Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 3 of 3

You might want to include a brief Christian message on the gravestone. A Bible verse or line from a Christian poem or saying. It can be a testimony to those who pass through the cemetery in coming years. But don’t try to imply someone was a Christian when they weren’t; a grave marker is not going to get the deceased into Heaven! 

What about cremation? I don’t like cremation. While the Bible does not directly speak against it, Christian history and tradition certainly favors a respectful burial rather than cremation. Scripture speaks of burial, and says nothing of Christian cremation.  Also, the grave marker can be a Christian witness in the years to come. The time of the death and of the funeral, however, is not time to debate this issue. At this time, if the family has chosen cremation, nothing negative about it should be said.  

Possible Verses To Include On Gravestone:

A gravestone can be a Christian witness for years to come. Below are some possible Scriptures and messages to put on a marker. Some of these can be abbreviated. These Bible verses give what the Bible teaches about death for the Christian. Of course, these verses and saying are not exhaustive.

I am the way, the truth and the life. -Jesus Christ; John 14:6

Absent from the body, present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

“I am the resurrection and the life.” -Jesus; John 11:25

“He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” -Jesus; John 11:25

God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -Psalm 73:26

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16

“He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life.” -Jesus Christ; John 5:24

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. -Psalm 23

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. -Psalm 23

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. -Psalm 23

“To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. -1 Corinthians 15:26

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.  -Acts 16:31

Our citizenship is in heaven. -Philippians 3:20

Other Quotes:
There’s a land that is fairer than day.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible, tells me so.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.

What a Friend we have in Jesus.

I was a guilty sinner, but Jesus died for me.

Only a sinner saved by grace.

Admit a ransomed sinner, for Jesus died for me.

Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul. -Longfellow.

There never was night that had no morn.

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.

Other Bible Verses:
Matthew 11:28; John 14:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:12; Psalm 17:15; 31:19; 32:10; 37:18; 37:37; 48:14; 49:15; Romans 6:23; 8:28; 8:35-39; 10;9-10,13; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:9-10; Revelation 21:4; etc.

Some just put the Scripture reference (for example: 2 Timothy 1:12). If someone wants to know what it says, they will have to get a Bible and look it up.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 29, AD 2012. 

Other Articles:
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 1 
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 2 of 3

11 Reasons to Not Drink Alcohol

More articles in lower right margin.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 2 of 3

Other possible comments in an Obituary(especially for a longer obituary to be distributed to just family and close friends):

1. Hobbies / Sports / special interests

2. Family

3. Favorite Bible Verse(s)

4. Salvation & Baptism. Who baptized them? Where? Who led them to the Lord?

5. Places of service in the church

6. Cause of death.

7. Favorite Hymn(s), poem, etc.

8. A favorite story or two, humorous or serious, about the person.

9. Pall Bearers

A photo copy on good paper of a newspaper obituary will last longer than the paper (newsprint) from the newspaper. Always include newspaper name, city & state, date.

Don’t spend extravagantly. Just have a nice, respectful funeral. Always have a Christian message and music (2 or 3 hymns) at the funeral. You may want a hymn to play before the beginning of the Memorial Service or during the Recessional. 

Print obituary information and order of service (bulletin) to hand out at the funeral. Include an appropriate Bible verse or two. Much of this could also be done ahead of time. 

Good Funeral Songs:
Jesus Paid It All, My Savior First Of All/I Shall Know Him, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Abide With Me, He The Pearly Gates Will Open, Sweet By And By, Beyond The Sunset, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Beulah Land/Squire Parsons, The Son Will Still Be Shining In Glory Land/Parsons, Face To Face With Christ My Savior, Victory In Jesus, How Great Thou Art, Because He Lives, Only A Sinner Saved by Grace/Gray, Sheltered In The Arms Of God, Rock Of Ages, Going Home/Gaither, Farther Along, Never Grow Old, When We All Get To Heaven, Amazing Grace, When We See Christ/It Will Be Worth It All, My Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast/O Come Angel Band; Saved By Grace/I Shall See Him Face To Face; I Will Rise. 

