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Funeral For A Non-Christian

I'd like to ask those of you who are ministers - what would you do if someone asked you to conduct the funeral of a non-Christian? Would you do it and, if so, how differently would you word the service from the way you would for a Christian's funeral?

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 ---m.p.a. on 12/2/06
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trey, you sound like a man after my own heart. the funeral service you attended is rare indeed. the church you was in sounds like my church. makes me want to get up and go to church. just me and Jesus. we have a young girl who sings and the Spirit manifest itself in a mighy way. my daughter and my pastor planned her funeral and she wanted him to preach Jesus and she didn't want anyone sad. wow, she was special and I sure miss her.
---shira4368 on 1/15/13

A funeral is an opportunity to show that God always tells the truth, and that Satan is a liar:

Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

It does not determine salvation. Only proves to those in Christ, and those without Christ, that the devil is a liar
---francis on 1/15/13

Thank God, CNT got topics true to life.years ago, at funeral youngman homeless person well known, he had a huge family, sadly he was very bad to his people.drug addict. During funeral me & 2 others said good things bout him.He always help me get my groceries home.There were times he say " don't worry pay me next time." Many times I gave him pop bottles
( soda) or spare change if I had it. I had no idea about his criminal past nor that he had a family. His family was shock we 3 people only knew good about him. His family spoke to the minister best " talk about the lord!" Wow! It. Was something else. ELENA.
---ELENA on 12/15/12

I attended a funeral of a friend of mine a few years ago. She was a wonderful christian woman who was full of the love of God. On her death bed she was praying for others!
Anyways, the preacher, who is also a friend of mine, stood up before the croud and began to preach Jesus Christ and the victory that he won over our sins. I'm telling you, I was so moved I wanted to shout. The funeral had turned from sorrow to rejoicing because of Jesus!
I believe whether they are a believer or not, preach Jesus!

Lord bless you all!
---trey on 12/15/12

The funeral is my chief the last 22 yrs i have had the responsibility of conducting over 1300 of them for folks of all or no faith. I feel my job is to honor the life that was as best i express and allow for expressions of thanksgiving for the lifeAND to present Jesus Christ as the answer..the one hope in this seemingly hopeless time of life.He is the one we can turn to..cast all our cares upon..who will forgive us and save us if we will let him. The 23'd psalm can become a prayer...Lord will you be my shepard..lead me in right ways so i too can walk through the valley of death without fear...My Goodness will never be good enough but will you gibve me your goodness and mercy ..that i too may dwell in your house forever.
---Rev._james_R.Haughn on 12/14/12

Ill be speaking at a funeral for someone I didnt know. Reading the comments, some seem angry and uncompassionate. We should understand that a funeral is for the survivors.
When Lazarus died, Jesus didn't take the opportunity to criticize his passing, He didnt condemn Lazarus to an eternal hell. Instead He wept.
He wept over Jerusalem knowing they weren't deserving, for the peoples hearts were dead in their disbelief. He didn't criticize the widow as she followed her son's coffin. Instead He had compassion, extended His hand and raised him up.
Is it so difficult to be compassionate towards others? What ever happened to 'Love your neighbor as yourselves' and "...mourn with those who mourn...".
I now know what to say.
---Jim on 6/4/11

You do the funeral for God's sake! You bring out the points that are relevant for the deceased. Whether saved or unsaved.The funeral,as someone has said, is for the relatives and friends left behind. Why do you people make everything so complicated? Just treat people right. It does not matter whether they are saved or not.Perhaps the deceased may have chosen to go to hell!We must respect that choice,too. They will have to take that up with God not with us. We are not to judge anyone......
---Robyn on 4/21/11

My pastor uses all funerals to preach to the lost. Before my daughter passed away, she told my pastor to preach at her funeral especially to the lost. That does not mean you need to refer to the deceased being lost because their fate is sealed already.
---shira3877 on 4/21/11

Don't see anywhere in any of these responses about allowing God to lead you what to say! As a minister, I'm just a vessel, hopefully fit for the Master's use. If it's my responsibility to verbally share the gospel to anyone or any group, the Lord will lead me to do it!
---Jon on 4/19/11

I'm about to speak at my first funeral, and it's for a man who received Jesus on his death bed. Please pray for me.
---Matthew on 7/30/10

The funeral is for those who are left behind. Everyone present understands that the departed was not perfect...but it didn't keep them from loving them.

