This past week my wife and I took a few college students and young singles to Passion Conference 2017. While we have frequented Passion City Church in the past and have followed the Passion Movement for quite some time, this was our first experience in the environment. While there was much to takeaway—like feeling the need to go buy some jeans with holes in the knees, or rethinking dinner when 55,000 students and young singles are sent out to eat—I jotted three things down in my Moleskine that God placed on my heart during the conference.
- Millennials seem to flourish when people faithfully invest in them.
Passion Conference, or the Passion Movement was birthed in the heart of Louie and Shelley Giglio and began in 1997 with somewhere between two and three thousand students. Twenty years later that number has grown to over 55,000. And if you think about the number of students that have been influenced and impacted by Passion (not on the conferences, but the music, and resources) within that twenty-year period, I’m sure that it’s in the millions.
As I observed the students within the three days, including the ones that we brought, there seemed to be an appreciation and reception for the older generation investing in them. When the older generation turns behind to pour their life into the generations behind them, those generations tend to flourish. For instance, the psalmist (in a few places) talks about the desire to invest and tell other generations about the greatness of God. In Psalm 71 he writes, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” He also writes in Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
Biblically and generally speaking, when the older generation intentionally invested in the coming generation, telling them about the Lord and His greatness, they (the younger generation) typically experienced flourishing.
However, if you read Judges 2, you’ll find that an older generation forgot or neglected to invest in the younger generation, which became detrimental to the Israelite people. Judges 2:10 notes, “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers [along with Joshua]. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” There seems to be negligence on the older generation’s part investing in the coming generation. As a result, the coming generation floundered, not flourished.
- Millennials seem to have a hunger and passion for substance.
One of the aspects that I loved about Passion was the music. The music was phenomenal as the artists and leaders lead with authenticity, energy, and passion (no pun intended). In addition, the songs they sang seemed to flow from a wrestling with and embracement of the truth of God’s word. As they led, regardless of the song, I witnessed a generation lifting their hands to the sky as if they were pledging their lives to the truth contained within the songs.
I know that young people are making some of the most important decisions of their life—many of whom come from difficult, broken, damaged, and dark environments. In their stage of life, they are choosing their friends, who they will be, where they will go to school, what they will study, the field in which they will work, and who they will marry. With these things swirling around their hearts and minds, I believe there is something going on within young people—maybe more inherent rather than cognitive—that craves substance, craves hope, craves truth, and craves an anchor for their lives. You can see that hunger and passion as they extend their hands and hearts towards heaven praising, glorifying, and worshipping Christ with every ounce of energy and emotion they have.
- Millennials have the potential for great and deep impact in the world.
Jesus had twelve disciples whom He chose to invest in, and whom He would send out into the world. In addition, after His ascension, there were 120 in the upper room waiting on the Holy Spirit so that they could embark on Christ’s mission. If you think about it, as few as 12 or as many as 120 people went on to change the course of world history.
Those who sold all to follow Jesus, died to self, and offered their bodies as living sacrifices to be filled by the Spirit and who were spent for the glory of Christ went on to infect and impact the world.
A few times throughout the conference, during times when the Georgia Dome was dark, the students would turn the lights of their smartphones on and point them outward—bringing light to a dark dome. As they did this, it was a vivid reminder that we are the light of Christ shining in the dark world. Not only this, it was also a reminder of the power of the church standing together shining the light of Christ, for when the majority of students turned their little phone light on, holding it up for all to see, the whole Georgia Dome became lit.
If Jesus went on to change the course of world history through 120, He can (and wants to) change the course of the 21st Century and beyond. In fact, anytime Jesus moved in history it usually could be traced back to young adults who were sold out to the glory and good news of Christ.
Can you imagine what God could do with just the 55,000 students and young singles who gathered in the Georgia Dome?
Add to that number all the students and young singles who weren’t there, but who are just as appreciative and receptive to being invested in, who are just as hungry and passionate about truth? The reality is, there would be a massive tidal wave that collided with the 21st Century here on planet earth.
In short, God through these three things confirmed why Joannie and I have a heart for the coming generation. So, to put our hands where are hearts are, we want to personally invest in this generation. In doing so, we are beginning a College and Young Singles Ministry (along with Brian and Carla Combs) at Springdale. Our desire and vision is to see a vibrant, reproductive, missional ministry of college and young single who serve as ministry and mission catalysts for Springdale. If you are a college student or young single, or know of one, keep your ears open for what’s coming down the pipeline!