One of the most impactful and stirring aspects of the Passion movement has been the sea of voices uniting together to lift up the name of Jesus, currently helmed by Kristian Stanfill, Brett Younker and Melodie Malone. Transcending their annual conferences, songs from Passion have become some of the most recognizable and unforgettable worship anthems of this generation. The band creates new music perennially for the thousands of 18 to 25 year-olds that unite for the Passion gathering, but the intention of each song is to empower worshippers around the world. Through it all, Jesus continues to remain at the center. At this year’s 2020 Conference, more than 65,000 young adults gathered at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Passion continues to bring their ministry and music to large audiences with a featured spot on this year’s Winter Jam lineup. We recently caught up with Kristian Stanfill backstage at Winter Jam Pittsburgh where he opened up about the Passion 2020 experience and the message behind their new songs.
You kicked off the New Year in an epic way, with over 65,000 friends at Passion 2020. In a world where many in society are saying that Millennials and Gen Z are turning away from faith, what is your impression about the future of the Church?
I think it’s looking good. Like you said, we had 65,000 college students gathered at Passion 2020. We have a conference every year, and every year college students turn up for it. And not only do they turn up for it, but they turn up excited about it and ready to process whatever God wants to do in those days, ready to leverage their resources for whatever God leads them to. And so clearly this generation loves to gather in Jesus’ name. But I think they are also drawn to authenticity. And Louie and Shelley [Giglio] are two of the most authentic leaders. And the way they have led this movement, college students know they won’t be taken advantage of. There won’t be a lot of commercials. We are here to call on the power of the name of Jesus, to open His word, and then to give whatever we can to change the world. And we also have Passion City Church. And there we have college students that flood the front few rows of the church every Sunday. And they are going for it and leading the way. So I think this generation is alive and well, and I think the future of the church is beautiful and strong.
What lasting feeling or impression did that event leave on your heart?
Standing at the end of conference, the very last morning, we were singing a new song “There’s Nothing That Our God Can’t Do”. And I had this overwhelming sense that the possibilities are endless for this generation. You could just see it on their faces when they were singing this song about the power of God. And there was so much faith and it was real. I think the lasting impression that Passion 2020 is going to leave on me personally is that it was a miracle it happened, and there is so much possibility in this generation.
A new year usually means new music from Passion as well and sure enough, two new songs are out now. Let’s start with “There’s Nothing That Our God Can’t Do.” A music video for that track is debuting today. What can you tell us about the story behind this song?
We wrote that really early last year in 2019 with Jonathan Smith who has helped produce some Passion music and Brandon Lake who is a worship leader from South Carolina. So the three of us wrote the song, and the heart behind it was just thinking we were in Mercedes Benz stadium and all of the tens of thousands of college students to remember that life isn’t always perfect and good and slick. The sun isn’t always shining. So we wanted to give these students a song to sing that would lift their eyes up to a God who is all-powerful and can do anything. So we really just wanted to have a song of faith to sing in that moment. And I’m really grateful that Brandon was able to be at the conference the second night and we were able to lead this together.
“King Of Glory,” another new live track, is also out now. What was the reaction like when this song was first introduced at your church?
It was a blast. That song is so much fun. There’s a funny story about that song because it started out as a mid-tempo, traditional worship anthem. And I could just tell the band wasn’t excited about it yet. And then one of our producers walked in and suggested we double time the beat. And the song just took off for us after that. So it was a blast to introduce the song. We need those kinds of songs that inject joy and a little bit of tempo to lift our eyes up to the King of Glory.
What does the coming weeks and months look like in terms of releasing music that was recorded at Passion 2020?
We’ll see. We are sorting through everything right now, all of the stuff that we got from conference. We captured everything, so we are now going back to find those special moments where God breathed. So we’ll see when, but we will definitely have something.
Here we are in Pittsburgh for the second week of this year’s Winter Jam Tour. What was the kickoff weekend experience like?
It was awesome – the lineup is so great! Everybody is so uniquely gifted and the spectrum of genres is pretty awesome. For us, it feels a lot like church. Our pastor, Louie Giglio, is out, and he does his talk and we come right out for our set. So it feels like church and home to us. And then we have Crowder who is headlining the night, who is also from Passion City as well, so it’s cool because it just feels like family.
What has the vibe been like backstage getting to meet up and hang out with everyone on this year’s roster?
It’s so fun – there’s nobody on this tour that’s too cool for school. There is a lot of camaraderie and cheering each other on. We are all still trying to meet everyone that’s out, but it really does feel like a family. And NewSong has done an amazing job at curating that culture from the beginning of Winter Jam.
In addition to original music, Passion is also known for its covers of popular CCM songs. Which song from a fellow tour artist would you most want to cover right now?
I’ve been so blown away by Riley Clemmons. She is such a force, vocally and her presence on stage. I’ve really been digging her set, so maybe we could take one of Riley’s songs. We have been doing “Way Maker” in our set, which has obviously been a huge song for the church recently.
What has been your standout or favorite moment of the night from Winter Jam 2020 so far?
Andy Mineo is mind-blowing to me. He’s so good and I’ve watched his set every time and I just can’t understand how he raps that fast. His songs are amazing and he’s super cool, so I’ve really enjoyed watching his set. But then just after the first week, the ministry that’s happened in Louie’s talk and flowing into our worship is really powerful. When the word of God is partnered with the musical worship of God, it is just really powerful. I really believe some significant stuff is happening in that window of time on tour.
As you were planning for your set, what message or feeling were you hoping that people leave with tonight after Winter Jam?
I was encouraging our team to not forget to lead the people. There are a lot of people in the room and if we aren’t careful, we can become overwhelmed by the size of the room. And we were playing new songs, so we rehearsed a ton so we didn’t have to think as much about what we were playing. But I was really encouraging our team that we are ready and let us lead the people in the moment, and not miss what God is doing.
Service has always been a big part of the Passion Conferences and what you do locally with Passion City Church. What did your efforts focus on this year?
Well at conference, people watching online and the students in the room gave over $1.2 million for translating scripture for people groups around the world who don’t have scripture in their heart language. And that in itself was miraculous to watch. And just to think that because of their generosity and their surrender, people all over the world are going to get to read and hear about the story of Jesus for the first time. So we partnered with a group called Illuminations. They brought all of these amazing organizations who are helping to translate scripture into one place.