40,000 U.S. Christian college students crowded three stadiums in Houston and Atlanta for three days of soul-freeing worship concerts led by heavy-weight CCM artists and messages by influential evangelical leaders for one reason - to lift up the name of Jesus. Since the first day the event, "#Passion2016" has been trending on Twitter.
With the theme "The Jesus Generation United for His Fame," Passion 2016 features Louie Giglio, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill, and Brett Younker, with special guests John Piper, Christine Caine, Ravi Zacharias, Hillsong United and Rend Collective. This year's conference is held on Jan. 2-4, and all sessions can be watched live online at the event's website.
In the opening session, Passion Conferences founder Louie Giglio delivered the first message, with Grammy winner Matt Redman leading the praise and worship. Without wasting any time, Giglio launched the new year for the mostly 18-25-year-olds gathered at the stadiums:
"The invitation for everyone is to come and see what God has done. We will see that Jesus is alive. He is risen," he said, tweeted Ravi Zacharias. "Resurrection is most investigated event in history. Instead of unraveling it, most unravelers end up putting faith in Jesus."
"We come & understand that possibility of personal relationship with God is now a reality for every single person," said Giglio, who has led Passion Conferences since 1997 in reaching demographics of college students, which numbered at 20 million in 2013.
Passion Conference, also known as 268 Generation, originally named Choice Ministries, have operated as a national conference and, in 2008, a global one for the purpose of "...uniting students in worship and prayer for spiritual awakening in this generation." Their theme verse is from Isaiah 26:8: "Yes Lord, walking in the way of Your truth we will wait eagerly for You, for Your name and renown are the desire of our souls."
Passion Conferences are responsible for the Passion Worship CDs and the church planting of Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA. For the last five consecutive years, Passion Worship Albums have won first place in Christian Albums and from 2012-2014 placed among the top five in Billboard's 200.
Past speakers include John Piper, Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, Beth Moore, Judah Smith, Christine Caine, Carl Lentz, Lecrae, Gary Haugen, Ben Stuard, and Matt Chandler. Other artists that have performed include Lecrae, Hillsong United, Kari Jobe, Tenth Avenue North, Shane and Shane, SonicFlood and Gungor.
After Giglio's message, David Crowder, Matt Redman, Hillsong United, Rend Collective each led the crowd of students in a night of worship.
"Hillsong was on stage and the whole stadium went silent and Oceans started and everyone cheered and it was incredible. #passion2016," Bailey the Elf posted on Twitter.
After midnight, participants posted pictures of their uncontained excitements from the first night session.
"Passion2016 started really strong tonight. Can't wait to see where the rest of our time in God's presence takes us," tweeted Caitlyn.
While the first day of the conference has ended, the schedule on the website shows five more sessions, with four on Sunday and one on Monday morning. Passion 2016 schedule, live stream, and replay video can be found on the event's website here.