Friday, I had the excellent opportunity to attend the Passion Regionals “Vision Meeting” for the upcoming Dallas/Fort Worth Passion Regionals event. Not only was it like a lil’ family reunion with my college ministry friends from this area, but I got to experience the “heart” of Passion in a way I hadn’t before – behind the scenes, hearing from them as a sort of co-laborer as they prepare to “land” here in DFW next month.
My first encounter with Passion Conferences was in January ’99, at the third Passion Conference. It was still being held in Texas, they only had one CD out (from the conference the year before), and they hadn’t brought thousands upon thousands to a field in Memphis for the first One Day yet. That would happen a year-and-a-half later. So it was the early days of Passion, you might say.
I remember the worship seemed a little “charismatic” for me and my pals, what with people raising their hands and all. (We’ve come a long way.) I remember I had to be in a breakout group with people I didn’t know – annoying for a shy freshman. And I remember that by the end of the conference, my life had been changed, with powerful words rattling around in my head about God-glorification and a life that was meant to live for that stuff. “Yes, Lord … Your name and Your renown are the desire of our souls.”
Last Friday’s gathering involved the Passion crew – including Louie Giglio, complete with stitches in his belly from a hernia operation – meeting with maybe a hundred local college ministers. Passion didn’t have to come over here from Atlanta – the organization is well-known enough in these parts. But they did come, to connect with us “on the ground” who have to catch the vision if Passion is going to matter now, this go ’round, in this place. He discussed the goals of the Regional events, gave plans for the Worldwide Tour starting later this year (very exciting), and reviewed the earlier Regional events in Boston and Chicago.
Some people struggle with Passion because it’s just one big event – no major focus on discipleship or “process,” they feel. Louie agreed with that, basically, on Friday – Passion, he said, isn’t what radically changes people. But it can help start that process, to catalyze discipleship. Doesn’t it do that pretty well? It sure put me in touch with these ideas in a way I hadn’t been before – even growing up in church and Christian school. And I found out about flame-fanners like John Piper and Bill Bright and Beth Moore and and Jeff Lewis and Charlie Hall, who certainly became parts of my own personal process in the aftermath of that ignition called Passion.
Louie also said on Friday something I’ve heard him say before: that Passion continues to be focused on one thing. It’s a one-trick pony, a one-issue platform, a truly broken record. Louie and his cohorts still talk about a life centered not on me but on making God famous. That’s why I’m here, and I still can’t walk away from a Passion event (even with a bunch of college ministers) not thinking about this fact.
That, too, is another hit Passion takes sometimes – people claim it’s just the same thing, that “we’ve seen it all before,” that we got our fill of Louie and Charlie and friends a while back.
But in my humble opinion, I think that’s a major key to the blessing God has given to and through this ministry. By focusing on what they can be best at, Passion has outlived plenty of collegiate generations, influencing the heck out of ’em along the way. Not a bad principle for ministry – do what you can do superbly.
The truth is, we have seen it all before. In the 6 or 7 events I’ve attended since ’99, the spectrum of topics hasn’t been that wide. But I’m a college minister.
As I noted when I reviewed this new Passion Regionals thing (I got to go in Boston, and you can read about it), our students haven’t necessarily heard this theology in this way or seen these speakers before. Many of them haven’t ever heard of Passion at all, even if they’re familiar with the likes of Tomlin or Crowder. Plenty, too, don’t know what it’s like to be with thousands of God-seekers their age. But students continue to have that chance because the broken record keeps playing this note, even if their ministers have been around long enough to “hear it all before.”
That’s a luxury of Collegiate Ministry with its super-high turnover: there aren’t that many dead horses to beat!
So if you can’t tell, I’m a fan. I really am impressed with this organization, and I’m impressed that they have been able – after all this time and ALL opportunity to go tangential – to stick with their ONE thing. They keep their aim on the area they can be best-in-the-world at: catalyzing college students living for God’s fame. Even with the music and the occasional book – if you’ll notice, it tends to focus there, on God’s glory.
Hope you get to go to a Regional – in L.A. (next week!) or Dallas or D.C. or Atlanta. It’s a jam-packed weekend, and you might be surprised at how awesome a “broken record” can sound. (Read my review here.)