Funerals do matter, and after preaching my 35th funeral, I took time to reflect on the good, bad, and ugly through the years. As you make your plans for retirement and how you want to spend your time and money, it would be a good idea for you to consider the structure and details of your own funeral. If you don’t plan it, someone will, and it might not be up to your specifications.
Have a Funeral Plan (hint: plan ahead)
Do you want your casket to be open or closed? Do you want the most expensive casket or something more economical? What about cremation? These are all decisions that someone will be forced to make on your behalf, unless you specify a good plan before you die.
It should go without saying, but we’re all going to die. It could be sooner rather than later, so it’s extremely important to plan ahead. I’ve preached the funeral service for many people who were unprepared to die. Although they were prepared spiritually, it was obvious that they had not given time to thinking through their funeral service. In some cases it was because of the sudden strike of death, and although young and healthy, they were suddenly gone. On other occasions, I’ve watched people procrastinate and die without any plan in place. Take time to write down your plans, requests, and desires for your funeral and put it with your will, perhaps in a safe, or have it in an e-mail that’s sent to your specified executor. A good plan is key to organization and success.
Location, Location, Location
Do you know where you will be buried? Selecting a lot is one important factor to consider. Just because you happen to be a member of a church with a cemetery doesn’t mean that everything is covered. You need to make your plot purchase and have it specified with your other important documents so that your executor (loved one or friend) will have the proper information when that time comes.
Do you know what funeral home you will use for your funeral service? Each funeral home and funeral director is different, so it would be wise to think carefully through this process and make your decision wisely.
Do you want your service to be held in your church sanctuary or in the funeral home chapel? Some people prefer the chapel to the church, but that’s not always the case. Location does matter, and you should take time to consider the factors carefully.
Unless you’re in hell at the time of your funeral service, you should choose something other than I Did It My Way by Frank Sinatra to be played at your funeral. As you think about your funeral service, the music for the service says much about the person, unless there was no plan in place and someone unqualified made the choice on your behalf. I’ve sat through funeral services where good theologically rich hymns were followed up by carnal songs that certainly didn’t have any place in the service. The goal of the Christian’s funeral should be to honor the person who has died while at the same time pointing people to Christ. If worldly music is chosen for the funeral service it will detract from the God glorifying goals of the funeral service.
Choose Your Speaker(s) Carefully
Do you want an open microphone at your funeral where people will come up and speak and provide memorable stories? I’ve seen this turn into a disaster in funerals, so I would be cautious. Who is charged with selecting the preacher? Do you want more than one preacher to speak? What text of Scripture should the preacher use in your funeral? I attended a funeral years ago where the preacher never preached the gospel. He told people to be good and try hard and they would one day see their mother again in heaven. That’s certainly not what you want said in your funeral service. The messenger and the message at your funeral are important, so think through your selection carefully. Make sure you ask the one charged with preaching your funeral to point people to Jesus Christ and to proclaim the gospel.
As you consider the person who will speak at your funeral, what will that person say about you, your character, your life, your legacy, and your faith? Yes, selecting a preacher is an important thing to consider, but you should likewise consider your own life and legacy now before the time of your funeral arrives. The message of the preacher should be centered on the gospel at your funeral, but you will be the central illustration. How will your life assist in pointing people to Christ?
Choose Burial Rather Than Cremation
As you can see, your funeral will be filled with many decisions. If you don’t make those decisions now, someone will make them for you once you die. One important decision that you should consider is regarding burial and cremation. As a Christian, I would urge you to approach this decision through a spiritual lens rather than a financial lens. It may be cheaper to be cremated, but I would caution you to not go against thousands of years of Christian tradition in the burial practices of God’s people (see my article on this subject here). When a body dies and goes through a burial process in the ground, there is a promise of resurrection that all of God’s people look forward to with great anticipation.
Cremation involves the burning of the body, and this is something that pagan people have practiced for centuries. The people of God practiced burial, and looked forward with anticipation to the day when Christ would return resulting in the resurrection of believers to receive their new bodies. Can God bring together the ash and dust of cremated people in like manner? Certainly He can and certainly He will, but the decision must be made not based on God’s sovereign ability, but based on the most God glorifying option. Remember, the number of cremations would drastically disappear if the cost exceeded burial. For the majority of people, it’s a decision based on cash rather than doctrine. I would urge you to pay more in the end – it’s worth it.
In life we learn to make important decisions carefully. The decision regarding college, cars, the purchase of your home, and who you will marry are all great decisions. How did you approach those decisions? Did you take your time or did you rush through it? Did you weigh out the differences with wisdom or did you ask someone else to make the decision for you? In like manner, with wisdom and caution, you should make the plans and requests for your funeral. Don’t waste your funeral, make it count for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.