To preach the Old Testament, three distinct things are required. First, you must be able to tell a popping good story. Old Testament stories must not be read; they must be told! Second, you must be able to surround the listeners with enough background to contextualize the event. If a preacher does not do this, people will automatically envision Samson pushing down the pillars at the Post Office. Finally, you must love the Old Testament as much as any Orthodox Jew. My Dad could preach the Old Testament! He taught me not only the books of the Bible, but the names of the kings of Israel and the judges. Judges was Dad’s kind of book. When he told the story of left-handed Ehud killing the fat king Eglon while he sat on the toilet, chills ran up and down my spine. I could see Ehud sneak into the king’s chambers, sense him going for the knife and could see the shaft being absorbed into the obese stomach of Eglon. Sluurrppp! He gone!
When Dad told an Old Testament story, it wasn’t a G-rated thing. He pulled no punches and left in all the gory details. I was literally enthralled and I would have to tell you I still am. People often tell me my best sermon series are often my treatments of the Old Testament. I have spent weeks and weeks on character studies of Nehemiah, Moses, Elijah and David and told the stories of the kings, judges and prophets. People say they get caught in the story and can’t wait to come back next week to see what happens. When they say stuff like that, I always think of Dad. Over the years I have noticed that grown sons tend to show affinity for the things their Dad’s liked. Some guys like cars, some like money and others like sports. My Dad gave me a more powerful legacy. I love the Bible because my Dad loved the Bible. It is among the greatest gifts a father ever gave a son.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL