TED Talks For Christians?

On Thursday, 75 cities around the world will host simultaneous Q Commons events, featuring addresses from Malcolm Gladwell and Soledad O'Brien.

By Emma Hurt February 25, 2015

Q Commons
Feb 26 from 7 to 9pm
$29; married couples $24.50 each
1100 Elder St.

On Thursday night at a nondenominational Christian church in the First Ward, questions will be asked. Some of them might even be answered. In 2007 a man named Gabe Lyons founded an event called Q Commons with his wife. The idea was to create a platform for Christians to “ask big questions and think for themselves about what the answers should be.” Or, as Lyons also puts it in the introductory video, “How does…faith relate to all of life, any topic you can possibly imagine?” Lyons was inspired by a quote from Watergate accomplice–turned–evangelical Christian Charles Colson: “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.” Lyons and his wife wanted to provide opportunities for Christians to brainstorm how to tackle this potentially overwhelming calling.

Like TED Talks, Q Commons began as a single conference before spinning off local franchises. On Thursday night, three “global” speakers—author Malcolm Gladwell, journalist Soledad O’Brien, and television producer Mark Burnett—will make a live simulcast to 10,000 people in 75 cities around the world, including Houston. In addition, each local event has invited their own speakers to discuss issues that affect the local community. Houston’s edition of this event at Ecclesia church will feature talks by life coach Joël Malm, cultural anthropologist Sharon Washington, and scandal-prone businessman Neil Bush, brother to George W. and Jeb. 

Carson Schultz, one of the Houston organizers, told me this is Ecclesia’s second time hosting Q Commons. But unlike last October’s, this one will feel “less churchy,” with a “broader diversity of…people’s vocations.” October’s event featured local speakers with a more overtly Christian message. (Another difference is that this month’s event will happen simultaneously with the rest of the world, whereas in October the Houston event was moved to avoid a very local conflict with a Texans home game.) 

“The hope is for us to provide opportunities,” Schultz said. “If that two hours was impactful, then we want to be a place to facilitate that.”

None of the speakers, global or local, know what the others will be talking about before the event. According to Schultz, that’s part of the design. “They might even contradict one another on points,” he noted. With time allotted for breaking out into small groups, the organizers’ hope is that attendee discussions will lead them all to “engage some local context” and figure out how their Christian values can help solve Houston’s problems. Given the many issues facing our city, we sincerely hope they come up with something. But hey, we’ll be happy if they just figure out how to fix the potholes.  

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