The Sermon that Got My Goat (or Vice Versa)

Scapegoat: Who would bear the penalty if this innovative Easter service failed—the prop or the preacher?

Rob Bell is becoming famous for his soul-stirring sermon from Leviticus 16 on the Day of Atonement, featuring a live goat and a man dressed as the high priest. Rob pastors Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. His congregation is accustomed to his innovative use of props and stories. In this message, Rob dramatizes Jesus' ministry as the ultimate scapegoat and as our great High Priest who sat down when the work of atonement was done.

I saw the sermon at a preaching conference at Willow Creek Community Church. Rob brought out the priest and goat—both live. When he finished, Rob sent the sin-bearing goat away and declared, "The goat has left the building!" The priest walked slowly to a chair, sat, and the audience erupted into cheers, high-fives, applause, and a little celebratory dancing. I don't usually borrow from other speakers, but on that day I thought, I want to preach that sermon. It would make a great Easter message.

The staff encouraged me to preach ...

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