If they hire you to preside at the funeral, they are not asking that you judge their loved one (most people feel that is God's place)..only that you help them accept the death and deal with their grief.
---Donna66 on 6/28/10

Jesus gave us a clue in how to tell a true Christian he said "You shall know them by their fruits" not lip service!
---DM on 6/28/10

The question of whether some was (when he/she dies, that very moment) a Christian or not is something we cannot know

We can know that Mr/Ms XYZ did not LIVE as a Christian, but how he/she was when he/she dies we cannot know

Remember the robber on the cross
---peter3594 on 6/28/10

I want all you Saints to show me where God says, there are some good in you, and I'll eat my hat...The Bible tells me that the heart of man is disparately wicked>>>corrupt.
---catherine on 6/27/10

Saved or unsaved. Everyone has some good in them. If you are presiding over a funeral of someone you feel or knew was not saved, focus on the good in that person's life. A funeral can be short and sweet also. Every person's life is important.Another view: we are not to judge another persons life. Whose to say who will make it to heaven and who won't. Leave that alone.Share the gospel with others and leave the rest up to God.
---Robyn on 6/26/10

\\Start speaking the truth. Everybody is already believing they are going to go to heaven. I know what I am talking about. I can hear from God in this, and I hear from other people. And it's a travesty.\\

You're right, catherine. It's a travesty.

And I will speak the truth.

You are deluded by a lying spirit, and you're playing bingo with your soul.

You're not hearing from the real God.
---Cluny on 6/26/10

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Catherine-- No funeral should lack compassion. What good does it do to tell people their loved one is in hell, when there's nothing they can do about it?

Don't you think they might give everything they possess to have that person back? But they know they can't. They don't need you to tell them that their loved one is suffering now even more than they did while living.

There is a time and place to to be blunt and give the unvarnished truth. This is not it. Talk about how to obtain eternal life. Talk about God's love and Jesus atoning work.

Jesus saved His harsh words for the proud, and the oppressors of men. He was always kind to the suffering. He didn't have to "tell" me that. It's plain to see, in the Bible.
---Donna66 on 6/26/10

No funeral should be made of lies. No true preacher of God should stand up and face an audience, proclaiming that such and such person was a Saint. God hates liars, especially from His people. I do not care if you are a Billy Graham in this. We cannot pray people into heaven. Stop offending God, My God. Start speaking the truth. Everybody is already believing they are going to go to heaven. I know what I am talking about. I can hear from God in this, and I hear from other people. And it's a travesty.
---catherine on 6/25/10

I would have no problem,as a Ordained Minister we have a duty to perform a service when asked by the loved one's. We can not judge the person that we may not even know personally,but remember they at death are in the hands of a just and living God. To bring closer and help with the healing process is also a duty of any caring Minister. If the person was good or bad should in no way be a reflection on the service the Minster presents Use the word of God, but also be senstive to the loved ones who are just starting to grief their Loss. The Rev.
---Curt on 6/24/10

Catherine, I too would not want you at any funeral. I do not think it is the proper place to speak about the person whether he was saved or not. It is too late for the person anyway. Plus, no ones knows the heart but God. Every single person that dies, has made a great impact on so many. Many might know things bad about the person that others never knew. Yet others will have great things to say about the person who was close to them. It is a time to say goodbye and support the families who are the one's in need of support. They do not need for anyone to tarnish the name of their lost one, if they didn't like him or her they should not show up.
---MarkV. on 5/8/10

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I would do it.
No issues there.

I don't see any difference here.
We have funerals for two main reasons:

1: As witnesses that Satan is a liar:
Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

2: To comfort the family and lend them some support in thier time of grief.

No one knows who will go to heaven or hell.
No preacher has any right to say that anyone will go, or is going to heaven or hell.

All we can do, is stand by the family in thier moment of grief.
---francis on 5/7/10

Donna66, I am also sorry to hear about your brother. I know it is hard. My sister was a Jehovah Witness and she wanted nothing that had to do with the Cross for her death. She had so many friends but she forgot to keep them close to her, when she died not many were there. I wanted to so much to speak to her about Jesus and what He had done for me, but she wanted nothing that had to do with Christianity. I know when she grew up she was a Catholic, but when she had trouble with her marriage she went to the witnessess because of my uncle. I do not know her destiney, only God knows what was in her heart. Again sorry to hear about your brother, blessings to you and family.
---MarkV. on 5/3/10

Donna66, I'm sorry to hear of your brother's passing. My deepest condolences and heartfelt sympahty goes out to you and your family. So sorry Donna66 (((huggss)))).
---Donna5535 on 4/30/10

GOD HATES LIARS! And furthermore, If God wants me too, I reckon I will. After-all, He is above all humans, including you, miss Donna. You most righteous, of all.
---catherine on 4/29/10

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catherine--No one would ask you to conduct a funeral.
There are some wise pastors here who know how to handle such a situation. The family and friends of the dead are entitled to hear their loved one spoken of respectfully...even if unsaved, they were undoubtedly loved.

My brother recently died. From everything I know I do not believe he was saved. BUT I can't be sure because God alone knew what was in his heart. Saved or not, I'll miss him.

