Though I have preached many funerals, I have also attended and "tag-teamed" many others which included other ministers who were invited to preach. It is unfortunate that many ministers fail to consistently and clearly proclaim the hope and good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ at a funeral. Many are tempted to share sappy stories and personal experiences with the deceased mixed with spiritual antidotes that offer no real comfort.
I cannot condemn such a dereliction of duty in strong enough terms. I believe that any minister that fails to preach the gospel at a funeral should repent and leave the ministry. Here are a few reasons why I believe this so strongly:
1. Because Your a Minister of the Gospel, Stupid. Do not call yourself a minister of the gospel if you do not proclaim the gospel. When given an opportunity to speak (whether publicly or privately), the gospel must always be on the forefront of your tongue. If the gospel is unclear, then do not call yourself a minister of it.
2. It is an Open Invitation From the Lost to Preach, Don't Waste It. Whether you know the family or not, there will be non-believers at the funeral. It is unfortunate that pastors are more evangelistic on a Sunday morning than at a funeral when the lost-saved ratio is drastically different. Funerals are the one event in our culture where the lost welcome ministers to proclaim the saving gospel. Don't waste such a rich opportunity.
3. Only the Gospel Truly Comforts. In my experience, one can tell if the deceased was a faithful Christian or not the second you enter the funeral home. The mood of the environment is different. Where Christ was the center of the deceased life, there is hope of all who knew them. Where Christ was not the center, there is but sadness. Only the gospel comforts. The gospel tells us the story of how God entered our story, walked in our shoes, suffered in our place, died, and defeated death through his resurrection. Our hope is not in this world, but in Christ. Death is not the end for the believer. That is more comforting than talk of angel wings, harps, and "they were a good person."
4. Ministers Will Be Judged For Their Ministry. James 3:1 is clear that ministers will be judged more harshly than others in the church. Failure to preach the one message you were commissioned to preached by the King will result in judgment.
5. Scripture Speaks of Death in Gospel Terms. One cannot read 1 Corinthians 15 without seeing that the Christian response to death is the gospel. The pastor (the Christian too) has nothing to say but the gospel when dealing with death.
6. There Isn't a Better Message to Preach Than the Gospel. There is nothing better to say than the gospel. So say it. Otherwise your wasting everyone's time.
"A Necessary Grief" by Larry Michael: A Review