College students and high school seniors from across the world gathered in the Georgia Dome for Passion 2017, Jan. 2-4. Established as an organization aimed at “…uniting students in worship and prayer for spiritual awakening in this generation,” the Passion movement cites Isaiah 26:8 as its theme verse. Founded 20 years ago by Louie Giglio, the first Passion conference was held in Austin, Texas with an attendance of only a couple thousand. Over the years, however, the Passion movement has grown immensely, having currently reached over 20 million students.
Over 50,000 18-25-year-olds convened in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome from Jan. 2-4 to worship, learn and grow in their faith. In fact, over 90 countries were represented. For 6 sessions, students had the opportunity to hear from renowned evangelists such as Francis Chan, John Piper, Katherine and Jay Wolf and founder of the conference, Louie Giglio. Worship artists also included Passion Band, Chris Tomlin and Hillsong United. Carrie Underwood also made a surprise appearance during the night of the first session and sung her Grammy winning, faith driven song “Something in the Water.”
But that wasn’t the only surprise in store. During one of the sessions on Tuesday, a live video stream was held with Astronaut Shane Kimbrough while he was in the International Space Station.
Many Wesleyan students were able to attend this historic conference. Senior Barrett Ramsey said, “it was so cool to be in a huge stadium filled with other people all there to worship the Lord. It was really encouraging to see over 50,000 high school [and] college students coming together and worshiping.” Senior Joseph Berney, said his favorite part of the conference was, “the sermons because I go to one church and typically hear one person, so it was cool to hear more than one perspective and presentation.”
Bible Department Chair, Greg Lisson, attended two sessions of the conference on Jan. 3. “My favorite part is simply witnessing so many young people gathered in the name of Jesus,” he said. “It inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing, and reminds me of the incredible potential of this generation of students.” When describing a speaker or statement that stood out to him, he said, “John Piper has long been one of my great theological guides, and I was once again inspired by his words. In particular I was challenged by the idea that the essence of evil is seeking satisfaction and joy and fullness in something other than God. It’s worshiping idols. And I thought of how easy it is to fall into that trap of thinking that good grades or money or marriage or a good job or vacation or success will satisfy us when our only true, deep, everlasting satisfaction will come from Jesus.”
Not only were attendees able to hear from some of the great evangelists of our time, but they were also given the opportunity to sponsor children from poverty stricken countries through the program Compassion International. For $38, Passion 2017 aimed to sponsor all of the remaining children on the wait list in El Salvador, Rwanda, and Tanzania. However, by the end of the conference over 7,000 children were sponsored, which not only included the three previously mentioned countries, but also Indonesia and a part of Bolivia.
Throughout the three day conference, lives were changed through the wisdom shared by the thoughtful speakers, and countless college students accepted Jesus. But Ramsey effectively summed up her experience sharing that her biggest takeaway was from Francis Chan when he said, “we should ‘shut up’ and stop listening to ourselves, and instead, turn towards the Lord and listen to him.”