More than 18,000 college students converged on the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville Jan. 2-5, to answer the heart-rending call to love God with utter abandon at the Passion 06 Conference.
With students coming from all 50 states and from 20 countries, the conference reached its capacity of 18,000 last week, forcing registration to close. This years figures surpassed by far the 11,000 that attended last years Passion 05. Even walk-in registration was closed ahead of the conference.
We told you at the end of Passion 05 to bring your friends and apparently you took us up on that challenge because we cannot fit one more person in this building, said Louie Giglio, Passion Conference founder and director, at the gatherings opening session.
In Wednesday evenings general session, Giglio took students on a journey into the universe to understand Gods immense size and the minuteness of humans.
The heavens are telling us two things every single day, when we just look up into the sky, Giglio said. One thing is that God is huge. He is way bigger than we think He is. This God we are dealing with is enormous in size. The second thing they tell us is that we are really, really, really small. You and I are tiny in the cosmos. Sin is so powerful and it puffs us up and we start thinking that we are so mighty in this scheme of things. But the heavens remind us that we are really small.
According to reports, college students are bombarded with messages of hedonism. More than one in three U.S. students regularly drinking heavily, and fifty percent of college freshman have already had sex before reaching the college campus.
As a consequence, nearly half of all college students report feeling so depressed at some point in time that they have trouble functioning, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students and Christian students are no different.
Passion Conferences challenge Christians to live with Christ in them. With God as their center, they can overcome the challenges that surround them, said Giglio.
At the Passion 05 Conference, Giglio said the only way to conquer sexual immorality and other sins is to allow the self to die, admitting a total incapability of living without God and to accept the free gift of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ in whom is "the hope of glory," as stated in Colossians 1:24-27.
Passion was founded in 1997 by Giglio a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his wife, Shelley, as an outgrowth of their student ministry at Baylor University, and has now reached hundreds of students on an international basis.
The popular conference is reminiscent of the major gatherings between 1997 and 1999 that attracted tens of thousands of collegians and sold millions of records that launched the Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) movement that spun off notables such as Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, and the David Crowder Band.
"We're a people passionate for God, surrendered to His glory, eager to spread His fame," Giglio said on the Passion website.
Officially titled, "A Generation United For His Renown," the Passion conference is based on Isaiah 26:8 and the Passion ministry's "268 Generation" core concept of calling students everywhere to discover what it means to live for the glory of God on their campuses and throughout the world.
An attendant for two consecutive years, Leslie Scroggins said the conference helped her in her walk of faith to rely on Christ.
The 22-year-old graduate student at the University of Mississippi said to The Tennessean, "I've grown up in a Christian home, but for some reason last year, I just realized the power that Christ has inside of us. I think that clicked for me in ways it never has before."
Giglio on Wednesday urged students to live their faith and share it with others.
"We win when our lives are in the hands of God," he said. "We can change a nation. We can change a culture."
Passion is a tiny speck in what God is doing among college students in this nation and the world, the conference founder and worship leader explained, but we have been praying for months that God would change you and that generations from now, people would be talking about what God has done in this town, in these days, in your life.
Other popular speakers at the conference included Beth Moore, author and founder of Living Proof Ministries, on Tuesday night, and John Piper, among others. Worship artists included Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, Charlie Hall, Matt Redman, Shane and Shane, Nathan and Christy Nockels, and more.
Mary Ellen Vaughn, a 20-year-old native from Paris, Tenn., said attending the conference and meeting other Christian collegians has been encouraging for her.
"Bringing glory to God because of God's grace, that's been pushed mega," she told The Jackson Sun. "God is not just a priority in our lives. He is it. He is our lives."