The Ripple Effects of Passion 97 and Beyond

Checking my twitter this morning, I found out that Passion 2011 Atlanta is underway.  I clicked on the livefeed, and a flood of memories came sweeping over me, taking me all the way back to Passion 97 in Austin, Texas.  I have a suspicion that thousands were changed during these conferences.  I’d like to share my story….

I was part of college group from Louisiana Tech who had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  God rocked our world in Austin 1997: a Copernican Revolution, centering our world’s on God.  The singing was God-centered, the praying was Holy Spirit saturated, and the preaching was Christ-exalting.

What I remember the most was John Piper’s talks.  He shocked me, or specifically, he ticked me off.  After his first talk, I remember talking with my college minister, Len Woods, saying, “How dare he say that I am not the center of God’s universe.  Didn’t God send His Son to die for me?!”  This was my first exposure to Reformed preaching, and it completely left me undone.  Len gently reaffirmed the biblical truths of Piper’s message and said, “If you so strongly disagree with him, why don’t you buy his book (Desiring God) and think about it some more?”

So, that’s exactly what I did.  It was my first serious theological book, and it was a very hard book for me to read.  I got a hold of Piper’s messages (Part 1 & Part 2), I listened to them hundreds of times.  I was encouraged to hear that Matt Chandler told Mark Dever in a recent interview that he also wore out Piper’s Passion 97 talks.  God used Passion & Piper to show me how God’s sovereignty, passionate worship, and missions are indissolubly  interconnected in Christ.  A large reason why I am a missionary in the Presbyterian Church in America is a result of these conferences.  We attended Passion every year until One Day 2000 at Shelby Farms in Memphis, TN.  It was crazy to see how the Passion Conferences grew exponentially each year from 3,000 in Austin (1997) to 50,000 in Memphis (2000).

I wonder how God has used the Passion Conferences in the lives of others?  My small band of college students who attended Passion were all changed dramatically.  As for me, God confirmed that I was to marry Sandi and that we were called to foreign missions.  It was probably the closest thing to revival that I have been a part of.  Simply put, I would not be where I am today without God working through Passion.  I am now married to Sandi; we have four girls and we are working in Peru helping a church planting network.

How did God use Passion in your life?  I would love to hear your story.

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One thought on “The Ripple Effects of Passion 97 and Beyond

  1. My memories of Passion ’97?

    I was struck first (and perhaps most powerfully) by the praise and worship. True confession: I’m admittedly not a musical guy. That first night as the worship team fired up, I guess I assumed we’d sing 4-5 songs for, oh, 15-20 minutes. Then we would get on to the “real” purpose for our gathering–the preaching of the Word, by Giglio and Piper and those other big-name, heavyweight preacher guys. (Can you tell I went to DTS?!)

    But the singing wasn’t a “warm-up.” It wasn’t just a perfunctory something they did to kill a little time. It went ON and ON. We sang choruses again and again and again. I didn’t know most of the songs. I remember being a bit concerned (is this going to get “out-of-control”?). And I was very self-aware, and really antsy (as if I had some place else to be).

    When the music eventually stopped, I was, frankly, relieved. The speaker did his deal–a guy in a wheelchair named Dave Busby, maybe?–and it was really powerful. Then we worshiped in song some MORE–actually a bunch more. (Those Passion people were a singing bunch of folks!)

    The next morning, an amazing thing happened. Another meeting, same format. Lots–and I do mean LOTS–of singing. But I found myself strangely getting into it, giving up control, losing myself in the beauty of the notes and voices. And such great lyrics. Beautiful, rich, God-centered, lyrics. I don’t know if I can describe it…I felt very small and insignificant, but part of something hugely significant–if that makes any sense at all. I felt overwhelmed an yet also safe. It seemed like God was there in a palpable way. “In him we live and move and have our being”–perhaps like that? I felt more alive than I’d felt in a long time. I felt mournful to have lived so much life and to have been so content for so long with such a paltry and/or distant view of God. I felt happy and full of awe (awe-full in the best sense?). I do think I did get a small taste of heaven. I remember also the night we all prayed out loud at the same time. The hum of all those personal supplications and praises lifted up together becoming a muffled roar, and, again, the Presence being tangible (at least to me).

    Passion ’97 was my introduction to John Piper. For some reason, I gravitated toward one of his lesser-known books, The Supremacy of God in Preaching. I read it like a homeless man wolfs down a delicious, substantial meal. I feasted. Not long after that, I preached a message from Leviticus, and felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Unction? Anointing? I wasn’t trying to imitate Piper, but in my prep that week (and in my delivery) I think I saw the holiness of God like I never had quite seen it before. And somehow maybe I was able to let our church get a small glimpse of that. Never had so many positive comments after a sermon (before or since!)

    A life-altering experience to be sure!

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