Jump Start # 2232
Acts 8:2 “And some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.”
Stephen was dead. He died violently. The persecutors silenced his voice. Those that loved Stephen came and buried him. His life here was over. We have, in the chapter before, not only his last sermon, but one of the great synopsis of Old Testament history.
Recently I heard about the death of three different preachers. That leads to some thoughts about when the preacher dies, especially if he has not retired.
First, the preacher is like any other member. His death isn’t a time to put him in a shrine, bury him in the floor of the church basement or elevate him to some status that is neither Biblical nor what the humble servant would want. I’ve been to many Cathedrals in Europe. There are so many people buried in those buildings it becomes spooky and it takes away from Christ, the one we are to truly honor and worship.
Second, if the preacher was currently still working with a congregation at the time of his death there comes the thought of what to do with all his stuff. Most of us have libraries, files and files, and all kinds of office furniture and notebooks of bulletins and classes taught. In my case, it fills two large rooms. Tons of stuff. There must be a transition time for the family to clean out and clear out all these items and for the congregation to allow the next preacher to move in. For the family of the deceased preacher, the question arises as to what to do with all this stuff. Many do not have any idea. In many cases, the books are left for the church, as a donated library, which is very kind and generous, but truth be told, most of those books will never be touched. There is the thought to selling them, but there’s not much of a market on used books unless they are very rare. In most cases, passing them on to a younger preacher is one of the best things that can be done. But there is a lifetime of sermons, articles and classes to work through. Impatient brethren can stress a grieving family to hurry up and ‘get rid of this stuff.’
Third, as a new preacher takes over, there is a lot of uneasiness in the air. In many circumstances, the church wasn’t wanting to change preachers. Their preacher died. They loved him. This is hard on the next preacher. He must walk carefully and do his best to respect and honor the man who died. The new preacher will be different. We all have our own style and way of doing things. Sadly comparisons will be made. A few will make comments. It will hurt the new preacher, but he must carry on and in time he will win the hearts of the brethren as he continues to teach the truth and do a good work. It’s also very hard for the grieving family. They will continue to worship and instead of their husband or dad in the pulpit, it is someone else. Tread carefully. Be considerate. This is unique circumstances and be mindful of that. Great leadership will guide a church and a family through this together. Terrible leadership will add more pain to the extent that the grieving family is forced to leave because it is so uncomfortable there.
Fourth, life continues on. A death. A funeral. And, another Sunday comes around and it’s time to worship. The world doesn’t stop. We preachers must realize that we are replaceable. That’s the thought from our passage. Stephen died. People cried. Yet, the church continued to worship and grow. Life continued on. It will after each of us preachers are gone as well. Knowing this and realizing this, we can help a congregation survive and thrive after we are finished here. Equip the saints so they can stand and be mature. Teach others who can then teach others. Include others. Show others. Don’t be a one man player, but be a team player and involve others. This not only helps them, it helps the church, and it helps the church carry on after you are gone. Congregations that have two preachers, this transition period can be much smoother. We, preachers have worked hard all of our lives. We would hate to see all the good that has been done, fall apart simply because we are not there. Develop people. Train others. Show others. The work of the kingdom will continue on if we have done our jobs.
Fifth, Mr. Preacher, help your family to survive after your passing. I’ve known far too many stories of preachers who had no insurance, no equity in the home, and were basically living paycheck to paycheck for most of their lives. Their death ended the income coming in. The families had to borrow money just to bury the preacher. The house had to be sold and the poor preacher’s wife had to move into a small apartment and struggled the rest of her life. While alive, the preacher talked long and hard about stewardship, but when it came to finances, he didn’t practice what he preached. His poor family were literally poor. That lack of stewardship puts a bind on the congregation. They feel compelled to help out this family but why didn’t the preacher make preparations by having insurance and savings? Life insurance doesn’t cost that much. Some of us that are so good with the word of God are terrible with money. Get advice. Talk to others. Get help. You are not Superman and you will not be here for ever. Make plans. Get insurance. Get a will. We try to help others get ready spiritually, all the while too many of us haven’t done a thing to get ready physically. We can do better than that. This would be a good discussion for the shepherds to have with the preacher.
Hebrews tells us that it is appointed unto men to die once. That includes the preacher. Both the church and the preacher would do well to put some thought into that. These are thoughts that we don’t like to think about, but unless we do, situations will force us to make choices and decisions that often are not the best.
We are marching to Zion and each of us leave footprints for others to follow.