To have 40 000 gathered at Loftus and 30,000 at Cape Town Stadium in one weekend for a Music Tour is a big deal. The Passion SA Tour was sold out this past weekend at both venues. As the masses filtered into the stadiums early there was an exciting buzz of expectation as people readied themselves to worship Jesus alongside churches from all over our nation.
I flew in from PE on Saturday morning to join the Cape Town crowd, with many others driving or flying in from the Friendly City. Enroute to the stadium, a local Cape Townian, who has attended many music events in the city, expressed concerns that typically the concerts she had been to in the stadium didn’t sound great. Later that night, she turned to me and said, “Oh wow, it really sounds good”. She would also go on to say she had never been to a concert there that was so packed out.
BIG OPENER, BIG PRODUCTION
The event started late, several minutes after 7pm, but the crowds warmed themselves up with a few Mexican waves. Eventually the worship experience launched off with a big creative video showing a montage of clips including local footage, with excellent light design, at least 6 cameras, stage haze and these words onscreen; “… Welcome to Passion 2016… We are the Jesus generation united for His fame. His name and His renown are the desires of our hearts… We are One Body … JESUS”. The Passion Band entered the stage as these words came up and the crowd erupted with cheers and applause, but they went mad at that last word spelt out onscreen J.E.S.U.S. The opening video and that name, Jesus, climaxing with Kristian Stanfill leading us in the first song; ‘The Lord our God is ever faithful’. Kristian interjected; “It’s a beautiful night, in a beautiful city, with beautiful people. 30 000 voices”, followed by the title song from the new 2016 Passion album Salvation’s Tide is Rising.
HELLO CAPE TOWN!
Chris Tomlin was up next; “Hello, Cape Town. What a beautiful night, this is incredible. Such a privilege to stand and sing these songs with you tonight. Thank you so much, you have no idea. This night is going to be one to remember… So I’ve been excited about singing this [next] song in Cape Town, because I don’t know if it’s made it over here yet!? It’s a song we’ve been singing around the States and at Passion this year called Good, Good Father“. The crowds went wild. “I mean, that’s what I love about you guys, you’re just so far ahead of the game…” He went on to invite those who had not yet heard the song to receive the love of the Father that night.
The heart of Passion is clearly to partner with local pastors, Louie Giglio having met with many of them long before the tour, as well as giving them VIP seating, and inviting them to stand with him on stage to pray. I made the following comment on Shelley Giglio’s departure Instagram post, “Gone so soon?! Thanks for inspiring and stirring our country. I visited 3 churches on Sunday post Passion CT and every pastor spoke about the impact Saturday night had on them. #Envisioned #Impassioned #Passion16 #PassionSATour”. Yes, I use hashtags. Among those pastors were Louis du Piesanie of Oakhill, Andrew Selley of JoshGen and Phil Dooley of Hillsong Cape Town, who was called out of the pastoral group, by Louie, to pray. Shelley replied to my comment, “@garethdavidhogg love this so much. We pray the Church is strengthened and encouraged. We love that we can build together.” That is seen by their investment into local volunteers, local church pastors and local musicians. The gatherings were served by countless local ‘Door Holders’, which is Passion’s strategic term for volunteers. Each one got given their own Passion Door Holder T-shirt and had the privilege of serving at the event in various capacities.
If you mention Passion, Jeff Sandrom is not the first person you typically think of. He’s the man who shapes the sound coming from the stage. Harvest Church in PE, was one of many who took the opportunity to invest in our local sound. Warren Hoole, Harvest’s sound engineer, comments; “I was blessed enough to spend time in JHB and listen to him lecture on building blocks for shaping the sound needed from each instrument and vocalist. However, the lecture wasn’t only about sound engineering, most of the morning covered serving those around you. He spoke of Exodus 28:11-12 where Aaron had to wear the names of the sons of Israel on his shoulders in remembrance of those who he served. In the same way we are to carry the worship team on our shoulder as we serve them. Jeff has had many years of perfecting his mixes. It’s not how expensive or over the top your equipment is but what you do with the tools God has put before you. Keep it simple and focus on clarity and your mix will be shaped in a way that is good and pleasing to our Father”. This is the heart of Passion to partner and invest in the local church.
Before Louie came up to pray, 200 local singers joined the band, as a choir on stage, to sing How Great Is Our God. The stage had non stop energy from the band and it carried throughout the stadium. The song list included Hillsong United’s Oceans and a stand out song from the new Passion album is Remember by Brett Younker and Melody Malone. Then Louie came up bantering and rowelling the crowd with rumors that Cape Town was the laid back crowd in comparison to Pretoria — that got them even more fired up. Louie went on; “…it’s a special time to be alive, challenging times for sure… But what a beautiful sight to look around tonight to see the church of Jesus is doing okay.” He went on to speak about hearing about the State of the Nation, declaring that it’s better to focus on the state of the Kingdom and that if the church would hold on to Jesus that we would always hold on to hope for our nation. He then honored the pastoral partners, standing on stage with him, as friends, saying that; “…we wanted to come and stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women who lead the church every single day in this city…”. Phil Dooley then prayed a powerful prayer over our nation and the city, for the Church and for this generation.
As Louie led the time of prayer to a close He centered our focus firmly on Jesus, and after his Amen a creative video was cued showing history in reverse, featuring many scenes from our nation’s history, Mandela included. It tracked all the way back to creation and clips that brought to recollection Louie’s Indescribable teaching on the awe of the universe God has created. It then fast forwarded through some stories of scripture, concluding on the cross, and leading us back into worship with Kari Jobe’s Forever, which focuses on the death and resurrection of Christ, setting the platform for Louie’s closing message. But, before Louie would share again, the tone of the night would change dramatically as Hip Hop artist Tedashii busted into the middle of Forever. The atmosphere definitely changed as the Passion Band exited the stage and Tedashii and his crew took over. While this wasn’t everybody’s highlight, I know for many of the students, young adults, and some unchurched in attendance this just made their night. Tedashii had the crowd jumping and calling out back to him. Spiritually the tone changed, but for Tedashii this is worship, and for us it sure was a lot of fun.
IT IS FINISHED
Louie would come in at the back end of the hip hop item to deliver a message in typical Louie Giglio, Passion fashion. Louie connected his message to the people, by saying typically people’s lives are defined by a single word; divorce, cancer, studies and so on… But Jesus has the final word over our lives. On the cross He said “It Is Finished”. In the Greek and Hebrew there is a single word for our three English words ‘It Is Finished”. He declared that sin is finished, that the religious system, which God had set in place is finished, because Jesus was the once off final sacrifice that fulfilled the requirements of that religious system, and then finally that shame was finished over our lives. The night concluded with a call to respond; some to salvation, some to freedom from religion and shame, but all to kneel — 30, 000 people kneeling before Jesus in Cape Town stadium.
We wouldn’t stay kneeling — we would stand to dance on God’s Great Dance Floor. But more importantly, we would stand to leave, to leave envisioned and stirred with passion for our nation — to see Jesus’ name, His renown made famous in our country.