Leaving Louie Giglio: A Passion City Story
The following is the personal testimony of Chuck Grant. It details his time at Passion City Church in Atlanta. For a similar testimony, see this previous article.
Growing up, I was very fortunate to have parents who took me to church every Sunday and made certain that I was in a Sunday school class being taught the Bible. As a teenager, I was active in the youth group at my home church and at a friend’s church. I was raised in a United Methodist Church (this was not a liberal UMC church but a more traditional UMC church) and my friend’s church was Southern Baptist. It was through the preaching of both churches that I came to faith in Jesus Christ as a 17-year-old high school senior. After starting college, I left the UMC and was active in an SBC Church plant; after completing college I stayed active in an SBC Church.
I first heard of the Passion Conference, founded by Louie Giglio, after finishing college but was familiar with, and listened to, the music of artists associated with Passion such as Chris Tomlin and the David Crowder Band. This was between 2006 and 2011 before I began to regularly listen to Louie via the Passion City Church podcast. I would occasionally hear a talk from Louie Giglio that was given at a Passion Conference and then posted to YouTube. Initially, I thought he was an excellent speaker and preacher, as he would creatively tell stories and tie them in with his sermons. I attended the Passion Conference in 2012 and 2013 as a leader with a group of students. I served at the Conference in 2014 and 2015. Thus, I have seen both the side of attending and the side of volunteering. I moved to the Atlanta, GA area in the Fall of 2015 and began attending and serving at Passion City Church (also founded by Giglio) shortly thereafter. I’ve been consistently listening to Louie preach every week via podcast from the Spring of 2011 until moving to Atlanta and, at the time I had not noticed the concerning issues, I am about to describe. In hindsight, I should have seen these things sooner but I gradually noticed that some topics were missing from Louie’s teaching. Before I go any further I want to make it clear that this isn’t being written out of spite or anger. I have met Louie and his wife on separate occasions before, both of them were friendly and approachable at the times I spoke with them. Those meetings happened in 2012 and were a one-time meeting with each of them so please don’t think I personally know them. If I were friends or acquaintances with them I would say in private what I have written and ask for an explanation.
I’ve been reading the Bible for about twenty years; I have read several versions of it during that time (NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT, The Message, and The Living Bible). I’ve heard some excellent preachers who are Biblically faithful and fearlessly proclaim the Word, even if it offends their listeners. I’ve also heard some very bad preachers, I use that term liberally in describing these people, who flat out don’t preach the Gospel or preach parts of the Gospel while leaving out the offensive parts. I say all that to get to the following, which I am certain will not be received well by many people. I have long weighed this, have given it a lot of thought, and discussed it with friends who are more spiritually mature and Biblically knowledgeable than I. Those friends agreed with me on what I am about to say, and I want to carefully word it in order to make a very important point.
I’ve noticed something with Louie Giglio, keep in mind that I’ve been consistently listening to him since the Spring of 2011, and I don’t say this lightly. The man leaves out a lot of relevant Biblical information when he speaks. He rarely or never mentions the following: Hell and how we are by default going there for eternity apart from Christ, God’s wrath against unrepentant sinners, God’s holiness, our inherent un-holiness and how that warrants God’s righteous wrath against us, any mention of specific sins as outlined in Romans 1, the importance and necessity of genuine repentance from sin, and discernment against false teaching of any kind. Again, Louie rarely or never preaches about these things. The first red flag I should have taken more seriously was when I noticed it was Louie’s sidestepping in January 2013 on the issue of a sermon he preached on homosexuality in 1997. Louie was confronted about his sermon from 1997 and instead of standing on the authority of Scripture he dodged while not even referring to the Bible’s stance on sexual sin of any kind. Leading up to Christmas 2016, Louie, Brad Jones, and Ben Stuart (Brad and Ben are on staff with Passion) never once mentioned that Jesus was the holy, sinless sacrifice to appease God’s wrath against sinners; basically they didn’t make the connection between Christmas and Easter along with how humanity would be utterly lost to Hell without the two. That is a yearly pattern leading up to Christmas at Passion City. At Easter 2018, Louie preached from John 3:16-17 but he didn’t continue into John 3:18-21 which talks about how anyone who doesn’t believe in Christ is already condemned and how anyone who doesn’t come into the light of Christ loves their wicked deeds and hates that light. That is a yearly pattern on Easter at Passion City. I was at the 9:15 gathering at Passion City’s Cumberland location on July 29th, 2018 (Passion City has three locations: one in Washington D.C. led by Ben Stuart and two others in Atlanta-one in Buckhead and the other in Cumberland) and noticed that at no point in any of the baptism stories was repenting of sin or sins of any kind these people were living in prior to supposedly becoming a Christian mentioned. Bryson Vogeltanz (also on staff at Passion City) said the word “sin” one time afterward right before the giving but that was it. The event on July 29th was why I finally decided to write this down, as I had been mulling it over for some time and had already stopped volunteering due to the issues I mentioned earlier.
Louie regularly partners with others who don’t preach these important doctrines; think Hillsong (Brian Houston of Hillsong Australia is a prosperity teacher not to mention how bad Carl Lentz and Christine Cain are), Elevation Church (Steven Furtick is a motivational speaker who doesn’t preach the Gospel), Andy Stanley (seeker-sensitive who goes out of his way to not offend people with the Gospel, also Louie’s childhood friend), Chad Veach (imagine a cross between a comedian and Steven Furtick), to name a few. Louie brings these people in to speak at Passion Conference and Passion City Church; the exceptions are Steven Furtick and Brian Houston who have yet to speak at Passion City or Passion Conference. However, Louie has spoken on at least two separate occasions at Elevation Church’s Code Orange Revivals (in 2014 and 2016) and also spoken at the Hillsong Conference in Australia. Louie will not point out how any of these people fail to proclaim the Gospel, other than the occasional brief jab at the prosperity gospel, while not naming anyone specific like Joel Osteen or T.D. Jakes.
So why did I write all of that? If Louie, or anyone for that matter, leaves out those things I listed earlier then it begs the question of why do we need saving and what do we need saving from? You can’t just say, “Well we are dead in our sins!” or, “We need saving from our sins!” Ok, but what is sin? Why are we dead in our sins? Can you give examples of what sin is? Why is sin bad? Why do we need to turn from our sins? If you’re saying we need saving then that implies we are in danger of something so what are we in danger of? Louie, and everyone I listed earlier, won’t preach on these things. To do so they’d have to teach the Old Testament moral law such as the Ten Commandments along with the aforementioned Romans 1 to show how sinful and unholy we are before a Holy and sinless God who’s righteous wrath burns against sinners and who will punish sinners in Hell for eternity. If you can’t first preach the bad news, which Hell is certainly bad news to sinners while still being good news that displays God’s moral perfection and righteousness against sin, then you can’t truly preach the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus died to save us from an eternal judgment in Hell that we rightly deserve. Louie doesn’t do that, I can’t read his mind so I don’t know why he’s that way, but I can listen to him and read the Bible for myself to see that he, along with many other well-known “preachers”, leave out a lot of very important Biblical information that people desperately need to know. In short, Louie doesn’t preach the Gospel but is a fairly good public speaker. I’ll give him credit that he can encourage and inspire people to donate to worthy causes, which should be celebrated, but those things won’t save anyone from eternal damnation. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do that and Louie will focus on the inoffensive parts of Scripture while leaving out or very rarely mentioning the offensive parts. A half-truth is no truth at all; it’s all or nothing.
[Edited by Seth Dunn]
*If you have your own Passion City story or concerns about Louie Giglio, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
**Please note that the preceding is the opinion of the contributor. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.