What Would Jesus Make of “Passion” Conferences?
The linked blog above raises some interesting questions about North American church conference culture. Good food for thought.
The article does not even address the extreme Calvinist bias of the Passion Conference event. John Piper is inexplicably given a platform each year to mold young minds. His views are often reckless and narrow. He tends to reduce the gospel to being equal to the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement. Too bad it didn’t exist for the first 1,000 years of church history. Oh, well. In reality, the Gospel is the whole story of God creating and redeeming fallen humanity in Jesus Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. What Jesus accomplished and what he offers to us is so much more than forgiveness. It is transformation. We become good news in a fallen world when we submit to his saving, transforming work.
Piper is passionate about what he believes, but what he believes is so bound up in rigid human-built interpretations that it confines the gospel to a tiny box. Yet he is put forth at these conferences as a brilliant theologian. (A brilliant theologian who says God is judging people when storms strike them.) His unquestioned celebrity at this event is without a doubt another weakness.
For me to take Passion seriously as anything other than a venue to sell music and books for Louis Giglio’s friends (and let’s face it by growing up best buddies with Andy Stanley he’s got some pretty cool and talented friends) it will need to offer some alternative voices, present a fuller picture of the gospel, and feature the music of lesser known disciples who create beautiful art in the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it should probably be offered as a local thing each community organizes right where real people sleep and go to work. (How can all these college students miss all these classes?) I have no doubt God will use Passion for good. But is it really the BEST use of kingdom resources? As cool as it is, probably not.
Let’s allow the Spirit to fill our lives right where we live. Lets live passionately in his power among those who know us. You don’t need to drive to a football stadium where you waive your smartphone candle app high above your head. Use the $200 + travel and meals to love and serve your neighbor through a local church that will help them become a full disciple of Jesus every day of the year.