(Photo: Andrew Shepherd)
Francis Chan, bestselling author of Crazy Love and founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., says Christians can't take the issue of human trafficking lightly, and throwing a few dollars at the problem won't solve it.
"We talk about human trafficking. The solution to human trafficking is making disciples,” Chan told tens of thousands of college students at the Passion 2012 conference this week. “That's a solution. It's changing people's hearts, because some of the people that you go to school with, some of them will be the victims of human trafficking and some of them will be the culprits of it."
Over 40,000 college students have gathered at Atlanta's Georgia Dome stadium this week for the sold-out conference, while many others have watched it through streaming or live video on their computers.
Organizers of the Passion 2012 say that, in addition to leading students to faithfully follow God, they hope to also raise $1 million to fight human trafficking and awaken people to the terrible realities of slavery and the sex trade.
According to the conference website, there are over 27 million people enslaved in the world today.
Chan was visibly emotional about the problem when he first began speaking, and he encouraged students to do more than just give money to fight human trafficking.
"I don't even like calling it 'human trafficking,' I like calling it 'little kids are being raped repeatedly right now, and that should break our hearts,’” he said.
People can't be casual about it, he added, and they must be “completely undignified” in their actions in order to really make a difference.
The Passion movement was founded in 1995 by Louie Giglio, who felt God wanted him to help college students understand the reality of the glorious God. Passion 2012 began Monday and concluded early Thursday afternoon.
In the bulk of Chan's sermon, which was focused on getting listeners to trust and obey God's Word, he admitted that at times he has been ashamed of the Gospel message.
“I was thinking about a lot of times when I am ashamed of the Gospel,” he said.
“I'm not ashamed when I'm in this room with a bunch of other believers, but I'm saying, 'God, I want to be a person who's just never ashamed.’"
He also encouraged those in attendance to read the Bible for themselves in order to avoid being deceived and so they can know what God wants them to do with their lives.
"I want to just stand here and beg you to read this book for yourself...I think the greatest thing that could happen is for many of you to leave here serious about this book, seriously believing in the promises of this book,” he said.
Part of believing in the Bible's promises is understanding that there is a literal hell, he explained, a topic he recently wrote about in his book, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity And The Things We Made Up.
Chan says God's use of hell as punishment for sinners is consistent with the wrath He displays in the Bible during events like the great flood during the time of Noah, the killing of the firstborn in Egypt and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
"I'm a simple guy. I just read this and it, I don't know, it seems to flow with everything else He's done,” said Chan. “But we try to beautify everything. You know, we take the story of Noah's ark and we go, 'Oh, it was so beautiful.' And your parents paint it in your nursery when you're growing up and there's two giraffes sticking their head out the window...Everyone's happy. And I doubt your parents painted all the people drowning. Did we forget that's a story about God killing everyone on earth?"
In April 2010, Chan left Cornerstone Church to pursue what he felt was a new calling on his life. Today he is working to create a church planting movement in San Francisco and hopes to launch a national discipleship movement as well, according to his website. He lives with his wife, Lisa, and their five children in Northern California.
In his final prayer following his sermon, Chan kneeled on the stage and said to God, "We want to see you. We don't want to make anything up Lord. We want to believe your Word."