Seven amazing TED talks by Christians

TED has been running annually for 25 years now, and over 1,000 talks have now been given under its banner, either at the main conference or one of its satellite TEDx events. Contributors have included some of the most famous and influential people on earth, from Michelle Obama to Bono.

Those two apart, what's interesting is that so few contributors are explicit about that faith. God is seldom mentioned at TED, and Christian perspectives rarely shared (one TED talk from Christian Rupert Sheldrake, taking on Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion, was infamously removed from the site after complaints from atheists). But amid all the scientists, business leaders and über-creatives, there are a few notable exceptions.

Very occasionally TED's organisers have invited a Christian leader or thinker to share their perspective on the coveted stage - and in each of these seven examples, the presenter's faith is able to shine through. So enjoy this diverse collection of talks, feel encouraged, inspired and just ever so slightly smarter as a result.

Rick Warren: A life of purpose

They don't generally put megachurch pastors on the TED stage, but in 2006 they made an exception for the author of the second most-translated book in history (after the Bible). Pastor Rick is unequivocally and evangelistically Christian, but he's also refreshingly honest as he reflects on the success of The Purpose Driven Life, and the crisis it provoked within him. His key challenge to the audience: "What are you going to do with what you've been given?"

Billy Graham: Technology, faith and human shortcomings

Most of us imagine TED to be an innovation of the digital age but in fact it's been running regularly since 1990, and began life as a one-off event in 1984. This appearance by the Great Man came back in 1998, as he wows the assembled crowd with a mix of humour, encouragement and challenge. If you only watch one of these videos, make it this one. And revel in the low-tech stage design and the cluster of thick-set computer monitors to Pastor Billy's right. His big idea: that while technology can solve all kinds of the world's ills, the end of suffering will only come when the world accepts Jesus.

Brené Brown - the power of vulnerability

Christian writer Brené Brown's 2010 address, given at the Houston TEDx event (an independently-organised franchise version of the main TED) is currently the third most popular TED talk of all time, and for good reason - she is a fabulous, compelling storyteller with a big idea. Her theory that we've lost the place of vulnerability and personal humility and in our culture is delivered like a great big hug to the soul. TED loved it so much, they invited her to address their main event two years later, on 'listening to shame'.

David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful

Benedictine monk and interfaith specialist Brother David Steindl-Rast spoke at the 2013 TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh - one of the few instances of a talk from an obviously religious figure in TED history. His theory is that deep down we all just want to be happy, and that the key to this is understanding and practising gratitude. Steindl-Rast's ponderous delivery and relatively simple idea has been no barrier to his popularity - the talk is already nearing 5 million views on

Tom Honey: Why would God create a tsunami?

English vicar Tom is refreshingly honest about his struggle with understanding how a loving God could allow terrible suffering. This talk, given at the main TED event in 2005, came just two months after the Boxing Day Tsunami which killed over 200,000 people. Honey recounts the response he gave to concerned parishioners at his Oxford church in the aftermath of the disaster, and gives a gentle apologetic which stops short of really attempting to answer the question. He accepts he is still struggling, that he still doesn't truly know. It's hardly a masterclass in defending God, but this vicar's genuine, thoughtful and compassionate talk is a great antidote to brash Christian voices who claim to have a neat answer for everything.

Karen Armstrong: My wish: the charter for compassion

Armstrong is a former Catholic nun who has gone on to embrace a more liberal and mystical Christian tradition. In 2008 she was awarded the $100,000 TED prize, and used the opportunity (seen in the video) to call for a 'Charter for Compassion', an internationally recognised interfaith guidance document based around Jesus' Golden Rule. The charter was launched the following year.

Bono: The good news on poverty (yes, there's good news)

Rockstar-turned-campaigner Bono was the star turn at the 2013 TED conference, giving this short address on the encouraging trends that suggest we might actually be able to win the war on poverty. The U2 frontman's relentless commitment to pursuing justice, which has gained him as many fans as it has haters, is driven by his Christian faith, about which he is equally outspoken.

Martin Saunders is the deputy chief executive at Youthscape, and one of the founders of The Youth Work Summit, a UK youth ministry event based on the TED conference model. Follow him on Twitter @martinsaunders.