The Passion Conference was founded by Louie Giglio and Jeff Lewis in 1997 and is known for their annual gatherings of college students and young adults. Since its inception about 48 events in sixteen countries have taken place. The first Passion Conference had about 2000 attendees and the growth has been dramatic as Passion 2013 had over 60,000 in attendance. The Passion 2014 in January was held in Atlanta at the Philips Arena with over 20,000 university students from more than 1,200 universities and 33 countries attended the two-day event.
They have featured many of the top Contemporary Christian Artists like David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, and even the very controversial Jesus Culture.
Some of their speakers have included John Piper, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, Judah Smith and Christine Caine (Hillsong pastrix).
What is dangerous about attending Passion Conferences? Simply put, by their guest musicians, speakers and their practices, Passion Conferences lack a passion for the truth.
Take their lack of discernment in their contemporary music guests. Jesus Culture was featured in Passion 2013. This group has its roots in the Bethel Church, a Charismatic church pastored by Bill Johnson in Redding, California. Bill Johnson and Jesus Culture believe apostles and prophets are still active today, and that tongues speaking, visions, revelations, and extra-Biblical prophesies should be sought. An outstanding example of his heresy is his endorsement of the notorious false prophet Todd Bentley in 2011, both before and after his divorce and moral sins. Johnson also teaches that believers who are sick have “allowed” the sickness into their lives and that those who are not healed should “realize it’s not God’s fault” and pray for a “greater anointing.” Bill Johnson and the Jesus Culture are indeed involved in deep heresy.
Passion Conferences have had very many speakers who promote the strange fire of charismatic movement. For example, Judah Smith spoke at Passion 2013. He and his wife are co-pastors at The City Church in Seattle. They also believe in the ongoing gifts of apostle and prophet in the church. Smith has spoken at the Lakewood Church, led by the gospel compromiser, Joel Osteen in June, 2013. Then Smith appeared with Osteen at the Hillsong Conference in July, 2013.
Louie Giglio also spoke at that Hillsong Conference 2013 and he spoke at it in 2012 as well. Those associations are disturbing and dangerous. Hillsong conferences that Giglio participated in featured speakers like Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, Jesus Culture, and the aforementioned Joel Osteen. His undiscerning cooperation with such heresy as the “word of faith” Joyce Meyer and T.D.Jakes is also very disturbing. Aligning oneself with false teachers is a direct attack against the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I saw recently that Passion 2015 will feature John Piper, Francis Chan, and Carl Lentz. Let’s consider the danger of Carl Lentz, the pastor of the rapidly growing Hillsong NYC. Charisma Magazine writes of him,
“Drawn by his concert like sermons and pop-idol looks, Lentz’s fast growing flock of groupies includes Justin Bieber, NBA superstars, and young Hollywood celebs,” Howie Kahn writes in Details. “But whom, exactly, is this new apostle of cool seeking to glorify?”
In an interview with Katie Couric, Lentz endorsed Joel Osteen and says he loves him and his ministry. Couric then asked Lentz, “Do you guys have positions on, say, gay marriage, and things like that?” Lentz answered Couric, “We have a stance on love; in everything else, we have a conversations.” He would not go beyond that and would not take a stand on God’s truth regarding marriage. He said, “Very rarely did Jesus ever speak about morality.” What a compromise, yet he is coming to Passion 2015. So Lentz, who believes in women pastors and refuses to take a clear stand against homosexuality will speak with John Piper, who has taken clear stands on those things. Piper, however, by speaking with someone like Lentz, gives endorsement and approval of Lentz’s doctrinal error. This confusion is dangerous.
Finally, Passion Conferences have engaged in very dangerous practices rooted in Roman Catholic mysticism. Passion 2012 featured a Lectio Divina, led by John Piper, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, and Louie Giglio. Now most people, including the thousands of college students at the Passion Conference, probably had little idea what Lectio Divina meant. The term itself means “divine reading” but it is rooted in Roman Catholic mystical practice. It could easily seduce those involved to search out other Roman Catholic mystics and even return to Rome. Dangerous indeed.
I believe we need to warn our young people of the danger of the Passion Conferences. In reality they do not have a passion for truth, for holiness, and for the power of the Gospel to save.
Matt Recker is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in New York City.
- http://www.freshfireusa.com/writings/view/124-Update-from-Bill-Johnson-on-Todd-Bentley [↩]
- Jakes is also a long-time denier of the Trinity, in spite of somewhat ambiguously modifying his views in 2012 [↩]
- http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/church-ministry/18768-hillsong-nyc-s-carl-lentz-dubbed-apostle-of-cool-by-secular-men-s-mag [↩]
- See the interview here: http://apprising.org/2014/06/07/pastor-carl-lentz-using-bait-and-switch-with-homosexuality/ [↩]