Passion 2011 got started on January 1 in Atlanta with Chris Tomlin leading worship and introducing a stash of new music.

Passion 2011 is the most recent edition of the Passion Conferences, created by author and speaker Louis Giglio. The music, message and mission of Passion are geared for a college-aged audience.

As Tomlin leads a capacity crowd at Atlanta’s Philips Arena – with an overflow crowd of 6,000 at nearby Georgia World Congress Center, the opening night overwhelmed the senses by the sheer energy and volume alone.

As in past Passion Conferences, Tomlin has written new songs for Passion 2011. The theme for the four-day event seems to be summed up in the recently penned, “We welcome You with praise.” With this anthem, Tomlin has tapped into the heartbeat of a generation seeking a meaningful relationship with a God who actively pursues them.

The music carries familiar rhythms and beats. Afterall, Tomlin is one of the most prolific modern worship songwriters. Each Sunday, Tomlin-penned songs are sung in churches, not only across the country but around the world.

It is the response of the crowd, combined with Tomlin’s humble nature, however, that makes Passion 2011 a worship experience rather than a mere concert. Tomlin is not a performer, and that fact is no more evident than at Passion conferences.

Tomlin may physically take center stage but he inexplicably manages to wrangle a choir of 22,000 into the intimate feeling of a local church gathering. Tomlin, in fact, seems as energized by the crowd as the crowd is energized by him.

It’s a surreal moment when Matt Redman and the worship band from Georgia World Congress Center are closed-circuit fed back to Philips Arena for a worship song. Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Christie Nockels, and the rest of Tomlin’s worship band, laid down their instruments, faced the screens along with the audience, and worshipped alongside the Philips Arena crowd.

After a stirring message by Passion founder Louie Giglio on God’s ability to love us, use us, and free us despite whatever circumstance, Tomlin returns for another brief set. As Tomlin calls for “a mighty shout to happen in this house,” the man who is the author of so many modern worship songs releases another great anthem in “Set Free,” sure to soon grace church Jumbotrons.

Passion 2011 is just getting started, and so it seems is Tomlin. Can’t wait to hear what he unleashes tomorrow.

Day One of Passion 2011 produced a historic worship experience. Catch Day Two on the Generation 268 website, which is streaming each day’s events live and for 24 hours thereafter.