January 11th, 2011
12:00 PM ET
By Steve Almasy, CNN
The Passion conference is more than just a huge gathering of college-age kids, organizers say. the recent Atlanta conference was a call for the next generation to make Jesus a focal point in their lives and to share that passion with others, they said.
"Church was never meant to be an island of self-indulgence, but a missional community of Jesus-followers so in love with Him that they can do nothing else but carry His name to the world," pastor Louie Giglio said in an e-mail this week.
The event drew more than 22,000 students to the Georgia capital's convention center and to Philips Arena. It was even more successful than Giglio had hoped for.
"It is truly inspiring to see a generation that is so hungry for an authentic encounter with Jesus ... one that exchanges consumer-driven Christ for Christ-centered obedience," said Giglio.
One of the main spots at the conference, a convention floor full of booths for 10 carefully selected charities that the Passion movement works with throughout the year. The call went out to the college kids to spend time at the exhibits and find one that moved them.
On a Monday night, the third of a four-day event, thousands of kids dressed in t-shirts and jeans weaved their way through the exhibits. They took brochures and enthusiastically chatted as volunteers explained what each cause was about.
The stereotype is that college kids never have much money, but these kids dug deep. Some even brought in containers filled with money they had raised or saved.
Some donated what little money they had, some brought material goods, many gave from there hearts, officials said. Every charitable goal was surpassed, not by a little but by a lot.
The goal was to raise $500,000 for the charities, but after the conference, Do Something Now, the fundraising campaign of the Passion Conferences, announced that it had raised $1.1 million for Compassion International, Hope International, Haiti Transformed, International Justice Mission, Bibles Unbound, World Made Flesh, Joint Aid Management, Cure International, Living Water International, and the Atlanta Mission and City of Refuge (kids brought socks and towels for the homeless).
Giglio says it is compelling to see 18- to 22-year-olds giving to the causes that matter most.
"The fact that 22,000 university-aged young people would journey to Atlanta and gather for the name of Jesus is staggering in and of itself," he wrote. "But the fact that, as a result of His grace in their lives, they would pool their resources to the tune of $1.1 million to fund 10 local and global causes signifies a massive shift."
Students got to hear from pastor John Piper, who returned from an eight-month leave of absence, Francis Chan, and Beth Moore. The students sat intently, many taking notes, writing down the references to scripture passages. Afterward, they left, so moved barely a word was uttered.
They also were treated to warm up music from Chris Tomlin and his fellow artists on the sixstepsrecords label. The resulting live album (yet to be titled) will be released March 8. Last year's CD went to No. 1 on the Christian charts and featured the radio single "Our God."
A second Passion event is scheduled for April 1 in Fort Worth, Texas. Tickets are still available, a spokesperson said.
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