Pastor Fun at the Funeral

It took awhile, but our funerals have caught up with our worship services; there now all about us, too. This past week I attended the funeral of a very fine man. I had looked forward to honoring his memory, being consoled by the Word of God, glorying in the certainty of the resurrection, and thanking God for bringing this believing husband and father of five home. Sadly, I left the church agitated instead.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, judgmental, and condescending; as a minister of the Gospel, I feel I must offer an occasional critique of matters concerning the church. One such matter is the increasing way the church deals with death.

The pastor began by telling me we weren’t at a funeral; rather, we were at a celebration. Perhaps this is why he came across more as a late-night television talk-show host than a minister of the Gospel. I am not exaggerating when I say virtually every other statement he made was some attempt at humor. He gave me the impression I wasn’t supposed to be there to grieve but I was there to laugh. But his stand-up comedy routine soon grew old and weary. If I was a blank slate, by the time his two-hour variety show “shtick” was over, I left knowing more about the pastor than I knew about Jesus.

He did say many nice things about the man who died and indeed, there was much to say. The deceased lived a very giving life; his generosity touched many, many people. At one point we were even instructed to pattern our lives after this man. “Pastor Fun” (as I will now refer to him) failed to mention something, however. I suppose it would have gotten in the way of the “celebration”; but there was not one word about sin—the word was never mentioned. There was nothing about the Fall, the Cross, redemption, or judgment, either. If I was un-churched and unfamiliar with the Gospel, I would have left that day thinking salvation is all about works because that was all that was held up as admirable. But everyone in that sanctuary needed to know that as “good” as this man was, he would still be found wanting before a Holy God; that all his good works were nothing more than “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)—that unless he had the righteousness of Another (1 Peter 3:18), he wasn’t in heaven, he was in hell. What an opportunity this pastor had; to contrast the goodness of this man with the holiness of God and show that the chasm between was still great. And if the chasm was great for a “good” man, surely it was for me and everyone else.

I knew the “Celebration of Life” was getting close to ending when “Pastor Fun” did the “bow your head, close your eyes, raise your hand” thing. But what were people responding to? I have absolutely no idea. Because there was no “bad news” the entire service, the offer of “good news” made no sense, either. There was no presentation of the Gospel to respond to. So what did these five (I know there were five because I didn’t close my eyes) think they just did?

The service did end well, however. “Pastor Fun” finally got off his stage (an appropriate and descriptive word) and the man’s five surviving children came forward and sang “Amazing Grace.” What had been lacking for two-hours was finally brought home: “Amazing grace!—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me!”

Pastor Rich Hamlin

July 12, 2012


  1. This is an example of why we attend ERC, the truth, like it or not is always spoken. Thanks for the truth. See you Sunday Rich

    1. I totally agree with Jacquie and Pete… Pretty much what I was going to say. I know I expect to hear the gospel at funerals (and weddings for that matter) mainly because I have been to so many performed by you, Rich. Thank you for raising my expectations and giving me real courage to face every day through the Word of God, no matter what the circumstance.

  2. This is what brought me to ERC. In planning my dad’s service, the pastor and I talked at length about what it would be. I asked for 99% gospel, 1% dad. He was a young, respected man – so there was a full house. I left completely disappointed. He had offered a God who was there for the grieving, a God who comforts and heals, but had never explained how to get to Him. It was about God and my dad, but no gospel. When I heard your funeral for Bob DeGulio I was hearing what I wanted to hear for my own dad. I pray you will be there preaching mine.

  3. What you describe is tragic. Thank God for hymns with sound doctrine.

    Maybe that Pastor thinks that the gospel is that Jesus died so that good people might be made better and live forever. May God open his eyes that he might see Jesus, in his death and righteous life, and learn why the gospel is good news to a world of spiritually-dead sinners.