The question came from the chairman of the pulpit committee of a large and growing church. In their search for a new pastor, they had interviewed the top tier of candidates, only to discover a disconcerting fact. "None of them preach from the Old Testament," the chairman said. "So far we have interviewed fifteen men and none of them preach from the Old Testament. Why is that?" he wondered.
I was a bit baffled by the question, and after considering it, I concluded that the fifteen men meant that they never preach an extended series from the Old Testament. It's hard for me to believe that a pastor would decide to skip over 75% of the Bible. Perhaps the sample was askew. I have no idea who the fifteen men were, or what age they were, or where they were trained. And I confess that I had never heard of a church asking a prospective candidate, "Do you preach from the Old Testament?"
But it does raise other questions. Is it true that evangelical pastors ignore the Old Testament in their preaching? If so, is this a recent trend? And more to the point, if it is true, why don't pastors preach from the Old Testament?
Here are the thoughts that came to me:
- Many pastors feel more comfortable with Greek than with Hebrew.
- Most biblical training focuses on New Testament interpretation.
- For some there may be theological reasons why they don't preach from the Old Testament. Perhaps they view everything before Matthew as "preparation" (which in a sense it is) and therefore not worthy of extended attention from the pulpit (a sad mistake, in my opinion).
- But my primary thought was that most seminaries specialize in teaching pastors how to preach the epistles. Our methods work best with Romans, Ephesians and the other Pauline epistles. We feel more comfortable with material that is presented logically and in a point-by-point fashion. Therefore our graduates gravitate more to Colossians than to Hosea.
- The flip side is that we aren't so comfortable with the prophets--major or minor. Or with Job. What do you do with Job? Do you preach four or five sermons and move on? Ecclesiastes is a challenge. So is Song of Solomon in a different sense. Then you've got books like Leviticus, which most of us never touch. Or Deuteronomy, where we cherry-pick a passage here and there.
- And how should we preach the great stories of the Bible? I personally have profited greatly from preaching through the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Samson, Elijah, the book of Daniel, and David’s early years. But I confess that preaching biblical narratives challenges and stretches the way many of us were taught in seminary.
I assume that the Christian pastor will spend the majority of his time preaching from the New Testament. That's understandable. But to ignore 75 percent of the Bible is to rob your congregation of the riches of God's Word.
In the end, I don't know if this is an aberration or an actual trend. If it's true that our pastors don't preach the Old Testament, it can't be a good thing.
Is it true that pastors today don’t preach from the Old Testament? If so, why?
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries and author of And When You Pray. He has ministered extensively overseas and is a frequent conference speaker and guest on Christian radio and television talk shows. He has authored over 27 books, including Credo, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul, and Why Did This Happen to Me?