By Elizabeth Prata
The first problem I see with the Passion Conference is the social issue of slavery that the conference set the kids upon. It is a global cultural ill that existed at least since Abraham’s time and exists today. The conference leaders choose a cultural ill to ask the youth attendees to work toward. Last year and this year the social problem they have focused the kids on is sex trafficking and slavery in the world. They raised over three million dollars to donate to various partner groups. Here is the link to Passion 2013’s campaign “Freedom.”
I’d said in another post that doing good is good, but that ending slavery is an unrealistic goal. I’d said that Jesus could have ended poverty or slavery, but He didn’t. Revelation 18 shows us that in the Tribulation there will be a healthy slave trade in men and their souls that Jesus Himself stops at the very end. So this campaign will fail, because just by looking a the Bible we can see its futility.
That is not to say we don’t try. But the focus is all wrong. I’ll explain why in just a minute. Now I want to bring up the second issue that has been niggling at me. Adult attendees are not allowed. They are banned. They are not allowed to attend Passion conferences. Here is what the Passion website says [FYI Update- the conference still holds the same policy in 2023, FAQ page says except for the leader, other adults attending with youth for the 2024 conference are not allowed]
CAN PEOPLE OVER 25 ATTEND PASSION 2013?
If you are 26 years of age or older, you may only register to attend Passion 2013 as the leader of a group of students attending the conference or as a Door Holder. Leaders must have a ticket to attend. If you are a leader, we ask that you come with your students. Otherwise, we will need thousands of Door Holders to serve over the days of the conference. If you would like to serve, please fill out a Door Holder application here.
HOW MUCH OF THE CONFERENCE WILL I BE ABLE TO ATTEND?
Serving at a Passion conference does not allow for much participation in the conference itself. Please come willing to serve and fully aware that there may not be time to attend the conference at all.
For all the speakers’ talk of “community” the Passion conferences, they do much to divide it. They forbid parents, senior pastors, elders, and elder siblings from attending with the youth. Church community is a community of people from all ages. Yet I hear so much from the Passion people about “this generation.” There is so much emphasis on “this generation” that for all the world it looks like they are being separated from the herd. Read Titus 2.
We are instructed in the Bible that pastors, teachers and elders teach the young and that children must obey their parents. Now it is true that Youth Pastors attend with their flock, and that the youths attending are not children, but are of college age, but I maintain that any religious endeavor that specifically takes time to split the generations and deliver messages to youth only is not a good thing.
This conference does much to divide the church by capitalizing on a natural youthful zeal and diverts their attention from quiet submission in service to a local church. This co-opting of their zeal to solve a cultural or social ill is not biblical.
Youths haven’t had time or seasoning to determine what their spiritual gifts even are, let along set them on fire to spend money and energy in using them in what are vain attempts to solve an unsolvable social issue. Young adults of aged 18 -25 (the demographic of the Passion conferences), have not served in church long enough to have become seasoned by the Holy Spirit. They may not even know what their spiritual gift is. Even if they have a mere few years of service under their belt and have settled on their gift in ministry, they have not learned self-control in diverse circumstances yet. Frankly, they are too young to be ambassadors for Christ – absent senior oversight.
As to the issue of stamping out slavery in the world, here is what John MacArthur has to say about Slavery—
Although slavery is not uniformly condemned in either the Old or New Testaments, the sincere application of New Testament truths has repeatedly led to the elimination of its abusive tendencies. Where Christ’s love is lived in the power of His Spirit, unjust barriers and relationships are inevitably broken down. As the Roman empire disintegrated and eventually collapsed, the brutal, abused system of slavery collapsed with it—due in great measure to the influence of Christianity. … New Testament teaching does not focus on reforming and re structuring human systems, which are never the root cause of human problems. The issue is always the heart of man—which when wicked will corrupt the best of systems and when righteous will improve the worst. If men’s sinful hearts are not changed, they will find ways to oppress others regardless of whether or not there is actual slavery.
In Titus 2, Paul speaks about each of the generations that labor in the home church, and he issues exhortations to Titus as pastor on what each generation’s responsibility is. The responsibility is not to split the generations and to give the youth a charge separate from the elders outside their home church. It is to labor lovingly in quiet service within the bounds of their revealed spiritual gift. The young learning from the elder so that the young can learn submission and how to control their youthful zeal in appropriate ways with a proper model and parental oversight. That is how the church is set up.
I said above that I’d share why the focus of the slavery issue at Passion 2013 is wrong. There are not millions of slaves in the world. There are billions. Eight billion to be exact. Every person on this planet is a slave to Christ, or a slave to satan. If we are converted and saved by His grace, we are slaves to His righteousness, (Romans 6:18). If we are not saved, then we are in bondage to the devil. (Romans 6:16). The focus which the Passion people set the youth toward is all wrong because as MacArthur said above, the first priority of each Christian is to set humans free from satanic bondage. Cultural ills are solved through Christ’s love, not Passion conference money.
Just imagine of 60,000 youth were taught the powerful Gospel truthfully, and were set forth with focused zeal to evangelize in the real Jesus’s name back in their home spheres!
“For many Christians today, as throughout church history, the most important and fertile field for evangelism is the place where they work. That is their mission field. As in almost no other place, unbelievers have the opportunity to observe believers in day by day situations and activities. They see whether the believer is patient or impatient, kind or uncaring, selfless or selfish, honest or dishonest, clean or vulgar in his talk. They have the opportunity to see how well the Christian lives up to the faith he professes and the principles of the Scripture he claims to hold dear.” (Source)
The upshot is that there is a cumulative negative effect. No, giving money to a cause is not bad. Attending a conference is not bad. Being a volunteer and serving is not bad. But in my opinion, Passion 2013’s cumulative effect is bad. Look at it this way: the attendees were drawn to a large event with the tantalizing enticement of rock music, separated from senior pastors, elders, and parents for several days, drenched in a fishbowl of adrenaline fueled zeal, given half-truths to feed on, told by adored celebrity musicians and pastors they were a special generation, diverted their focus from service in church or campus to solving a global problem, encouraged to sacrifice their money, and turned back to their home churches or campuses as new leaven.
Let’s pray that the more kids than not, released back to home churches after Passion 2013, learn who the real slaves are: themselves, to Christ, and their unsaved community members, to satan.