You may have to look in old Hymnals to find some of these songs. The Funeral Home or your church may have them. You may also find them at or itunes.
Good recorded music by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Gaither Trio, Marion Warren, George Beverly Shea, Guy Penrod, and many others. 

Really, most any good Christian Hymn or Song would be appropriate at a funeral service. Most any song in the Baptist Hymnal (LifeWay, 2008) would be appropriate.

General Order of a Baptist or Christian Funeral Service: 
1. Hymn 
2. Obituary, Scripture & Prayer 
3. Hymn 
4. Funeral Message, Closing Prayer 
5. Recessional

If you have more than one minister officiating, have one bring the memorial / funeral sermon, the other give the Obituary, Scripture and Prayer. 

My funeral sermons are brief, about eight or ten minutes. Unless it is an unusual situation, the service should be short, a total of about 30 minutes or less. 

Hymns or photos can also be played just before, and / or just after the memorial service.

What do you pay the preacher? That depends on how far he has traveled, and what you can afford. Keep in mind you have paid the funeral home, so if you can, give a worthy honorarium to the pastor. If you are not a preacher, you will never know the emotional and spiritual strain put on a preacher in a funeral service; believe me, he earns whatever you may pay him. If you can’t afford it, tell him and he will understand; I never expect to be paid for preaching a funeral service, but appreciate it when they do. Nowadays preachers are often paid $100 or more, if the family can afford it.

If you are expecting the funeral home to pay the preacher, ask the preacher later if he was paid; the preacher will not come to you about it. I’ve seen a couple of funeral homes that told the family they would give an honorarium to the preacher, yet never did.

If requested, after the funeral many churches are glad to provide a meal at the church for the family. Providing a meal after the funeral is a great ministry to the family and friends. It provides a great way for the cooks and those who serve to use their gifts. The older I get, the more impressed I am with this ministry.

I sometimes copy the obituary, include the church name and address and a couple of appropriate Bible verses, and make photo copies available to the family at this funeral meal.  It may also include a detail or two the obituary left out.  Many appreciate having extra copies to keep or send to family.  It also leaves a Christian witness. 

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 27, AD 2012.

Part 2 of 3

Other Articles:
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 1
Saint Patrick of Ireland
Other articles in lower right margin.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Calvinists Are Here; Gerald Harris, Christian Index

Often we are told to not make waves. Frequently that is good advice. Sometimes, however, it may be wrong not to make waves. The time comes when an issue needs to be considered.

Gerald Harris is a longtime pastor, author, and now editor of the Georgia Baptist Paper, the Christian Index. He was a part of the SBC Conservative Resurgence.

And Gerald Harris has written an editorial (Christian Index; February 9, 2012) that has made waves in the Southern Baptist Convention. His article is entitled “The Calvinists Are Here.” With permission, I am reprinting the article below.

It will be interesting to see if your state’s SBC paper is willing to print Gerald Harris’ article.

Also, it may be worth your while, whether ministering in Georgia or not, to subscribe to the Christian Index. I have.

Christian Index
6405 Sugarloaf Parkway
Duluth, GA 30097
770-936-5590 / 877-424-6339

Print and Online: $12 for one year or $20 for two years.
Online only: $6 for one year.

The Calvinists Are Here
by Gerald Harris, Christian Index

John Calvin (1509-1564) was an influential French pastor and theologian during the Protestant Reformation. He is best known for his “doctrine of predestination,” which became the foundation of his theology - suggesting that God predestined certain individuals to be saved.

Calvinism is known for its five basic tenets summarized by the acronym TULIP. Those five points of Calvinism are (1) Total depravity of man, (2) Unconditional election, (3) Limited atonement, (4) Irresistible grace and (5) Perseverance of the saints.

There are some Calvinists who suggest that unconditional election means that God chooses, or “elects,” His children from before the foundations of the earth - that God does not just “know” what decision people will make, but that God causes them to make the decision to seek Him.

There are also those who hold to Reformed theology who believe limited atonement means that the death and resurrection of Christ is the substitutionary payment for the sins of only those who are God’s elect children, but not the entire world.

