I'm feeling pretty good about where we're heading - my brief review of Passion 2014

The thumping I felt in my head was not a headache and it was not isolated to my head. My whole body was reverberating from the music that was blaring out of the speakers in this arena filled with over 20,000 young adults who were dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. And I was right in the mix with them.

Atlanta, GA, January 17-18 2014 will be one of those weekends that I will not soon forget. You see, on that weekend in Philips Arena, Passion came to town and changed everything. What is Passion? Passion is a conference for college students and young adults but it is also much more than that. I took my first group of students to a Passion conference in Atlanta in 2007 and this past conference was the third such one that I had the honor to attend.

Let me give you a brief background. Passion started in the 90's with the vision of a man named Louie Giglio who believed that college students could be the initiators of something big for God. What started as a concert in a field has morphed into movement, gaining steam over the years and expanding its reach to influence  students and young adults across the globe. Here is the nuts and bolts from the Passion website: ROOTED IN THE CONFESSION OF ISAIAH 26:8, PASSION EXISTS TO GLORIFY GOD BY UNITING STUDENTS IN WORSHIP, PRAYER AND JUSTICE FOR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING IN THIS GENERATION.

So when you come to a Passion conference you will find more than just music and great speakers, although there are plenty of those. Instead, you will be surrounded by young adults who are passionate about Jesus and making His name famous. Let me tell you a little bit more about the experience from an old guy's perspective.

First, there are the people, the young adults who assemble by the thousands from all over the country and the world. When you find yourself in a room with this many people who truly want to be there, you are surrounded by an electricity that is infectious. The energy, the love, the overall zeal to worship and glorify God is abundantly evident, and not to just to those in the arena.

A group of us were sitting in our hotel's lobby on Saturday evening, taking a brief Chick Fil A break before starting another session, when a woman in business dress approached me and my wife. She asked if we were part of this group of young people that had invaded all of downtown Atlanta, and we immediately assumed that she worked for the hotel and had a complaint to lobby against someone who looked old enough to be a chaperone. We told her that yes, we were with these students, but that also were staying at the hotel, hoping that if someone was wrong our hotel key cards might earn us a little bit of leniency. Her response was not what we expected.

This woman looked at us and said, "I have a t-shirt idea for your conference the next time you have it. Get a group picture on front of the shirt and have the words 'UP TO ALL GOOD' (as opposed to up to NO good) printed across the top of it!" She went on to say how overwhelmed she was about the overall vibe from these college students. No bathrooms were trashed, litter was put in its place, manners were being used, and love was being shown. When we told her that the reason these students appeared different to her was because of their love for Jesus, she smiled, said, "That is something to thank God for," and turned to walk away.

It is these students who are the focus of Passion. Yes, there are thousands of adult volunteers who arrive early and leave late who make the gathering possible, but it is the participants who drive it all. At the end of the last session on Saturday night, a call was issued for those to stand who were called to go to the nations with the gospel. Not to church work, not to serve in their communities, but to the nations where the gospel is all but absent. Hundreds of these young adults stood to their feet, arms outstretched, committing their lives with their tears so that others might know the love of Jesus. I have seen the future, and the future is now.

Then there is the music. Passion is known for its loud, driving, yet sincere songs of praise, and this weekend was no different. Passion City Church - founded by Louie Giglio and staffed by such artists as Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, and Christy Nockels - provides the "house band" for the worship. New songs are introduced amidst the singing of familiar ones that we already know how to sing until our voices are hoarse. Then, just when you think you can't sing anymore, Hillsong United takes the stage in the evening and pretty much melts your face off with more intense worship through song. Add to this David Crowder, Matt Redman, and other gifted worship leaders and you feel as if you are gathered amongst a who's who of Christian artists. However, none of this is pretentious for for show. These men and women have come themselves as worshipers to join us in the exultation of King Jesus.

Finally, there are the speakers. Passion packs back-to-back sessions together that would make any afflicted with ADD go bonkers. Normally, I can't focus long past 30 minutes without needing some kind of a breather, yet at Passion I find myself unable to move after hours of listening to inspired words from men and women who are have come to share the heart of God with us. Whether it's Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Christine Caine, or John Piper, every word that is shared is relevant to life and ministry and calling. I have never left more challenged and personally filled.

I could write more but I won't. Let me concluded by saying that I am incredibly optimistic about the future of the kingdom of God because I have seen in whose hands it lies. Go next year and experience it for yourself. I you are content with where you are in your life and if moving forward in with God's desire for you is not a desirous notion, then stay away from Passion! Because if you do go, there is a good chance it will wreck you and you will find yourself rejoicing King Jesus from the rubble.

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