Passion 2011 – Conference Review

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the Passion 2011 student conference in Atlanta.  A gathering of 22,000 college students and over a thousand volunteers that came together for the purpose of worship and justice.  Louie Giglio, Frances Chan, John Piper, Andy Stanley, & Beth Moore were all speakers.

The students were challenged to not just change their thinking, but also to “Do Something Now”.  10 different non-profit ministries were spotlighted at the conference.  The goal was to rais $470,000 to fund 10 different causes around the world (feeding 1,000 children in South Africa, homes built in Haiti, women rescued from sex slavery, Bibles sent to South America, surgeries in Uganda, and many more.  By the end of the 4 days, all 10 causes were fully funded and the giving total was over $1.1 million!  Along with this, over 18,000 towels and 80,000 pairs of socks were donated to the homeless of Atlanta.
What kind of ramen-eating college students are willing to open their wallets like this?  Stuff like this doesn’t happen without some serious life change. 

Since this is a music site, I’ll focus just on the music aspect of the conference for the remainder of this review.  Some worship heavyweights led worship for the students each session.  Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder, Charlie Hall, Kristian Stanfill, & Christy Nockels were all there for the main sessions.  After the main sessions each night, late night concerts were planned.  Lecrae, Gungor, & Tenth Avenue North handled these concerts.
I think the musical highlight for me was the opening number.  16,000 students were in Philips Arena (the home of the Atlanta Hawks) while another 6,000 were across the street at the convention center.  Chris Tomlin (joined by Kristian Stanfill & Christy Nockels) was leading off with his hit radio & church favorite “Our God” at Philips while Matt Redman led at the convention center with the same song.  Also accompanying them on stage was a full choir composed of worship leaders from across Atlanta & a full string section.  Halfway through the song, Lecrae came on stage rapping a verse of the song he had written for Passion 2011 (simultaneously synced up with the other arena(.  Such a cool energy-filled moment!
One thing that blows me away about Passion is the production.  I’ve seen a lot of concerts over the past few years.  I’ve seen every big Christian act and a ton of secular acts as well (Coldplay, Pearl Jam, U2, Tom Petty).  The production at Passion just blew every other live show I’ve seen away (except for the U2 360 tour which cost $25 million for the set and $750,000 a day to put on).  It’s always great to see Christians doing things first-class and not settling for second rate equipment and shows.
Say what you want about Chris Tomlin, but no one, and I mean no one writes anthems for the church like he does.  Sure, you hear him on the radio, and he puts on a good concert, but his songs are the heartbeat of worship services across the country.  Even though he just released an album less than two months before Passion 2011, the majority of the songs that he wrote were brand new songs, especially for the conference.  Not to mention, between his album being released and Passion 2011, the guy got married.  How he can juggle an album release, a wedding, and come up with a set of anthems like he did is way, way beyond me.  The guy is blessed!
The other pre-message worship sets by Crowder, Redman, Stanfill, Nockels, & Charlie Hall were top notch.  As I mentioned before, great production, but most much more important, heart-preparing worship.
I personally attended the Gungor late night session and was super impressed!  Their album was one of my favorites of last year, but their live show was so much better.  I was expecting more of a folksy worship set.  Sure, they did that.  They brought out a banjo and a melodica (I think.. I had to look this one up) and they had a killer strings section.  But some of their songs they just flat out rocked.  The post-rock they were playing reminded me more of the Thrice show I attended last spring.  The house went crazy when they played their radio hit “Beautiful Things”.  The funny, yet thought-provoking song “God Is Not a White Man” off their first album went over great too.  While they played that, the video was shown behind them.  I’m sure you can find it on youtube, it’s pretty funny.  Gungor was a nice surprise and I’m glad I was up late for their show.
I didn’t see the Tenth Avenue North or Lecrae shows, but I heard from so many people how great Lecrae did.  For a hip-hop artist, his appeal to the mostly white suburbanite kids was pretty amazing.
If you’re a college student, make plans to be in Atlanta next January.  If you’re out of college, join the volunteer crew.  You won’t be disappointed!
Did anyone else go?  What did I leave out that you wished I’d have included?

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