Many who embrace Reformed theology are motivated to allow it to influence their church polity by substituting congregational church government with an elder system of church government. While that works well for some churches, James MacDonald, a self-proclaimed Calvinist and member of the advisory board for LifeWay’s new Sunday School curriculum, writes, “Congregational government is an invention and tool of the enemy of our souls to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.”

Calvinism also influences other areas of theology and ecclesiology, but newspaper real estate prohibits a further exploration of all the facets of Reformed theology.

In 2007 Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., who has served as chairman of the Trustees at Southern Seminary and is one of the most notable Calvinists in SBC life, wrote a series of blog posts titled, “Where’d All These Calvinists Come From?” In his blogs Dever listed ten reasons for the blossoming of Reformed theology’s TULIP within evangelicalism.

Frank Page, chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, was quoted in SBC Today, saying,
“I think the challenges confronting the SBC today are different than they have been in decades past. I think one of the issues, which is a tremendous challenge for us, is the theological divide of Calvinism and non-Calvinism.”
“Everyone is aware of this but few want to talk about this in public. The reason is obvious. It is deeply divisive in many situations and is disconcerting in others. At some point we are going to see the challenges ensuing from this divide become even more problematic for us. I regularly receive communications from churches who are struggling over this issue.”

Former SBC President Jerry Vines was also quoted in SBC Life, proclaiming,
“Theologically, will the issue of Calvinism create further division in the SBC? I have been an SBC preacher over 50 years. I have worked quite well with my Calvinist friends, many of whom I invited to preach for me.”
“I have no desire to run all Calvinists out of the SBC; I think it would be divisive and wrong. But, current attempts to move the SBC to a Calvinistic soteriology (doctrine of salvation) are divisive and wrong. As long as groups and individuals seek to force Calvinism upon others in the Convention, there will be problems. There is a form of Calvinism that is militant, hostile and aggressive that I strongly oppose.”
“I have stated before, so it’s not new news, that should the SBC move towards five-point Calvinism it will be a move away from, not toward, the Gospel.”

So, apparently the Conservative Resurgence and the Great Commission Resurgence has been joined by a Reformed Resurgence. The Calvinists are here. Their presence is evident in many phases and places in Southern Baptist life.

Many great preachers and theologians have embraced Calvinism through the years, but today some greet the rising tide of Calvinism with delight, others with disdain.

The Economist reports,
“Since 1990 the [SBC] has been losing ground, relative to America’s population, to other evangelical churches. So cadres of Young Turks are looking back to the 16th century for fresh inspiration.”

According to LifeWay Research, the SBC’s, statistical arm, 10 percent of all SBC pastors now identify themselves as Calvinists and a third of recent graduates from SBC seminaries espouse Reformed doctrines, with Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, a particular source.

It would be surprising if The Gospel Project, a Sunday School curriculum for all ages that LifeWay will soon be rolling out, were not marked by an unmistakable Reformed theology.

Trevin Wax, who works at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, admits that he has been influenced by Reformed pastors and authors like John Piper, Mark Dever, J. I. Packer, C. J. Mahaney, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Tim Keller and others.

The advisory council and writers for The Gospel Project (including D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, Eric Mason, Joe Thorn, Juan Sanchez, Collin Hansen, former North American Mission Board missionary to the Internet Afshin Ziafat and Geoff Ashley – for the most part looks like a Who’s Who of Reformed theologians.

The average Baptist who sits in a Sunday School class or a small Bible study group has depended on LifeWay to provide Bible study materials that are true to the Word of God and representative of historic Baptist theology. However, for bane or blessing LifeWay President Thom Rainer seems to have led the SBC literature-producing agency to become more and more Reformed in its theological content.

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell has a goal to plant thousands of churches over the next ten years, but there seems to be a shortage of church planters. According to a LifeWay study in 2006 nearly 30 percent of SBC seminary graduates between 1998 and 2004 now serving as pastors describe themselves as Calvinists. Since the LifeWay study is now over five years old the number of Reformed pastors has doubtlessly increased by now. The most recent NAMB On Mission magazine highlights several church planters, two of whom could be seen as Reformed in their theology.

