Passion 2016 fans the flames of faith, fortitude and fearlessness
Almost twenty ago, a movement began. A handful of God’s faithful were given a mission to make the name of Jesus famous in the forthcoming generations. Since then, arenas around the country have been packed with young people finding faith and putting into action the mandate of the Gospel to care for the least of these.
Under the guidance of Louie Giglio whom, alongside his wife Shelley, founded the Passion movement—and it has evolved into a yearly conference, a musical platform and an undeniable force of change. Sixsteprecords is home to worship leaders Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockles and many more who have veritably shaped the landscape of modern worship. Passion Conferences were among the earliest movements to throw light on the atrocity of human trafficking, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to the eradication to such grave social injustice.
Just one month ago in January 2016, that clarion call of human justice was louder than ever, as students raised money to build a hospital in the polarizing country of Syria. Yet what is controversial to some is merely the fulfillment of the gospel to others. And what began as a spark has most clearly become a passion ablaze.
CCM Magazine had the privilege of chatting with founder Louie Giglio about the movement, the momentum and what is next for the groundbreaking ministry.
CCM Magazine: As you approach the twenty-year mark with Passion. At this point, are there any ‘benchmarks’ you have yet to achieve?
Louie Giglio: It’s interesting to consider, but there was a point fourteen years ago after One Day 2000 that we thought the mission of Passion might be complete…that we had served the purpose for which God set us in motion. Obviously, that wasn’t the case and God had more in store than we could imagine. We couldn’t be more grateful for what we have been able to be a part of the past two decades. So I guess the benchmark we are focused on is staying in step with Jesus in the days ahead.
CCM: What did the 2016 Passion conference represent to you? How was it distinct from previous years?
LG: On the human side, it was a first for us—linking three arenas in two cities in one seamless gathering. It worked better than expected and felt like we were all in one beautiful space together. So that’s a huge distinction. Yet, on the spiritual side, and it’s hard to quantify—2016 felt like one of our most significant gatherings. There was a depth…a clarity of calling in each session that felt just as significant as our first gathering in 1997. For me, that’s pretty special seeing the durability of the vision across the years. Passion is pretty deep, meaning that 45 to 50-minute messages by thinkers, theologians, preachers and pastors are not the norm for student conferences, but people fully leaned-in and the seed was surely planted. All that to say, it feels like we are tilted forward, and that’s a great thing after nineteen years.
CCM: When you look at thousands of young people lifting their hands and giving of their time and money for others, what does that say to you about the future of the church and of the country in general?
LG: It says that the people who are writing off this generation might be looking in the wrong place. This generation is alert and willing to engage at a significant level in response to glimpses of God’s glory and His heartbeat for the world.
The Church feels much stronger now than when we began twenty years ago. Leaders like David Platt, Matt Chandler and so many others were awakened and inspired in a Godward, and subsequently, a Church-ward direction sitting in Passion gatherings years ago. If this kind of fruit continues, it bodes well for the Church and the future. There have been a lot of knocks on the multi-labeled generations who have come through Passion (now “millennials”), but I wouldn’t count them out just yet!
CCM: Music has always been an integral part of Passion. Why? What is it about music that bridges hearts and brings passion to life?
LG: Sound is a vital component in the economy of God. Music touches us in its own unique way. And in the song there is an irrevocable and altruistic blending of voices into one. We are moved by God’s majesty and grace and the song helps us respond with mind, body and spirit. And the song unites us, fuels us…gives us our marching orders.
So when we set out on this Passion journey we knew worship would be central. Not recordings, but worship. Honestly, all the albums and the rest were just an overflow of wanting to see Jesus and amplify His name.
CCM: Why have you been so committed to keeping social justice at the heart of Passion?
LG: We believe worship and justice are two sides of the same coin, each inseparable from the other. God’s Word is clear, He loves songs and invites us to sing, but worship is a lifestyle more than just a song, and the song we must not forget is the one that propels us to carry His mercy and truth to those who have no voice.
CCM: This year you raised money for a hospital in Syria. Given the controversy over allowing Syrian refugees into this country, what do you feel is our obligation as Christians to care for widows and orphans? How do you hope to inspire young people in that vein?
LG: Building a hospital within Syria is a challenge and flies in the face of the political ramifications brought on by the current population migration from the Mideast to the western world. But we are not calling people to a political solution, but a gospel response. I will let smarter people than me figure out the best policies for the common good, but we also can act now—in Jesus’ name—to care for people in need.
If an accident happens in front of me, I don’t ask the victims for their religious identification. I call for assistance and try to render aid. This hospital specifically addresses the needs of women, and will be one of, if not the first, NICU hospital in the region. Our partner, World Vision, has ensured us a great possibility for success in meeting human need. This is the fabric of our message and the heartbeat of the One we follow.
CCM: Your latest book, The Comeback, is certainly something everyone can relate to—being knocked down. Personally, what has been a setback in your life that you’ve had to recover from, walk through, or learn to live with?
LG: I open the book with a vulnerable recounting of a near breakdown I had in 2008. A lot of factors triggered a depression-related collapse than landed me in a dark hole and knocked me out of commission. In some ways you never fully move on from something that ticks you like that. But God came through with powerful rescue and continues through that struggle to daily draw my heart toward His.
CCM: You make it a point to not offer false promises in your book. How do you explain the hope of Christ to someone who doesn’t know Him, with the caveat of, “your circumstances may not improve”…? Is it possible for healing to co-exist with hurting?
LG: The promise of the gospel is that Jesus will live in us…that He will be to us and in us a source of life. But He also promised that in this world we would have heartache, loss, pain. Often, the victory is physical healing, deliverance, restoration, but in every case we have the assurance that nothing in this life can separate us from His love. And nothing can thwart His purposes and plans for our lives. In the end, no matter the struggle, we win. In the end, no matter the loss, we gain.
CCM: With 40,000 students in attendance this year and 60,000 projected for next year, what’s left for Passion to achieve? What do you hope the future brings for this organization and those touched by it?
LG: For now, there’s one more student who hasn’t seen what their life is really all about. One more campus that doesn’t have a lighthouse of gospel hope. One more person settling for less when they were created for so much more. In the end, Passion is about people. Touching the next one is a worthwhile goal.