Louie Giglio: Church Splits, Passion, and God's Presence

LOUIE GIGLIO leads the global Passion movement started in 1997 and in 2005 founded Passion City Church in Atlanta. His efforts to engage the college moment have reached millions of young adults throughout the world. Read more about Passion 2012 and the 268 Generation.

CONNECTION TO OUTREACH: Giglio was featured in the January/February 2012 issue in The Outreach Interview.


You’ve said you don’t have any baggage from your experience in the church [When Giglio was 11, his church split, dwindling from 3,000 to 300 attendees over several months]. And perhaps that enables you to lead from a pure standpoint. But what about those pastors or leaders who do have emotional baggage and have not dealt with it? Is it possible to have baggage yet not lead out of that place?

I can say I have no baggage, and that’s a big statement. But the truth is we all have baggage. We all lead out of disappointment in some way. There is something in the bent part of our humanness to prove something: “Well, I was hurt and disappointed, so I’m going to prove this.” Fill in the blank. 

I have some of that, but there was a point in those early days at First Baptist where it all became about Jesus for me. And when it did, everything was OK. I placed whatever baggage I carried through my Jesus filter. I settled it early on in my life that Jesus is perfect; the church is imperfect. And I still believe that. I still believe the church is jacked-up. But I have more passion for Jesus than I have baggage about the church and all its shortcomings.That’s the well I want to pull from.

What did the split do to you as a young Christian?

It, honestly, made me want to rally around truth. Because even at that age, I felt like it was a division over spiritual values. I could sense that it was the old wineskins versus the new. Much of my adolescence was spent sitting on the front row watching 300 Christians come together and become one of the great churches of our lifetime—and that’s Charles Stanley at [his] peak, First Baptist at its peak, InTouch Ministries at its peak. I watched that all happen.

What I learned was “Word of God” and “presence of God.” That’s how you do ministry. That’s all you need. I have taken that and infused it into my life and ministry. What I did at Baylor with the Bible study, it was Word of God, presence of God. That’s the only reason a tenth of the student body would show up on a Monday night. Eleven years with 7:22? Word of God, presence of God. What makes Passion what it is? Word of God, presence of God. Passion City Church? Word of God, presence of God.

That stamp is our DNA. It’s what makes me confident in a gimmickless path. And I think this all came out of me watching that church of 300 find its wings.

James P. Long
James P. Longhttp://JamesPLong.com

James P. Long is the editor of Outreach magazine and is the author of a number of books, including Why Is God Silent When We Need Him the Most?