Won Kwak has planted Maranatha Grace Church in Fort Lee, NJ. North Shores Baptist Church in Bayside, NY, Kwak’s mother church, has developed a ministry called Doctrines of Grace Church Planters. On their website they proclaim, “Sovereign Grace Church Planters exists solely for the purpose of planting sovereign grace churches in and around the New York City area. “Reformed leaders James White and D.A. Carson endorse this church-planting ministry.

The second church mentioned in On Mission magazine is City on a Hill in Brookline, MA, in metro Boston where Bland Mason is pastor. I had the privilege of meeting Bland in December and really like him. He is also the chaplain of the Boston Red Sox, which makes him particularly special to me.

“We plant Southern Baptist churches that adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message and support the Cooperative Program.” Kevin Ezell, president North American Mission Board. Some have been critical of City on a Hill being featured in On Mission because it is also included on the Acts 29 Network website as one of its churches.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell recently explained that Mason’s church was recommended for inclusion in the magazine by the leadership of the Baptist Convention of New England, that Mason is a soul winner, and that the church is an ardent supporter of the Cooperative Program.

Some contend that churches associated with the Acts 29 Network are anathema because of their identification with the Network’s founder and lead visionary, controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll. The Network is also admittedly evangelical, missional and Reformed in its approach to church planting.

Others will find it interesting that St Louis is targeted as one of the focus cities in Send North America. In St. Louis NAMB will encounter a Baptist association that has already launched 15 church plants, seven of which are listed as Acts 29 Network churches.

In an exclusive interview with Ezell in our June 2, 2011 issue titled “Filling the Blanks,” The Index reported, “Missionary participation (with the Acts 29 Network) does not concern Ezell one way or the other; he neither endorses nor criticizes such involvement. And since NAMB trustees have not set policy on the issue, he does not involve himself with the discussion.

Ezell emphasized, “We plant Southern Baptist churches that adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message and support the Cooperative Program.”

Although Acts 29 only has 288 churches in its network in the U.S., Driscoll seems to have a significant influence in the lives of some Southern Baptists. It should be noted that Mark and Grace Driscoll have written a book entitled “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together.” The book has shocked conservatives with its graphic sexual descriptions and alarmed liberals because of its degradation of women.

Writer and blogger Rachel Held Evans stated in the Nashville Tennessean that the Driscolls give too many intimate and specific details about sex. She added, “I don’t need my pastor to tell me whether or not I should use sex toys. I don’t feel like I needed all of those details.”

The Tennessean also reported, “In short, the Driscolls say sex is only for married couples, and that those couples should be best friends, have lots of sex and skip the birth control pill, using alternate sex acts that don’t cause pregnancy when necessary.”

Denny Burk, associate professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Seminary, has reviewed the Driscolls’ book. Burk indicates that the book is sexually explicit in some ways, but the Driscolls’ offer a disclaimer by stating that anyone uncomfortable with the book’s content must be either a rube or uninterested in reaching the culture for Christ.

Call me a rube or a hick.

Burk adds, “To those with legitimate concerns, these remarks come across as dismissive at best and patronizing at worst.”

The book would hardly be worth mentioning except for the fact that Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin and his wife Charlotte endorsed it. In recent years Driscoll has been a chapel speaker at SEBTS and his influence at the seminary cannot be ignored.

There is a growing perception that Southern Seminary has become a seedbed for a brand of Calvinism that is quite different from the Reformed theology of its founder, James Petigru Boyce, and also a training ground for Reformed church planters. Therefore, it appears that some of our institutions and agencies are giving, at the least, tacit approval to Reformed theology or are, at the most, actively on a path to honor, if not implement Reformed theology and methodology in their institutions.

While most of the Reformed pastors and churchmen I know are gracious and godly people with a profound devotion to the Word of God, Southern Baptists must decide if they are satisfied with what I would call the presumable encroachment of Calvinism in SBC life.

By the way, Southern Baptists must also soon decide if they want to fulfill their ministry under another name. There are at least four possibilities: Evangelical Baptist Convention, Continental Baptist Convention, International Baptist Convention and Great Commission Baptist Convention. At least, those four domains were purchased through in September 2011.

