Life

Nov 30, 2015 by Rik Bokelman

God In Silicon Valley: "Many Churches Grow Rapidly"

All over the world people know what you're talking about when you mention 'Silicon Valley.' It's the place where start-ups and capitalists hope to earn a fortune. It's the place where Google, Facebook, and Apple have their offices. At the same time, it's also the least Christian place in the United States. Life is more about gigabytes than God.  Skip Vaccarello lived in the valley and worked as a top-executive for over 30 years. I talked with him about his book 'Finding God in Silicon Valley.'

'Finding God in Silicon Valley' consists of interviews with 26 committed Christians like Paul Ely, former top executive at Hewlett-Packard and Pat Gelsinger, CEO of WMWare, and other entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Skip wrote the book to inspire people because being a Christian and living in Silicon Valley can feel like a strange combination. 

No need for God
There are several reasons why Silicon Valley is the least religious place in the US, says Skip Vaccarello. "Silicon Valley tends to draw people who are achievement-oriented and success-oriented. Often those are the hardest people to come to faith. When you are busy making money and starting a company, you often don't have time for God. It's just not in your mind. There's no need for God."

"Silicon Valley tends to draw people who are achievement-oriented and success-oriented. Often those are the hardest people to come to faith." 

Skip in the 80's lived the same way, without a need for God, until a "miracle" happened and a Christian couple from the Valley - he worked at a company who found out the 'spreadsheet - told him about God. Although he had financial and business success he discovered that there was something missing.

God-shaped void
"Blaise Pascal called it the God-shaped void in all of us. I felt that there had to be more to life than success." His life changed when one day his wife, while Skip was on a business trip, told him on the phone that she went to church. "'You did what?' I asked her. She said 'I went to church, and I liked it.' So after I came back, after a few time of her going, I also decided to go to Church. I was having this need and sensing God exists. My life changed, and it changed the way I would look at my work."

If you're a Christian and running a business, you'll be confronted with all kinds of dilemmas. "Do you tell the truth in advertising? Do you want to make a fair deal with another company? Do you do your work with integrity? Do you care about your employees? I always look at Colossians 3:23: 'Whatever you do, work at it with your whole heart as working for the Lord and not for men.' That's the way I would view whatever job I have whether I'm on the board of directors or not." 

After he came to faith. Skip experienced an increasing desire to live out his faith on a day-to-day basis. "God put in my heart an interest to helping others in their faith journey, so I began helping organize events."  He's still doing that today by holding prayer breakfasts for people in Silicon Valley. At each event, a CEO who is a Christian gives a lecture or testimony. Now he also published his book 'Finding God in Silicon Valley', with 23 chapters about 23 changed lives in Silicon Valley.

Paul Ely
The very first chapter of the book is about Paul Ely who helped Hewlett-Packard to develop into a computer company. Paul was a very interesting guy. He developed his way of doing business called 'Ready, fire, aim.' What he means by that is that you can’t just wait till things come your way. You have to be ready to try a few things and then figure out what's the right way. When he was 76, he had a dream. In his dream, he saw what he described as Youtube videos of his whole life that passed before him. He then received a message from God. He said: "All these successes isn't you, I was behind all that success." So when Paul woke up, he said: "I have to find out who this God is." Now he's 83 and attends all kinds of Bible studies. He tries to help others on their spiritual journey.

Churches grow
 Skip Vaccarello: "Being a Christian in Silicon Valley is counter-cultural. Christian values clash with what you find here. That also has an advantage. If you are a Christian here, you are committed, or not committed at all. God is working here, although I don't want to overstate that.  There’s an evidence of the beginnings of revival, and I’m going to give you a couple of examples. There are more and more leaders who are Christian and say: "Hey let’s make a difference in this culture!"

 "Being a Christian in Silicon Valley is counter-cultural. Christian values clash with what you find here. That also has an advantage. If you are a Christian here, you are committed, or not committed at all."



There are also more and more small groups inside companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple. I know that there are Bible studies held during lunchtime in conference rooms in those companies. Christians pray for their colleagues and reach out to their friends. It's probably more like the times of the Early Church; small groups that want to make a difference in the place where they are. I think that's evidence that God is beginning to do something."

Many churches in Silicon Valley grow rapidly. Not only because more and more Christians are moving to the valley, but also because a lot of people are open to the Gospel and respond to invitations by Churches. "Life here can be hard. You can become a millionaire, but you can also fail. Don't forget that life here is also really expensive too. When your company failed, and you are out of money, you are more open to the Gospel. Because then you begin to you ask yourself: 'What is life all about?'" 

"Most people here are finding faith for the first time in their life. I am hopeful in what I see happening in Silicon Valley right now."

Order the book 'Finding God in Silicon Valley' here.



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