- The best place for the funeral service and viewing is at the church. The
funeral home is a place of death. The church is a place of life. Have the survivors gather
with you one last time in the place where you received God’s gifts of forgiveness for the
salvation of your soul. A church funeral shows those who are gathered what really matters.
- 4. A eulogy, a speech in praise of the deceased person, is not in the best Christian
tradition. The Christian funeral is not about you, but is about Jesus and what He has
done for you. Not only are eulogies very difficult for grieving people to deliver
effectively, more often than not they confess a false theology of works-righteousness which
point to the life of the person and their kindness or goodness as the reason for their
salvation, acceptance, and approval before God. The pastor encourages the family to relate
stories and remembrances of the person to him before the service so that he may add any
personal touches that he deems appropriate to the sermon. The funeral luncheon may be a good
place where anecdotes and stories are shared by family and friends, even in a public way. As
always, it is realized that the pastor has the authority to determine what takes place at a
Christian funeral. He should be honored and respected at all times, even in a point of
Stay tuned next month for Part 2.
The Lord be with you.