At a Saturday morning funeral service, Feb. 1, Kelly Burton preached Psalm 139, comforting the bereaved family and friends that God is a “pursuing God.” No matter where David was, Burton explained, God was there. Burton encouraged the people to take comfort that “even in the darkest of places”—like a funeral service—“God still pursues us.”

For one attendee, in particular, this message proved especially true, as God “pursued” him through Burton’s sermon and follow-up conversation, ultimately calling him to saving faith in Jesus Christ. 

Burton, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Alba, Texas, and a Doctor of Ministry graduate of The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (’17), met Joshua* in the church parking lot earlier that morning as both made their way to the funeral service. Burton showed him the way into the church, and then Joshua listened as Burton preached from the psalms, encouraging all in attendance that God pursues them “because He wants us to meet His Son, Jesus.”

Burton then encouraged the attendees to consider where they would spend eternity.  

After the service, Burton made his way out to the parking lot, and he quickly realized that Joshua was following closely behind him. They began a conversation, and Joshua shared that though he had not been to church in a while, he had been baptized into a congregation. 

Burton recalls, “I felt as though he was breaking the ice with me, kind of wanting me to help him confirm he was a good guy.”

Joshua listed some of the things he had done and still enjoyed doing. “Surely I won’t go to hell for that, right?” he said. 

“No, sir,” Burton replied. “But people do go to hell if they have not made Jesus Christ their Savior.” 

As he had done with the funeral attendees previously, Burton gently confronted Joshua with the question of where he would spend eternity. Specifically, he asked whether he thought he would go to heaven when he died. 

“I hope I would,” Joshua answered. 

Burton replied, “Joshua, why don’t we make sure today, you and me, right now in this church parking lot, that when you lay your head down for the last time, you will wake up in heaven?”

“I would love to do that,” Joshua said. 

Burton rehearsed the key elements of the Gospel, from man’s need for forgiveness of sins to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Joshua understood, so Burton led him in a prayer to profess his faith in Jesus Christ. 

“Joshua could not control his emotions,” Burton recalls. “He was so gripped by his ‘pursuing God’ that he cried profusely through the prayer.”

Burton concluded by giving Joshua a Gospel tract and encouraging him to read it to confirm the decision he had just made. Burton also plans to follow up with him regarding baptism and joining a church body. 

Burton reflects, “Funerals present such an intimate opportunity to share Christ with those who have death already on their minds. God is a pursuing God!”

*Name changed to protect anonymity.