I personally think the Great Commission Baptist Convention is more likely to be the recommendation of the SBC name change committee. Leaders may reason that Southern Baptists could no more reject the recommendation of the Great Commission Baptist Convention than they could reject the Great Commission Resurgence recommendations. The subliminal implication is “to reject the new name is to reject The Great Commission and Southern Baptists would never do that.”

If that is the suggested name and if we dare vote for it to be our new appellation we dare not defame it with half-hearted evangelism and church plants that wither away in five years.

-Gerald Harris, Editor
The Christian Index


-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 14, AD 2012.

Related articles:
Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of Salvation
Books on Calvinism, Predestination
Adrian Rogers on Predestination, Calvinism
Paige Patterson on Calvinism
Acts 29, Alcohol, and the Southern Baptist Convention
Limited or Universal Atonement by Dr. David L. Allen
More articles in lower right margin of Gulf Coast Pastor.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 1

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. -Psalm 116:15 

Several years ago I led our church is a study on Wednesday nights on “Preparing an Obituary.” It was very well received. It gave me the opportunity to teach a few things I’ve learned through my years of pastoring a Baptist church and preaching a number of funerals. It even gave the opportunity to laugh at ourselves and others when that couldn’t be done at the time of a funeral. It can be good to discuss a matter before you’re too emotionally involved. So this series of articles covers some of these issues.

Many have never considered writing an obituary until someone unexpectedly dies. They then have very little time to gather their information and often important information is neglected.

Much of this can be done ahead of time.

When the time comes, you will want to get this information as soon as possible to the Funeral Home, newspapers, etc.

Keep this information in an easy to find place. Make a couple of copies to give to other family members.

Do not write in all italics or all capitals; this makes it difficult to read.

After the funeral, keep copies of obituary for historical reasons. Always include or add name of newspaper, city, state, and date of newspaper obituary.

Keep the basic newspaper obituary fairly brief. Make it too long and people just stop reading.

Make things plain and easy to understand. Assume that many who read it will not know inside information with which you may be familiar. Make it so someone who never knew the deceased will understand the facts and details. Write in such a way that someone will understand if they read the obituary 100 years in the future.

You may want to make a more extensive obituary to just distribute to close family and friends. In this, include as much more information as you like to keep for a family history. You could also send this to a local historical library, etc. You may want to post it on a genealogy site on the internet.

Basics of an Obituary
Include the following if applicable:

1. Full Name:

2. Nickname, name, or initials they went by; in quotation marks or parenthesis.

3. Maiden Name:

4. Residence: (city, town, county, state)

5. Date of Birth: (month, day, full year)

6. Place of Birth: (town, state, county, country)

7. Date of Death: (month, day, full year)

8. Place of Death: (city, town, state)

9. Age:

10. Where they lived.

11. Place of Funeral Service:

12. Date of Funeral Service:

13. Time of Service:

14. Interment: (Burial site. Include town or county, state)

15. Officiating Minister / Clergyman (full name, title, church, city.)

16. Church Affiliation (complete name and mailing address of church; some may want to send a memorial donation.)

17. Occupation

18. Military

19. Affiliations / Education / Accomplishments

20. Preceded in Death: (parents, spouse, children, siblings)

21. Survived By: (name & residence: parents, spouse, children, siblings; grand children, nieces, nephews, etc. You may choose to just include the number of great grandchildren, etc.)

22. Arrangements by what Funeral Home (name, city, state)

23. Visitation: (Place, date, times; usually the evening before the funeral.)

24. Have a photo ready for newspapers, etc. Write name, address, dates on back of photo so those who did not know him will know who it is.

As soon as possible, contact those you wish to participate in the Memorial Service. Don’t expect the pastor and others to automatically know you want them; ask them. This way they can also inform you early, if they have a conflict with the time of the funeral service. 

If the deceased was a preacher, missionary, church staff, make sure you send the information to your Baptist State Paper and any schools from which they graduated. Ask them to publish it in the appropriate column. In addition, you may want to have the obituary published in newspapers where they were born or formerly lived.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 7, AD 2012.

To be continued. 

Other Articles:
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 2 of 3
Preparing an Obituary and Funeral Service; Part 3 of 3
More articles in lower right margin.