Inside a vast ice hockey arena in downtown Toronto, shifting spotlights illuminate a sea of hands reaching toward heaven. The crowd roars as the words of a familiar song flash onto a huge screen, and the walls practically throb with the adrenaline-charged rock music pouring from the stage. Moments later a man named Louie Giglio takes the stage, and the crowd slowly quiets as he begins to talk about “a generation united for His renown.”

An unusual setup for a sports stadium? Not really. Since 1997, more than 500,000 college students have flocked to similar venues for just such an evening — a Passion modern worship conference. While Passion has many facets — Passion Worship CDs, the OneDay gatherings, sixstepsrecords, and the 268 Declaration — it all hinges on the conferences themselves and an almost inseparable entity: its music. And the side effects? They’ve been astounding; not the least of which is the global reach of this community’s songs. Passion’s worship leaders have given evangelical, charismatic and Catholic churches around the world new classics such as “Better is One Day,” “Holy is the Lord,” “Blessed be Your Name,” “Indescribable,” “How Great is Our God” and others.

Now, as we draw close to the 10-year anniversary of Passion’s inception, we are asking its founder and leader, Louie Giglio, to tell us the story of how it all began. Janet Chismar, meanwhile, connects with Passion’s two most high-profile worship leaders, David Crowder and Chris Tomlin, to reflect on Passion’s history and, personally, on the brotherhood they’ve established through years of leading worship for it. Join us to find out what it’s all about as CCM celebrates 10 years of Passion.

* * *

Over lunch at a college retreat in 1995, a professor at Florida State University asked if I had heard of the CIRP [Cooperative Institutional Research Program] Survey. Hearing my passion for students, he thought I’d be interested in the findings of this national gauge of collegiate life. Later that day I was holding in my hands the 1994 survey results, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

While not religious in nature, the survey poses two spiritual questions, one of which asks, “Do you consider yourself a born-again Christian?” I like the question because it’s more pointed than the innocuous options, “Are you a Christian?” or “Do you believe in God?” Of the quarter-million incoming freshman and transfer students who took the survey in 1994, almost 80 percent responded, “No.”

I was stunned. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen firsthand the desperate spiritual climate on the college campus, but suddenly my heart was captivated by the reality that there were more than 16 million college students across the nation. Sure, the CIRP Survey number only represented incoming students, but if extrapolated to include all students, over 13 million would awaken that day without an intimate relationship with the God who created them to know Him.

Somewhere in that moment, the “tipping point” happened for my wife, Shelley, and me. Our vision for university students, which for 10 years had been focused primarily on one campus, began to rapidly expand to encompass the campuses of the nation. But how do you alter such a staggering reality? How do you change the tide on the campuses of the nation?


Copyright © 2005 CCM Magazine, Used by Permission

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