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Collegiate events stretch studentsí worldviews, help clarify callingscomment (0)

January 13, 2005

With a pop band on stage and more than 11,000 young adults singing along, the scene looked more like a concert than a worship service.
But the band and audience were singing praises to God at Passion ‘05, a four-day event in Nashville, the city known as the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” The event, which concluded Jan. 5, drew high school and college students from across the country and eight foreign nations to a downtown arena where the NHL’s Nashville Predators play hockey.
Featuring Christian bands and nationally known speakers, Passion ‘05 was designed to invigorate campus ministries nationwide by building enthusiasm among the most faithful students. 
It was among the largest assemblies in recent years that have fed a surging youth interest in Christian spirituality.
“We really see a movement of college students who want to live for God in a significant way,” said Matt Morris, a volunteer program coordinator for the event.
The passion behind Passion ‘05 came from Louie Giglio, who in 1996 left his ministry at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and founded Choice Ministries. Choice has been the parent organization for similar events across the country, including OneDay, which drew some 40,000 students in 2000 for a single day of prayer in Memphis. Organizers say the events are inspired by Isaiah 26:8, which says “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”
Choice Ministries also is a parent organization to a record label with four Christian artists. Seven albums inspired by the Passion and OneDay events together have sold more than 1.2 million copies.
In Nashville, students sang and swayed as the label’s artists — Charlie Hall, David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman — performed amid a swirl of lights and video images. The students in turn cheered and prayed as Giglio joined John Piper and Beth Moore, both authors and speakers, to address the crowd.
Students gathered in smaller groups to discuss Scripture and pray in sessions that were led by pastors and campus ministers from across the country. For some, these groups ended with hugs and tears.
Chuck Phillips of Cafe 1040, an organization that trains missionaries, was looking for recruits. He said he was struck by the number of students who at such a young age already had plans for lives of international missions work. He said students are even choosing college majors such as computer science and construction because they want skills they think will be valuable to the work force of a country, such as China, that does not welcome full-time missionaries.
Phillips called Passion ‘05 just a small representation of what is happening coast to coast.
“It’s just scratching the surface,” Phillips said. “There is a huge movement afoot on college campuses. These are just the ones who were able to get here.”
A similar event took place recently in Birmingham, where for five days, more than 250 college students wrestled with their response to God’s call during the inaugural Antiphony conference at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. 
The event was co-sponsored by Passport — a Birmingham-based organization that operates summer camps for youth and children as well as other ministries. Other sponsors included Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
During a worship session, speaker Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, told students the call to Christ comes above any vocational or ministry calling they might feel. 
For students struggling to discern vocational calls, Pennington-Russell said the answer is often not quickly spoken. “The Holy Spirit sometimes takes a long time to say what’s worthwhile,” she said.
During the meeting, students were offered plenty of help in the discernment process. 
They had their choice of more than 25 different topical discussion sessions, called “chat rooms,” and were assigned to small “D-groups,” or discernment groups, where they grappled together with how to hear God’s call and overcome hurdles that prevent clarity in spiritual direction.
While each person’s call varies, Pennington-Russell told the students, they should aim beyond their expectations. 
“Jesus’ mission involved setting people free from a life too small. Whatever shape your answer takes, let it have some greatness in it,” she said.
Tom Graves, president of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, echoed the challenge to greatness. “Your life needs to count for much. Dream for more, hope for more, expect more,” Graves said during worship Sunday. “Your life can really make a big, miraculous difference.” (RNS, ABP)
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