Funerals are mandatory weddings are optional. – Mayor Giuliani
I read this 12 years ago and have never forgotten it. It comes from Mayor Giuliani’s book on leadership. Up until that point I had avoided funerals. Funerals are difficult. It isn’t easy to be confronted with your own mortality on a regular basis. Rudy Giuliani’s quote is actually a restatement of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
After all, everyone dies—
so the living should take this to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us.
4 A wise person thinks a lot about death,
while a fool thinks only about having a good time.
One of the dangers of pastoral ministry that every minister must resist is the intoxication of success. There are few things like walking off the stage after doing a keynote to people clapping flowed by people lining up to either ask your opinion or tell you how well you did. It makes you feel really good. It does. I remember one conference I was at someone asked: “How do you keep all those comments from going to your head?” My answer was the local church. The people at my church don’t really care where I speak they only care that I care about them.
The other thing that helps me not think more of my self than I should be funerals. If you haven’t held the hand of a person breathing their last breath you really should, it will change you. If you haven’t prayed with someone you have known for years who has stage four cancer to the point you don’t recognize them. You really need to.
I go to and do many funerals in a given year and each funeral I go to without exception reminds me of how fleeting success is. How temporal this life is. There is nothing like a funeral to put twitter followers, blog stats, and speaking requests in perspective. Success is not based on the size of the church you work for or how many conferences you speak at but by how you answer the following questions that I ask myself at every funeral.
1. Who do I love?
2. Who do I trust?
3. What am I building?
How you answer those questions are both very convicting and very telling. If you are a young leader start going to every funeral you can because this life isn’t all there is.