That is one of the hardest statements I have ever had to type, and I typed it on my Notes app during the last session of Passion 2017.
If you did not attend Passion 2017, or have never attended a Passion event, simply Google Passion Conferences or 268generation and research what it’s all about. I have been a supporter and participant in this movement ever since I attended Passion 2005 in Nashville, TN. God has used Passion in my life in important ways. And I will never speak negatively about something that is so powerfully emboldening an entire generation of college students.
In reflecting on this year’s conference, here are my reflections and hopes for those who have attended, myself included (and this generation as a whole):
1. Passion must be lived out and not just sung out.
There is always the potential that this type of experience only creates a public sort of passion that only shows up in public settings, as opposed to an inner passion that changes your entire life.
As a part of the Passion generation, I have been raised in the modern American church culture. This is a powerful thing to be a part of, but it must go deeper, or it will simply never sustain us. We must create honest communities where we do not simply put on the show that we many times do during worship services, but where our real lives – our real “non-mountaintop” experiences, our everyday routines, our relationships, and schedules – become the resting place for God in our lives and the mission field of His Gospel.
It’s a great concept to experience 50,000+ of your “best friends” worshipping God together, but it’s not how real life works. You need actual Christian friends who become family and who you become accountable to, brutally honest with, completely transparent in front of, and who allow you to actually work out the Gospel in your life by “burning away the dross” (credit to the classic worship song “Start a Fire”).
My hope is that God will make us a generation of passionate disciples. Who continue to ascend to the mountaintop to meet with Him in big and exciting ways, but who also quiet our souls, and still our lives, and experience the real-life, everyday love of His people.
2. We must continue to move from only an individual perspective on salvation to a more corporate one.
We must move from only encouraging people to work out the Gospel individually (between them and God) to moving people toward working it out in community.
One of the messages focused highly upon individual salvation. And that was the purpose of the message. So I do not fault the speaker. And an individual’s responsibility to respond to the call of salvation is important – don’t misunderstand me.
However, in preaching on individual salvation, the speaker overlooked parts of the passage that were calling for corporate transformation as a part of the Gospel. The speaker’s main focus was on the book of Ephesians. And in chapters 2 and 3 there are certainly references to one’s personal experience of the Gospel in our individual salvation. But there are also sections where it is obvious that the Scriptures are saying the Gospel must also be worked out in community – we read words like “united,” “together,” etc. Yes, individual salvation is important, but there is beauty in the work of God in the midst of groups of people (like the racial reconciliation we see happening in Ephesians 2).
The Gospel can best be fully experienced in community.
So while these sorts of conferences fulfill a fantastic purpose of encouraging us as individuals in our faith, the only way for the Gospel to really transform us is for us to do the hard work of building community. And the community in Ephesians 2 and 3 is a diverse community of people who lay down their own preferences for those around them. It’s a community of people who confess sin to one another, who encourage one another in their struggles, and who know the true power and love of God because of those around them (not simply as abstract concepts).
May my generation learn to be that sort of community, and not simply a “community of individuals” who only experience the effect of the Gospel vertically. My hope is that we participate in acts of social justice as a part of a genuine community, where we are surrounded by the very people we are fighting for, as we experience the transformation of the Gospel together!
3. The last reflection I have is the statement I started with that was so difficult for me to type: “I’m gonna need to crush your dreams to give you faith.”
This phrase was the culmination of what God was reminding me of during the entire event.
I was overwhelmed continuously during Passion 2017 with God’s faithfulness. I looked back upon my life (mostly the mess of my life) and saw how faithful God had been since 2005 when I last attended a Passion conference. It overwhelmed me so much the first night that I simply sat down, broke down in tears, and could not stop crying.
But the reason it overwhelmed me was not because I could look back and see an easy path I had traveled to this moment. Where God fulfilled everything I thought He would when I was a college student in 2005 looking forward to all I dreamed God had for me. Rather I looked back and saw a difficult road (certainly not as difficult as many others) that had many twists and turns, a handful of times of doubt, several changes of plans, and battle wounds not only from my own personal struggles but from the hands of others.
And sitting there I was reminded of how much this generation dreams (myself included). This is a generation of dreamers. And our dreams are good. But they are also dangerous.
Sometimes they are even “spiritual” dreams, dreams that involve Christianity. Some dream about being on a stage preaching, some dream about leading worship, others dream about their closest friends and family coming to faith. Still others simply dream about how their Christian life will work out (with their spouse and kids and great career). And while those dreams are not bad, they are also not always what God desires for our lives.
That is when this statement hit me like a rock:
I’m gonna need to crush your dreams to give you faith.
No it’s not the fun message we all love to hear. Nor is it a message I would ever jump at with excitement to preach. But it is the necessary one that we all need.
And it’s the testimony of my life and many others. The dreams that we have must die so that God’s desires can be fulfilled. I know that’s fairly counter-cultural for this generation to hear, especially after we’ve been told our whole lives we can be whatever we dream. But it’s the truth of the Gospel for our lives.
When we decide to follow Jesus, we decide to leave our dreams behind.
So my greatest desire for myself and for my entire generation is this: That we would learn to let go of our own lives in order to pick up Christ’s life. That we would not give into the Americanized version of Christianity that we sometimes hear or even believe, but that we would follow the Jesus whose own family disowned him, whose own friends denied him, and whose own people killed him. That’s the Jesus whose name we wear. And that’s the Jesus we must become for others. Who loved the very people who turn their backs on him, not the crowds or popularity or prosperity or even dreams…
If you missed the event and would like some highlights, here are mine:
The best time of worship was the afternoon session on the second day when Chris Tomlin led. His worship leading acumen allowed him to lead a dome full of people in honest worship to God. The power of that session came because Chris used songs people knew and allowed the peoples’ voices to be the focus (and not the instruments or his voice). The other sessions of worship were amazingly exciting – there was a ton of energy, joy, and dancing. But my favorite was the one with Chris Tomlin (not because it was him, but because of how he led in such an honest time of worship).
There was one new song that will likely be the new favorite worship song of the year (or next several years). It has one of the most powerful bridges I have ever heard. You can listen to that song here:
The bridge is the most powerful part as it directly addresses God by his roles in our lives (minute 3:55 in the video). These are the words: “You’re my Author, My maker, My ransom, My savior, My refuge, My hiding place; You’re my Helper, My healer, My blessed, redeemer, My answer, My saving grace; You’re my hope in the shadows, My strength in the battle, My anchor for all my days; You Stand by my side, And you stood in my place, Jesus no other name!”
Each of the preachers had important messages to share and did a great job confronting this generations greatest struggles. Here is a quick summary of each speaker (you can listen to each message by clicking on the speaker’s name):
- Christine Caine spoke on spiritual endurance and emphasized being faithful in the now to be fruitful in the future.
- John Piper shared the same message he usually does – desire God above all else – but he did it by saying we must hate the evil of preferring other things to God inside of us.
- Beth Moore spoke about a revival happening thru God doing in all of us what we usually expect he will only do in a few.
- Francis Chan prayed that God would do a miracle in us to help us know God deeper and walk in confidence of his power in us (and in our own thoughts or feelings).
- Louie Giglio gave the single most powerful presentation of the Gospel I have potentially ever heard by challenging us to see the cross/resurrection and actually believe it.
- Levi Lusko preached on a spiritual second wind. That we must embrace suffering and pain in order for God to use us in the ways he desires.