(Photo: Passion Conference)
One of the year's biggest youth evangelism events ended today when Passion 2012 closed its 4-day conference at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Louie Giglio, the movement's founder, urged the audience of 42,000 college students to advance the Gospel of Christ in all that they do.
"Can we just stick a pin in the balloon that says, 'What is God's will for your life?" Giglio asked the roaring crowd in the part-church-service, part-rock-concert gathering as part of his closing remarks. "You don't have to wait to participate fully in the plans and purposes of God. It's now that God can use you."
Giglio said he founded the Passion movement in 1995, convinced that an untapped audience for the Gospel lies in the world's college students. This year's speakers included Passion conference regulars Francis Chan, John Piper and Beth Moore. It also featured music from Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall and other prominent Christian musicians.
This year’s Passion conference goal was to raise $1 million to fight slavery and human trafficking, but students donated an astounding total of $3.1 million as of Thursday morning, instead.
"Freedom is ringing all across the world because of us and your generosity in this moment," Giglio said after the total was tallied. "Can we just give God praise and not a number praise? The holy spirit just recalibrated what can be done."
Passion 2012's large bounty was built on $2.6 million in donations from students and another $500,000 from a private donor. It will fund a variety of anti-human trafficking projects, Giglio said, including recovery programs for former sex slaves, border stations to halt human traffic in Nepal and a prevention program which will teach an estimated 48,000 Ukrainians about ending their region's underground slave trade.
Such generous giving for a good cause, Giglio said, is evidence that college students can help change the world around them. The evangelical leader urged listeners to make praising God their top priority. By living out loud for the Lord, he said, they'd find their way forward in life with God's grace and blessings.
"Jesus has come on the scene and he has stretched out his hand to the funeral procession to awaken you to the reality that God can do anything and everything," Giglio said. "The day that happens is when you declare the power and mystery of the Gospel. That's why you're alive."
Such a mission, Giglio contended, isn't without hurdles marring the way. A particularly brutal barrier, he said, is the "brokenness" of adversity and hardship. Giglio cited the story of 20-year-old NASCAR racer Trevor Bayne, who won the Daytona 500 race last year, only to miss the rest of his season after contracting Lyme disease. Bayne's faith in God never wavered, Giglio said, and as such, the racer's remained strong no matter his misfortunes.
"Brokenness is the bow from which God launches the arrows of healing," said Giglio, who next introduced Bayne to an applauding audience. "If your past is brokenness, sorrow, disappointment or a mess, God says that's awesome. God's will for your life is right where you are right now."
Another attack on faith, Giglio concluded, is fear. He admitted to audience members that he initially worried about getting the Georgia Dome again for next year's conference, only to find the property is letting Passion return in 2013. Next year's conference will have full seating, meaning it could seat nearly 71,000 attendees. Sending off students to spread the conference's message, he told them to go and boldly declare the truth of Christ in all experiences they encountered.
"Out of brokenness, fearlessness," Giglio said. "The only thing I'm afraid of is living an insignificant life. When God shows up, everybody knows that God is in the house and everyone experiences an awakening from the dead."
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