Passion Talks 2016: Over 40 Talks!

This is the fourth year of Passion Talks. It’s reached a nice size spanning two days with around 40 talks from professionals to academics. Passion Talks was founded to explore the space of intellectual faith– for how faith motivates the scientist, engineer, academic, and scholar. This year’s talks ranged from start-up CEOs, to students, to economics professors, to software engineers, educators, medical doctors, various other PhDs, and many more. The first day of the event was an internal and invite-only day at Google. The second day was at Convergence house of prayer. We had about 140-150 who attended, people flying in from places as far as Arizona and Pennsylvania, as well as the many who were from all over California. The talks schedule can be seen here: spreadsheet, and the main website for the conference is at: https://passiontalks16.wordpress.com/

Recorded talks will be posted online soon.

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Some common themes at this year’s Passion Talks was in regards to the ways of which the church had (in a sense) exiled the Christian intellectual. Coincidentally, my talk was about thriving as a misfit in the communities we are part of. Many people remarked that this event is something that they’d been wanting– being around people like them, who’ve felt similarly like a misfit. While others in the church said that it’s heartbreaking to hear about and sense the alienation of intellectuals by the church. I opened the event on three main points:

  • Explaining that we were all on this journey together and to be understanding that we are all at a different point in our process– that we should, in general, try to understand and at the very least, agree to disagree. We can be skeptical without taking things personally. But also, in the spirit of intellectual dialogue, to be opened to criticism.
  • It’s not any particular person who is “chosen” over someone else, rather we’ve all been chosen stewards in our areas of passion and expertise– that the only agenda is for everyone to speak honestly of their experiences and understanding.
  • Many people attending don’t claim to be experts in something or passionate about scholarship, but even amongst experts of various fields, there’s a lot to learn– that we are open to learning from the research, experiences, and studies of those who’ve paid their dues on their topic.

It was really uplifting to see pastors opening and closing the event, acknowledging how the church hasn’t fully extended itself to intellectuals and scholars. There were many other encouraging testimonies:

  • One attendee told me he scheduled 6 coffee meetings for the following week
  • A speaker told me that he had been in limbo with his projects, and for the first time feels compelled to move forward
  • Another attendee told me she had been discouraged lately and had been really wanting something like this for a while
  • I heard topics on race and sexuality being really heard and digested more than I ever had within the walls of the church
  • At the event, there were many networking opportunities, and soon after the conference, I saw people attending each other’s events mixing and building a stronger community around them later that week.
  • Prior to the event, I was going to drop some money on Facebook ads, but since this body of people extends into companies like Google and Facebook, employees from these companies offered to give from their own perks and resources to support Passion Talks.

People don’t realize that there are so many faith-motivated people who silently walk out their passions in their studies, engineering, and businesses. It was only four years ago that Passion Talks was a humble gathering of graduate students with 5 talks. Now we have over 40 talks of people educating one another, connecting, and being encouraged to be fully themselves. #intellectualfaith

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