Perhaps the church's greatest ministry is helping people get ready for the final enemy.

In seminary the rallying cry of my circle of classmates was "Life-giving ministry!" We were determined to extend that ministry in all circumstances and against all obstacles.

When I got into my first pastorate, however, I encountered three funerals in the first four months. And a terminal case of cancer was slowly killing one of the key lay leaders. Suddenly my rallying cry seemed incomplete. I needed to prepare myself and my congregation to face death.

I shared my frustrations with various colleagues and discovered to my surprise that many of them could tell similar stories. They felt the same concerns I did, but few had been trained to prepare their congregations in any substantial way for the assaults of our final enemy, death.

It helped, as I studied the Epistles, to find Paul himself came late to realize the need to prepare a congregation for the loss of fellow members, family, and friends. Believers at both Corinth and Thessalonica were badly shaken by the deaths of some of ...

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