From Passion to the Pews, Major Conferences Inspire Local Worship

Arena events serve as the proving grounds for new music.

The 2024 Passion conference opened with a countdown video. The crowd of 55,000 students packed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta cheered with anticipation. What would the first song be? Who would lead it?

What was the Holy Spirit about to do?

Flashing lights and a drum track led into the opening of Elevation Worship’s “Praise,” with the chant, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Worship artist Brandon Lake and a team of singers emerged on the stage.

After days of music and teaching, during the final session of the conference, attendees and leaders were surprised by a spontaneously extended worship session.

Most people don’t get to worship with a crowd of 55,000 on a regular basis. That immersive experience is one reason thousands of Christians travel to events like Passion, Worship Together, and Sing! each year.

These conferences also serve as settings where worshipers encounter and fall in love with new music. Though the stage production and arena energy isn’t replicable in their local contexts, the songs themselves are: Recent research found that worship leaders are more likely to use a new song if they encounter it at a live event.

These events are the latest iteration of practices that have a long history in the church: pilgrimage and temporarily gathered corporate worship. Christians in Europe during the Middle Ages walked miles from shrine to shrine to venerate saintly relics and temporarily adopt the monastic practice of living a life set apart for devotion and worship.

Before stadium sets and big screens with lyrics, 19th-century tent revivals attracted participants with passionate preaching and spirited music, which often fused new refrains set to folk tunes with …

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