On New Year's Eve, Atlanta's Philips Arena throbbed with the music of Widespread Panic. A few days later, the faint smell of marijuana still lingered as a different crowd gathered for its fourth day of loud, demonstrative worship. At center stage, Matt Redman struck up a new song for the nearly 20,000 college students who packed the arena. At least 3,000 more students in an adjacent venue watched the same image of Redman that Philips Arena projected on 12 screens. But this concert wasn't about Redman. Unlike other concerts, this event also projected lyrics. The words guided an animated throng to behold something bigger than the musicians on stage, something bigger than themselves.

We will shine like stars in the universe,
Holding out your truth in the darkest place.
We'll be living for your glory.

Two banners slowly climbed toward the ceiling, joining memorials for Atlanta Hawks basketball greats. Faint in the banners' background were the names of nearly 1,200 campuses represented in the audience.

We will burn so bright with your praise, O God,
And declare your light to this broken world.

In the banners' foreground were names of the world's great cities—Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Nairobi, Toronto. Finally, the spotlights dimmed, and black lights revealed S-H-I-N-E written down each banner.

Like the sun so radiantly, sending light for all to see,
Let your holy church arise!
Exploding into life like a supernova's light,
Set your holy church on fire!

Based on the success of songs performed at previous Passion conferences, "Shine" may soon become one of the evangelical church's most beloved songs. And it may be another reason this conference, like those before it going back 10 years, will set churches on fire. ...

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April 2007

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