Funeral For a Fred
The first funeral I conducted as a pastor was a bit of a mystery. I stood on the bow of a yacht on Balboa Island – an exclusive part of Orange County in Southern California. As I was getting up to speak, I glanced up and saw an actor I’m a fan of – Buddy Ebsen, if you are familiar with The Beverly Hillbillies show, he was the lead character. Other than Buddy watching me from his balcony view, a couple of dozen friends of Fred were gathered at the dock in front of me. They were mostly drinking, so even though it was a sad affair, the crowd was tuned in to what I had to say.
I was assigned to do Fred‘s memorial that was to take place on the dock; at the same time, his ashes were being distributed a bit further out to sea. I was an intern at a large vineyard church on the west side of Los Angeles when the call came in requesting a memorial. Normally I was eager to get a new experience as a pastor in training, but this time I was left cold. I had no idea whatsoever how to do a memorial service. I wasn’t able to get online for some help so I had to act fast. I called a friend of mine who’s pretty good with words.
We came up with the following:
• Start by introducing the purpose of the memorial service and the theme of the message.
• Briefly mention the “3 Things They Would Tell Us Today If They Had The Mic.”
First Thing They Would Tell Us
• Emphasize the importance of the first message, which might be one of the following options: “Love one another,” “Walk in love,” “Forgive one another,” or “Listen to the voice of the Spirit.”
• Share anecdotes or stories that exemplify this message.
Second Thing They Would Tell Us
• Depending on the person, their age, and the context of their passing, I will sometimes use this second point as a bit of humor mixed in with some representative wisdom.
• Share real-life examples or stories that illustrate how they may have walked out this message.
• Transition from the first two messages to a more direct focus on evangelism.
Third Thing They Would Tell Us
• Highlight the third message: “Give over control of your life to the Holy Spirit.” Explain why this is a crucial message.
• Clarify the idea that God is not just a co-pilot but should be in charge of our lives.
• Emphasize the importance of surrendering to the will of God.
Invitation to Faith
• Make a clear call to action, inviting attendees to come to faith in Jesus.
• Mention that this decision is simple and life-changing.
Consider the Closing
• Consider using a powerful closing statement, like the “Billy Graham finish.”
• Lead a prayer, thanking God for the life of the departed and blessing the good seeds they planted.
• Encourage the attendees to grab hands to respond to God’s call, either by looking up to meet your eyes or through a symbolic gesture of squeezing the hand of their neighbor.
Prayer of Response
• Pray the “Here I am God” prayer, which encompasses both coming to Christ in faith and dedicating oneself to God’s purpose.
• Conclude the memorial service by summarizing the key messages and reiterating the invitation to faith.
• Express gratitude for the attendees’ presence and participation.
This structured outline should help you convey your message effectively and guide the attendees through the memorial service with clarity and purpose. You can expand upon each bullet point with relevant stories, scriptures, and personal insights to create a heartfelt and meaningful service.