Originally published in CN July 17, 1989. Note the stress on the confession the funeral makes as a public statement and Christian privilege—it is not just an evangelistic tool/party favor. Too many pastors are eager to please the grieving, but not with the truth of Christ. Can not doing a funeral make a greater confession than the most beautiful sermon? Yes, if the sermon and service serves the purpose of making the unbeliever comfortable with sin and minimizes the seriousness of the punishment of death and Christ’s salvation over it. –ed.
Rev. Roger Kovaciny
Being rationally lazy, I don’t go out of the church to make calls if I can get somebody to come into it. So whenever a tradesman comes around, he’s likely to hear the Gospel.
Normally you try to put your best foot forward, so I wasn’t real happy when a repairman picked up a Catechism quiz to test the photocopier with, and the first question his eye fell on was, “Should our church conduct funerals for unbelievers?”
“What’s the answer to No. 12?” he asked.
“Uh, the answer is no,” I gulped, thinking fast.
“Why not?” he demanded.
“We don’t lasso them and drag them in against their will while they’re alive, and we have too much respect for a person’s freedom before God to bring him where he doesn’t want to go when he’s helpless,” I said.
“But how about the widow?” he asked.
Yes. How about the widow?
Think fast, Pastor K. Don’t try to defend your church, don’t sound self-righteous, and don’t sound judgmental. If you want to win this soul, you have to have an answer that makes
you sound like Jesus.
“During the middle ages, people who wanted to go to heaven instead of Purgatory would take monastic vows after they’d gotten the Last Rites and were certain they would die. That way they could be buried in the garb of a monk or a nun and hoped they would fool God. Do you think that got them to
“Course not,” he said.
“Americans have an idea that is even more foolish,” I went on. “Most Americans think that the way to go to heaven is to die. Do you believe that?” With a little prodding, he allowed
as how he didn’t.
“Now let’s get back to your question,” I said. “How about the widow? All her life, perhaps, she has heard that there’s only one way to heaven. It’s the fact that Jesus Christ went to the Cross as her substitute, died in her place, and paid for all her sins. That’s what she’s heard every Sunday. That’s what she’s believed all her life, and it’s good that she’s believed it, because it’s true.
“Now, do you want to take that away from her just because it’s her husband’s funeral, letting her think that maybe there’s a second way of salvation (when there isn’t) — making her doubt everything else I tell her — and making her maybe look for that nonexistent second way of salvation, and end up in hell herself, just to make her feel a little better at the funeral?”
He said he could see our point.
“There are hundreds of preachers in this town who’ll give her that kind of message if she wants to hear it. But I’m not going to be one of them. It’s bad enough she’s lost her husband. I’m not going to make her lose her faith and her salvation.”