Passion 2011 opened in Atlanta on January 1, 2011. With a stated purpose to make the name of Jesus renown, Passion conferences have been birthed out of the heart of Christian speaker and author Louie Giglio and his wife Shelley.
As I sit and look down on Philips Arena from a perch over stage right, I witness an arena packed to the rafters with 18 – 25 year olds singing “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God You are higher than any other, our God is healer, awesome in power.”
Another 6,000 sit in the overflow at the Georgia World Congress Center, worshiping with Matt Redman.
It’s a sight that is hard to describe in mere words.
And the fearless leader of this movement? Well, Giglio himself is standing, unassuming, in the darkness of stage right, hands raised, worshipping his God. This is a man who says what he believes and believes what God has said.
It is hard to deny that God is using the Giglios to inspire an age demographic that only a decade ago seemed to be fairly well ignored by the Christian church in America.
Passion is a Movement
As more than 22,000 college-aged students participate in Passion 2011, Giglio is no pied piper leading throngs blindly. He is a leader, a pastor, a shepherd. Giglio seeks to see college students build their own relationship with God and with each other in a spirit of love and community that brings glory and honor to God.
His message on this first evening is entrenched in the Biblical truth that God is for us, that He desires for each one of us to live freely, freedom afforded due to God’s great gift of grace. And, as Passion worship leader David Crowder would sing during the Late Night Worship session, if God’s grace were an ocean, we’d all be drowning.
Passion is Community
Giglio’s personal sense of passion and the years he and his wife have spent building the Passion movement are evident in Passion 2011.
A spirit of community is felt throughout Philips Arena and the Georgia World Congress Center. Many have come with college or church groups, but the community observed extends far beyond those familiar walls. High five’s are extended at the tops of stairs and the bottoms of escalators. Politeness and courtesies, uncommon to hear in most gatherings of 18 – 25 year olds, are the norm as trains of students attempt to traverse their groups intact through the vast spaces of these conference centers.
Passion is more than another worship experience. Passion is more than another Christian event. Passion is even more than a new form of revival for the current generation.
Passion is a Mission
Passion is a mission to engage a generation in a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result of that mission, Passion seeks to energize young people to do more than go to church. Passion challenges these believers to become the church.
To accomplish this, Passion 2011 provides musical worship, sound biblical instruction, community group discussion time, and opportunities for service.
Passion is Do Something Now
A strong component of the Passion Conferences is the Do Something Now exhibits. The central theme of Do Something Now is to create “a force for good, making a massive difference in the lives of people around the globe in Jesus’ name.”
Through nine charities, students attending Passion 2011 can be a part of that global mission. Whether it is purchasing a pig for $35 for a family in Rwanda or donating $1 to send a Bible to a far-away land, Passion attendees have been challenged, mobilized, and engaged in these life-changing endeavors through the ministry of Louie and Shelley Giglio.
Already, dozens of pigs and chickens have been purchased, homes in Haiti funded, and rescue missions for girls enslaved in the Philippines have been sponsored.
As Christian artist Chris Tomlin led the throngs of Passion 2011 in worship this evening, their cry said it all:
“If our God is for us, then who can ever stop us. If our God is with us, then what could stand against.”
This is Passion 2011. This is only Day One.
For those wanting to hear the messages of Passion 2011, check out the Official Website of Passion Conferences. Sessions will be streamed live and for 24 hours after each event.