He had his internment at Arlington Nat'l Cemetary. The Chaplains do many funerals a day and naturally, they don't usually know the departed. They speak about the soldier's service but mostly they just quote scripture and say a prayer. It is a simple and moving service.
---Donna66 on 4/29/10

You raised some very good points, Andy. At my mother's funeral, she was not saved, the way the preacher spoked about her, it was as if I never knew her. She was never this Saintly woman that the preacher made her out to be. And I was still lost at the time. I just could not ubderstand it. And the way they had her made up, oh my goodness. Anyways, I would have to tell them the truth,[and the truth shall set you free] That if she or him was saved, then I must explain to everyone, that they were only saved by the skin of their teeth. And if they were lost they are in HELL, right now....Who would dare ask me to conduct a funeral? I would qualify more than most who's a doing it. because God qualifys me.
---catherine on 4/27/10

My grandfather was an atheist, and a sociaist of the worst kind, he ghot the misfortune that all his children save one where saved, when he was dying he made my grandmother swear not to bury him in church, nevertheles once dead, my grandmother a "good catholic" buried her catholic, it was the most hypocryte funeral i ever witnessed. let the unbelievers burry their own. I myself have never forced or agreed to bury unbelievers, and even when a members pagan husbanddied i advised her toburry him according the african tradition, and not to prevent his family. only do not join their pagan ways, she was present and everybody respected her christianity. Just say no, it is the best way
---Andy3996 on 4/26/10

My first funeral ever was for a non-believer, the family asked me to share the only real hope in Christ. I talked about the man, never inferring he was a believer, and then said "some of you maybe wondering what comes next, let me tell you what I believe..."
---Scott on 4/13/10

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First of all youu need knowledge and spiritual understanding. Ministers are not the only ones who can conduct funerals. Common sense can take us a very long ways in life. It is not our job to condemn anyone. Everyone you think is saved,does not have to be. It is not our place to put anyone down about their relationship with the Lord. This is between them and their God. God will do the judging,not us.
Music is appropriate for the unsaved. Sing a few songs. Prayer is always in order. Everyone has a few friends. Allow them to give expressions. There are many sermons that can be preached that can be appreciated by the saved and unsaved. I would take this route then bless and comfort the family. Common sense.
---Robyn on 8/26/09

Yr's gone by I've heard trin-ministers trying to preach down to earth filthy sinners on into heaven.(is what some family members & friends want to hear)
An Apostolic Pentecostal Minister doing a funeral for a sinner,he will say to relation & friends there in the funeral service,I canNot put this person in heaven,this person is in The Hands of a Living & Just God. This being said has made family & friends mad,while they say this person done this & or that for people,even helped & gave to others. Scripture says that your own self righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God.
---Lawrence on 8/18/09

my minister told me of a rich man who died and went to hell begging that someone would tell his brothers of christ so that they would not have the same fate.
---jerry on 8/17/09

Lord we pray for PJ and that your healing touch will bring comfort in this time of mourning.

I totally agree on the message of salvation before non-believers. In a total act of soveriegnty the Lord will step in and more or remove a life so others will be bought unto him.
---larry on 8/17/09

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My son just died from a drug overdose, and my pastor took the opportunity to bring a salvation message to the congregation. It was not a 'popular' thing that my son's friends wanted to hear, and one person even stood up and disrupted the service by saying "this is not what we want to hear" and then he proceeded to leave the building. I commended my pastor later for standing his ground firmly. He is called of God. His "job" is not to make everybody comfortable at funerals--his job is to try to bring those in darkness to the Light.
---PJ on 8/17/09

I gave my father a Catholic funeral and I am not Catholic (I am pentecostal, non-demonination, born again, spirit filled, etc.,)

To me, it was just a ritual I followed for him and I carried out his wishes, not mine.

I would try to work some scripture into it and do it in love and humility would be the advice I would offer you.

God looks at the heart, not the outward actions and He judges by the thoughts and intentions of the heart. If your heart wants to do more, then God will know that. He will honor you with whatever is in your heart even if you don't carry it out.
---anon on 7/27/09

I guess you have to be senstive when dealing with the unsaved you can really make a mess of things and lose the point if you try to put too much of yourself in the way of the unsaved.

If you read the bible concerning salvation and death you can with precision use choice words that hits the idea of not departing this world without God when you come to the end of your journey. I usually use the expression that we are not responsible for the way we come into the world we are responsible for the way we leave , and more often than not we are much better dying with Christ as lord than departing without his saving grace.
---Carla3939 on 7/27/09

That situation is similar in our place. When unbeliver dies, their relatives wants christian service funeral. Like in Roman Catholic, when one dies someone prays for him. They need mass,or preist help.

