Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals
Brian Croft & Phil A. Newton
106 pages, £5
ISBN number: 978-1-84625-266-2
Star rating: 4
The conduct of funerals is a duty that few ministers relish. While the funeral of one who was clearly a believer can be a blessed occasion, others can pose a considerable challenge. Yet, sensitively handled, they all can be a tremendous opportunity for the gospel. This short book sets out to show how, and it achieves its aim very well. In four short chapters – entitled: Plan, Prepare, Preach and Perform – the authors cover a wide range of issues, from providing pastoral care in the immediate aftermath of a death and working with undertakers, to the conduct of the service itself and care for the bereaved family after the funeral.
The book shows how the gospel may be preached and the Lord Jesus Christ held forth, whatever the spiritual condition of the person who has died. The authors rightly warn against ‘preaching a person into heaven’, or, indeed, into hell – God alone is Judge; and they emphasise the need for the minister’s heart to be warm and sympathetic at such a time. The book is helpful in addressing the question of suitable Bible readings and hymns, the place of a eulogy and the importance of a (short) sermon, and it shows the different sort of sermon that may be preached depending on the circumstances of the dead person – in each case seeking to apply ‘the gospel at the unique challenges of death’. There are four helpful appendices giving examples of funeral sermons, eulogies, appropriate music and orders of service.
Because the chapters are written by the two authors alternately, there is an element of overlap between the chapters, but this serves helpfully to reinforce the message of the book. Both men have had considerable experience of conducting funerals, and one of them (Phil Newton) is the son of a funeral director; and their experiences add helpful colour to the book. Although the publisher is UK-based, the authors are American and this is evident in some of the terminology (and the book’s title!), but there is very little that is not applicable to the UK scene – after all, death is universal. All in all, this is a very helpful reference book for every pastor, and is warmly recommended.