Just hours after the Peach dropped in Centennial Olympic Park, ringing in the new year, Atlanta became the center of attention. From Jan. 1-3, students from all around the world gathered in Atlanta for the Christian conference hosted by Passion.
On the first day of the new year, thousands of high school seniors and college-aged students flocked to Philips Arena in Downtown Atlanta for the annual Passion Conference. Hosted in three additional venues, including The Anthem in Washington, D.C. and Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett, the three-day event attracted over 30,000 students, and 13,800 people across the globe tuned in to the livestream online.
For the next three days, students from 18 to 25 years old braved 18-degree Atlanta temperature and commuted from booked hotels and homes to hear from some of the most influential apologists of their generation. Hosted by Louie and Shelley Giglio, founders of the Passion Movement, this year’s conference marked its 21st year. Without the help of 2,600 volunteers, a team known as the Door Holders, the conference would have not been possible. Venue staff certainly helped manage crowds, but volunteers spent countless hours scanning tickets, selling resources, serving lunches and greeting students.
Despite the differing locations of speakers, each of the three venues was able to simultaneously stream each sermon during the sessions. Renowned pastor and author Levi Lusko kicked off the first of six sessions from Washington, D.C., while acclaimed author Priscilla Shirer closed out the conference from Philips Arena. During the three-day event, students were also able to hear sermons from activist and evangelist Christine Caine, pastor Louie Giglio and apologist John Piper. Worship artists included Passion Band, Crowder and Matt Redman as well as an appearance from Christian rappers KB, Tedashii and Andy Mineo.
In the past, the Passion Conference has featured a number of special guests, including an appearance from Carrie Underwood last year, and this year, former Duck Dynasty star Sadie Robertson and former Football quarterback Tim Tebow shared their faith experiences during one of the sessions.
In addition to worshiping and hearing sermons, attendees had the opportunity to partner with Compassion International, Hurricane Harvey Relief Groups and Voice of the Martyrs Korea. Encouraging everyone to donate $2, the Voice of the Martyrs raised $103,623 to provide scripture to the unreached people of North Korea. In addition, 2,737 backpacks were given to children in Houston and 3,406 children were sponsored through Compassion.
Many Wesleyan seniors had the opportunity to attend the 2018 conference. Senior Jon Hunt Ficken said, “I really enjoyed the worship and the time to talk in our rooms after each session. Walking around the city was also fun, and Priscilla Shirer gave a great message!” Senior Harrison Feininger added, “My favorite moment was simply being with everyone. I was able to see a lot of my friends and Wesleyan alumni.”
Senior Kelsey Rappe said, “I loved so many of the speakers at the conference this year. They all shared messages that I feel like we really needed to hear at this point in our lives. I especially loved Christine Caine’s message on being freed from the shackles of shame through Christ and embracing the new life He offers. It touched so many people and just really put things into a new perspective for many, including me.”
Physics teacher and Wesleyan alumnus Scott Schroer said, “Levi Lusko’s talk was probably my favorite. It’s also cool to just be around that many college kids who are interested in what God has to say about their lives. It’s a good reminder that the Gospel is still very much alive and at work in the younger generations today.”