With regards to scripture...that is no effect to the one died. His life was ended and no more hope for him if he is unsave.
---rosalie on 7/26/09

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Recently a good friend/neighbour asked me to conduct the funeral of her young son who had died accidentally.

She isn't Christian so I wondered why she would ask me to conduct it, knowing full-well that I am Christian. We spoke and I explained the gospel and how I would be unfaithful to God if I conducted the funeral in secular terms. She begged me to do it saying I was genuine, knew her, and would inject meaning into the service.

I am happy to report the funeral went very well. Phew! My wife,my honest critic, said I took the Christian content to the limit, but not over it.

Afterwards numerous people, including my friend, thanked me for what I had said.

I found it very stressful but thank God for the opportunity.
---Warwick on 7/24/09

"good question
unfortunately i don't know what i'll do

i am irritated when non-believers' funerals are conducted by churches in a pretentious manner"
pat on 7/21/09
Another said, 'I do not waste my time or God's time on them'. Yet another, 'Because of this and that he is not my brother, and since you call him a brother, you are not my brother either'. A man killed his brother, for he had written him off as 'He is not my brother', Yet he was his brother nonetheless, for the Lord came to inquire of that man, "Where is thy brother?". I think not a good thing of being easily irritated.
---Nana on 7/23/09

good question
unfortunately i don't know what i'll do

i am irritated when non-believers' funerals are conducted by churches in a pretentious manner
expecially when the need for salvation is not mentioned and everyone pretends everything is alright

that is how i felt about jacko's funeral...didn't watch the whole thing... but the spiritual caption the headlines gave was enough to give me nausea

maybe if i conduct it, i will definately call the unsaved to repentance and make an altar call as well.... otherwise i have no business officiating
---pat on 7/21/09

Replace the lords name with the guy's name, who just died. Yes conduct the funeral, because all children are children of God. Even the ones who denied it in life.
---Katherine on 6/10/09

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I never realized until I became Pastor of Care how much a funeral service could be an out reach.
When I do a service for a non-christian, I let the family say everything about the one who died. I don't make any statments about them. I try to find some way to connect with them in my remarks, then I talk about the three resources we have to walk through the loss: Family, Friends, and Faith. If I don't know anything about their faith, I share my faith. I have seen several people show up at Church following non-christian funerals. Many of them are searching
---Joe on 6/4/09

I most certainly would do it. Funeral services are for the living not the dead.
I would start by paying respect to the departed and remind people that there was love in his heart for his family and friends.
Then I would share from the Bible what this departed one would tell them if he could come back.
Two things he would say;
1. Get the Peace of God,
2. You cannot get the Peace of God if you don't get Peace with God.
(PS. Been there, done that.)
---Elder on 6/9/07

You should take that opportunity to offer salvation to the lost using the fact we all will go in death and stand before the Lord and those who believe on Christ and obey him will be saved.
---exzucuh on 1/7/07

I will be doing a funeral in a few hours for a non-believer. Sadly, I will not be able to say much about the Lord. Hopefully, I will be the presence of Christ among a throng of lost souls. The rest is up to God.
---Nick on 1/6/07

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Yes, I would say something like: as being a born-again Christian preacher, I will tell you that the earthen life of mankind is not all that there is to be. But that there is a whole other eternal life after this life. And we can know this life by putting our faith in the living Lord Jesus Christ, etc. etc.
---Eloy on 12/4/06

Aren't non-christians the main people that need ministering?
---jacques on 12/4/06

Preach the word, just as it would be if the person was saved. There is nothing one can do to save the dead, but give an alter call for those that are spiritualy dead (sinners).
---Rebecca_D on 12/4/06

Great answers all of you. Very helpful indeed.
---m.p.a. on 12/3/06

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I have been asked to do so and did. A eulogy is offered about the persons life and influence. Nice things are said to comfort the family. The general verses about resurrection and heaven are read. But the person is not "preached into Heaven." At a funeral of a nonChristian, this is simply not mentioned. The lack of mention is not offering false hope. Neither is it bringing further grief to the loved ones.
---ed on 12/2/06

My husband has had this happen to him. He participated in his ex-wife's funeral. There is a good chance that she wasn't saved. But, she was in a coma for a few weeks before she passed away. We prayed that she would be able to get right with the Lord before she died. Hopefully, she did. He gave a salvation message at the last and asked those who wanted to accept the Lord to repeat a simple prayer with him. Everyone repeated it.
---Susie on 12/2/06

May I suggest that here is a great opportunity. Your wording should include that death is a great mystery. You can say that you do not about this man's eternal home, but that each and every person at this funeral today can make certain before they leave. You could then offer to lead them and a sinner's prayer unto salvation. This could be at the end of your message after having said other things.
---mima on 12/2/06

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