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Passion, Revisited: Remembering When I Was Radical for Christ

Jan 11 2016
How can we stay ‘sold out’ for our faith?

What would my 20 year-old self think of me now?

Last week, I sat in an arena with 20,000 college students, asking this question. The Passion Conference—simultaneously hosted at three arenas in Atlanta and Houston (with a combined attendance of 40,000 students)—felt like a time machine. It was as big and amazing as 15 years before, when I sat in a similar arena with a similar group of students, praising God and dreaming of a radical life for Christ.

Back then, I believed anything was possible. Anything. Nothing was too great for God. I had countless friends giving sacrificially, sharing faith without fear, and traveling overseas as missionaries. That’s what we thought it meant to be Christian, and that’s what I committed to, for the rest of my life.

Attending the Passion Conference again so many years later felt like going to a wedding and remembering my vows. It reminded me of my promises and my dreams. It was also a heck of a gut check; I’m not the same person I was back then, and ever since I came home last week, I wondered why.

As I grew up, I went through a holy winnowing of my motives. Not all of my dreams as a young college student were really about God. Some of the “glory” I dreamed of was my own. The excitement, adrenaline, and all-in commitment to Christ—a lot of it was contingent upon my own success. I envisioned standing on the Passion stage one day, and those crowds would be mesmerized by me.

God stripped away a lot of that selfish ambition, but not all of the changes since I first went to Passion have been for the better. If I could sit down with my younger self—or the students attending Passion today—I’d tell them about some of the unexpected challenges to being “radical” as an adult. Being passionate for the long haul will probably look different than they think:

Be radical with your finances.

In a single weekend, the students at Passion 2016 raised more than $800,000 for Syrian refugees. These conferences have raised millions over the years, and their focus on charity sets a strong precedent for how young people think about discipleship.

However, sacrificial giving feels easier when you’re young. That’s because cutting into your budget, and living below your means, isn’t as much of a challenge when your peers are standing on the same financial ground. The further we get into adulthood, the ease of giving changes due to a counterintuitive tendency in our human nature: the more money you have, the harder it is to give it away. And, the more money your friends have, the harder it is to live at a standard below them. I suspect that is why so many Americans struggle with debt: it’s difficult to decide to live below your means.

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Passion, Revisited: Remembering When I Was Radical for Christ