Pastor John, in the last podcast, you shared with us about preaching in front of 60,000 students in the Georgia Dome recently at Passion 2013. You are closely connected with Louie Giglio, and you have been involved with the Passion conference for many years, so I am interested to hear from you what your takeaways are from Passion 2013.
I do not abstract Passion 2013 from all the Passion conferences beginning in 1997. I have been to all the major American events, and I see Passion not just as an event but as a kind of movement that has lasted and grown. It all grows out of Isaiah 26:8, which is where they get the “268 Generation,” which says, “Your name and your renown are the desire of our souls.” And those two things — the renown of Christ and the desire of the soul — is what binds Louie Giglio and me together.
He came to my house in 1997, and we sat down at my dining room table. We did not know each other, but he had heard and read some things from me. He said, “I am looking for a person whose whole message revolves around the glory of God in Christ, and you seem to me to be one of those people.” And we talked about Christian Hedonism and the relationship between desiring God on the one hand and God being glorified on the other hand.
And if you go to their website or their app and look under “Who we are,” they have almost word for word, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” That is what unites Louie and me. That is what the movement is. The movement is not about any particular cause. It is about the fame of Jesus.
Louie stood up on the last day of this year’s Passion, and he said, “You would have to be blind not to know that what this is about is Jesus and the fame of Jesus Christ.” If you listen to their music and you watch Louie speak, it is clear this is about calling every new student generation, time after time, to rivet their heart’s affection and their mind’s attention on Jesus Christ. And the glory of Jesus Christ — the greatness, and grandeur, and wisdom, and strength, and power, and blessing of Jesus Christ.
So that is what keeps my heart beating with Passion. They have focused in the last couple of years now on human trafficking, to try to put “feet” on our passion for Jesus by saying, “In Jesus’ name and for Jesus’ sake, we would love to see human slavery ended.” And I think that is a beautiful, beautiful cause.
Serious Joy at Passion
One of the reasons I love going back to Passion and being a part of it is that it embodies something I gave in my last sermon on “Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing.” I want so bad to help cultivate a tone in American Evangelicalism that is not chipper or glib or playful. And in my seventeen years at Passion, I have never heard a joke from the stage; I have never seen a silly skit from the stage. And that is remarkable when you think about it, because a lot of student leaders think you have got to yuck it up with college students and be as silly as the latest comedian or the latest talk show host in order to make them feel like you are real. Louie is not like that and neither is Passion. Sixty thousand students are coming for a blood earnest singing and preaching event that exalts Jesus Christ. So I just want to encourage leaders of students that it is possible to take this vision of a “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” tone and build it into their student ministry.