Mark Brunott of First Free Lincoln on What to Say and Do in Times of Profound Loss

Featuring a post from Mark Brunott on what to say and do in times of pain and loss. Today’s post is from the Senior Pastor of an Evangelical Free in Lincoln, Nebraska. What I have experienced recently with the death of my Mom, I have seen reinforced by Mark Brunott’s writing. I just wanted to share this well thought post with people dealing with pain, suffering, and loss. 

“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”

Tahereh Mafi

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Job 2:13 NIV 

One of the issues with modern evangelicalism today is that many evangelical churches do not allow for suffering. They just do not know how to deal with it. In an environment with a “raw raw” approach to Jesus where people are supposed to share all is well; there just isn’t a place for people to mourn, grieve or share life’s difficulties. I believe the reason why this exists is because many parts of evangelicalism struggle with the prosperity gospel. Its in the DNA of many parts of evangelicalism. Prosperity theology is most evil because it hurts those in pain or those dealing with profound loss. It rubs salt in a persons wounds in so many ways. Pain and suffering makes many evangelicals uncomfortable. They don’t want to hear about cancer, grief, loss, or more. Now to be fair I think many people in society also avoid the topic. But the problem with many evangelical Christians is that Jesus commands people to engage the least of these. To work with them and to love them. So when evangelicals avoid the topic it creates many problems. Its on of my contentions that while the evangelical church is supposed to be a hospital, the reality is that for many people it is not. To read more about prosperity theology I would recommend “The Prosperity Gospel: Reflection on a NY Times Op Ed Called “Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me.” And to read about pain and suffering I would recommend “Thoughts on Pain and Suffering: Differing Perspectives from Scott Hamilton, Ben Petrick, and Derek and David Carr.”

Recently I lost my Mom after a long illness and period of suffering in Fresno, California. Its been a hard time and as I struggle to find my way without her I am still grieving. I have written several articles about it which you can read.What I Learned About Life From My Mom’s Illness and Death” and “In Dealing with My Mom’s Death, Amidst the Chaos of Modern Evangelicalism A Question: Where Will My Funeral Be One Day?both deal with my Mom’s death. There are a lot of things that I realized during this time that also showed the issues as well. There are a lot of evangelicals who struggle with sensitivity and how to engage appropriately. There are many that do a one time, “how are you?” and then never address the topic again. I look at it as a spiritual drive by shooting in many ways. I also realized that many people will not understand how painful it is to lose a parent until it happens to them. My Mom died sooner than I hoped, even though she was 79. I have interacted with a number of people who have their parents into their 80’s or even 90’s. And while I am grateful their Mother is still around, I also have to confess that I at times get jealous because of my deep, strong love for my Mom. 

Now I did have a couple of things which did nurture me and were helpful. One was a phone conversation with a friend in the middle of the night shortly after my Mom died. Granted he was on East Coast time while I was in California being able to talk with someone at 4:00 in the morning meant a lot to me. It was comforting to know that I could speak about a difficult situation to someone at the time. Another turned out to be an added bonus. In writing this blog I have come to know a number of church planters, pastors and more, and when my Mom died they reached out and inquired as to how I was. How they followed up and spoke quite a bit about the topic stunned me in their love. For me it was touching to see that compassion. A good pastor can be an amazing leader of the flock. Often I write about the scandals and problems, but there are a number of people who I am grateful that they are pastors. 

One thing that touched me was what James Crestwood did from Kansas. When I was dealing with my Mom’s illness in the hospital in California he invited me out to his house to spend a few days in Kansas when everything was over. When I got that invitation it meant a lot to me. However, at the time I honestly though my Mom was going to recover. I didn’t realize or know that she would die. But when things went south, heading out to Kansas for a few days meant quite a bit to me. Feeding livestock, hanging out with his family in his backyard and having a few long and hard talks about death and dying was helpful. James shared a situation of a death of someone he knew in Kansas recently and what he was realizing about death. I think that death first starts to hit people with the passing of their grandparents. But when its a sibling, a parent or a friend, then you realize your own mortality. 

Some of the people I described above did exactly what the pastor of an Evangelical Free Church in Lincoln, Nebraska encouraged people to do. They followed up, they didn’t lecture, they showed love and they showed deep compassion. Its with that in mind that I want to introduce you to Mark Brunott. Mark writes a very active blog in the Midwest District of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The blog is called Freshly Bru’d. Mark wrote a post several years back called “What To Do & Say When There Just Aren’t Any Words…”  From time to time I will use a couple of his articles for discussions and exchanges here at The Wondering Eagle. I found his blog when I was researching the Midwest District and calculating the growth of Neo-Calvinism/Neo-Puritanism within the district.  Mark Brunott leads First Free Church of Lincoln, and has been doing so since June of 1978. Mark went to Dallas Theological Seminary for his ThM in New Testament, and then went to Fuller for his Doctor of Ministry in Family. It appears he graduated in 1988. Its with all that said that I will turn over the rest of the post to the Senior Pastor from Lincoln, Nebraska. I found quite a bit of wisdom in what Mark said and personally saw some of this firsthand. As always know that I love you guys! 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Scottish preacher, Ian Maclaren, said that in the 1890’s and it still rings true today. During the Civil War a preacher by the name of Joseph Parker said “Preach to the suffering, and you will never lack a congregation. There is a broken heart in every pew.”


The Apostle Paul in the first century expressed the same sentiment this way, “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30) Every day we meet people who are hurting: going through a divorce, lonely because of a loss, a loved one in hospice care, dealing with Alzheimer’s or cancer, loss of job, terminal illness, rebellious child, financial distress, anxiety, worry, fear and on and on. Some people are at a loss of what to say or do when someone is hurting. My hope is that the list below will help you when you encounter someone who is hurting.


-Well-spoken words. Please no spiritual platitudes like “everything is going to be alright.” In a crisis, discussing theology is ill-timed. Speak in a calm, reassuring voice of love, not theology. Listening goes a long way at the beginning of a crisis. Our words can be helpful, but at times silence might be even more powerful.


-Show love. Bring a meal to their house. Mow the lawn. Help with chores. Appropriate touch can minister to them as well.


-Be ready for the “why” question. This question may not come at first but when it comes, don’t assume you know the answer. Listen. Admit you don’t know why. Affirm that it’s OK to ask that question and don’t make them feel it is wrong to ask it.


 -Pray. Praying together and out loud is powerful. Call on God for His grace, comfort, mercy and peace. Prayer puts the focus back on God.


-Share a scripture. God’s word is powerful and alive (Hebrews 4:12). It is like a soothing salve on a deep wound.


Here are some of my favorites:


Psalm 34:7


Isaiah 40:11; 28-31; 41:10, 13


Philippians 4:6-7


2 Thessalonians 3:16


John 14:27


-Follow up. Check in on them every few days. Ask them if there is anything they need.


3 thoughts on “Mark Brunott of First Free Lincoln on What to Say and Do in Times of Profound Loss

    • Yup…..Mark Brunott has a lot of good posts that I would like to use for discussion. This one was spot on and beautiful. There are parts of the EFCA that are good and deserve to be featured. That is why I wrote about the Senior Pastor of First Free Lincoln.


  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to Casey Schmidt (Leader of Young Married Community Group at First Free Church in Onalaska, Wisconsin) | Wondering Eagle

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