Dr. Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He has authored more than a dozen books addressing church health and growth and pastoral leadership, including Becoming a Welcoming Church, I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Who Moved My Pulpit?
In this video, Dr. Rainer retells one of his funniest stories from his time of being a pastor. When Dr. Rainer was a new pastor, some funeral directors decided to play a trick on him for his first funeral, and embarrassment and hilarity ensued.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
When I begin to think about funny stories of me as a pastor, first of all, there was a lot of funny stories because I was not a very good pastor. So most of them were funny because I made so many mistakes.
But I have a real clear memory of my first funeral. I was new in the community, new at the church, did not know the deceased. And it was time to go to do the funeral. Never done a funeral. Had done my father’s, but that was a little bit different. Never done a funeral as a pastor.
So I walk in to the funeral home where the service is going to be. I just got through reading a book. You should always read a book on how to do a funeral, right before you go to a funeral. And it says, “Talk to the funeral home directors about any common customs that might be present in that community.” I said, “Okay. I’m going to do that.”
So I began to – I walked in and said, “I’m the new pastor.” And they kinda had a smirk on their face. “Yea, well, we’ll see what you’re going to do.”
And I asked that question. I said, “Alright guys,” – I was trying to be really cool – “Are there any customs that I need to know about in this community when you do a funeral?” Especially since I didn’t know the deceased.
And one of them said, “Yes. Yes, there is.” He said, “The most common custom in this community is, when you get done with your funeral message, there will be an open casket behind you. You’re to turn around and kiss the deceased.”
I said, “Really?” He said, “Really.”
So I did the funeral. Family sitting on the front row. They were expecting me to come and say something to them after I did my message. But instead, I turned around, bent over, kissed Martha, and turned around and faced those family members. And they were totally – and probably not the best word for a funeral – they were mortified. They were absolutely mortified.
And I’m looking behind everybody else and I see three, rotund funeral directors laughing and holding their guts like this, loving every minute of it.
That’s one of many stories. But I did a lot of dumb things as a pastor.