When Pastor Louie Giglio started graduate school at Baylor University, he watched as, one-by-one, students abandoned their faith.
“I saw the students who had been in our ministry in the summer … arrive at Baylor (a Baptist school) and check their faith on day two,” Giglio, who founded the widely successful Passion conference, said on the Essential Church podcast.
“These are kids that were on the mission trip, were leading out in the ensemble, were the stars of the church, second day in, put [their faith] on a hook on the wall — ‘I am going to go to the party this weekend, I’m going to check out the scene … I’m going to sleep through church on Sunday and nobody’s going to know.'”
Giglio realized at this point how different college was for students that grew up in Christian families. Their parents were suddenly not there to tell them what to do, their church was far away and their school and coaches that they knew so well were all left behind.
“You have free choice and free will — every option is on the table and whatever your base beliefs are, they are probably being assailed every single day in the classroom,” Giglio said. “It’s a crossroad of life. It’s the moment where people stop deciding what my parents believe and start deciding what they believe, and that’s where you want to be standing not with message of the church but with the person of Jesus.”
Even though it’s been decades since Giglio attended Baylor, not much has changed about young Christians and the temptations they face. The pastor noted, however, that students today are more “anxious, depressed [and] sociopathic” compared to the students Giglio knew when he was at Baylor.
They have “so many conversations every day, they don’t even know who they are anymore,” he said. “When we started Passion, kids didn’t have the opportunity to interact with the world every single second of the day.”
The technology students have today allows them to contact their family back at home or even their friends overseas. Instagram and Snapchat keep them updated by the minute on what their friends are doing, just by tapping on a screen.
But even though technology use has increased, along with the youth rate of anxiety and depression, students are still ultimately searching for one thing: Jesus.
During what he described as “one of the most confusing, disappointing and frustrating seasons in my life,” Giglio said he received a “radical vision” from God. That vision has now come to be known as the Passion movement, a gathering of young people that has been going on yearly since 1997.
When the Passion movement began, the goal was to lead university-aged students to develop relationships with Jesus, and to learn to love, trust and obey Him.
Over the years, the conference has developed in many different ways. Early on, in the conference’s fourth year, Giglio witnessed 40,000 college students fall to their knees at an event, which he called “the holiest thing” he’s witnessed “to this day.”
At the time, the pastor thought that climactic conference would be the end of the movement, but there was still so much more to come.
“I thought that was the end. We wanted to be a fuse. … We didn’t want to build a monument,” he said. “We wanted to see an explosion.”
Giglio paused the gatherings for a few years, but then eventually went back to hosting them on an annual basis. Today, he stands “amazed” at the fact that Passion is still a movement and that God is still at the center of it.
Giglio described the Passion movement as “a purposed movement, praying that God would open eyes to see what life’s really about: the glory of God.” He also stressed that it’s not a conference with a bunch of bells and whistles, but a movement simply dedicated to God.
Through these Passion gatherings, Giglio realized God had placed a calling on his life to become a pastor, so at age 40, he did just that.
He noted, however, that success as a pastor doesn’t simply mean speaking to large groups of people all over the world.
“You make the greatest impact in the world by … staying in the same place for the longest amount of time, pouring into the most people that you can to see the reproductive power of the Gospel at work in the generational cycles that come,” he said.
Passion City Church, Giglio’s home church that he launched in 2009, is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. This past year, they planted another church in Washington, D.C., where Ben Stuart is the head pastor.
Giglio’s hope for American is that its churches will become more like the church we read about in Acts 2: “the Spirit came, the Gospel was proclaimed, faith and repentance exploded and 3,000 people were baptized that day.”
(H/T: The Christian Post)