IN MEMORIAM: Ravi Zacharias Was More Than Just ‘Another Evangelist’…

Written by Wes Walker on May 20, 2020

We now bid goodbye to a man who has shown by his own example that even places thought to be hostile to the gospel can be, as scripture states, fields ripe for the harvest.

His biography is well-known to those who followed his work and ministry. Like the Apostle Paul, he was quite willing to incorporate his own life and experiences into what he had to say.

His life and experiences offered him a unique perspective on life and culture.

Despairing of life while seventeen years old, he attempted suicide by poisoning. Doctors were able to save his life, and it was there in his bed that he encountered the gospel of Jesus Christ that would forever change his life. You can hear him tell that story here.

He went on to become both a scholar and an evangelist.

But he took a very different track from so many other famous preachers of his generation. For one thing, he didn’t direct his energies to simply giving simple sermons to regular viewers on a TV or radio show.

He traveled the world, specifically seeking out the difficult audiences where he built a ministry around engaging the mind AND the heart. He was always ready to give, as scripture commands, an answer for the hope that lives within him.

He was anything BUT a ‘hellfire and damnation’ type of preacher. But that doesn’t mean that he shied away from the strong defense of Jesus’ claims of exclusive truth. He was just very conscious of doing so in a way to be sure that offense, when it came, would be due to the truth of his message, rather than the manner in which it was delivered.

His style was very different from what ClashDaily readers are familiar with. But it would be a mistake to interpret that as meaning he was one of the spineless snowflakes that our Warriors & Wildmen team so roundly denounce.

He was soft-spoken, and winsome even when delivering hard truths. But he never shied away from delivering those hard truths… even when addressing hostile audiences ranging from Secular Ivy-League universities to top government officials in countries officially closed to the gospel.

Ravi was conscious of the importance of using story as a way of delivering ideas larger than what the stories themselves contained, of connecting high-level philosophical and theological truths with the immediate and livable reality of the kitchen table.

He could have taught a master class in handling hostile questions and on leaving his hostile audience wondering how a question intended to attack Christian life and practice exposed a gaping hole in the questioner’s own philosophy. I was a skill he copied from the example of Christ himself in the gospels. He took that skill set and replicated it among his missions team.

Nor was he ‘merely’ concerned about the spiritual well-being of his hearers. He cared about the practical needs of the underprivileged as well.

The humanitarian arm of his ministry, ‘Wellspring International ‘ is focussed on …

engaging with war-related issues, poverty-related issues, HIV/AIDS, victims of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, domestic violence, natural disasters, access to education, and tragedy. Additionally, we create opportunities for women through scholarships toward education, healthcare, basic living needs, and income-generating programs.

His habit of interweaving life events with his message gave audiences a sense of knowing him personally, even if only from afar. Whether it was frequent references to his wife, Margie, or his kids. His own parents, harrowing adventures with his friend Sammy Dagher, his early days as an itinerate minister preaching in Vietnam during the Nixon years, his struggles with injuries and life on the road, or his admiration of Malcolm Muggeridge and enjoyment of poetry, he shared a piece of himself in each message he delivered.

Apart from one disputed incident (the truth about which we will never know on this side of eternity), he lived a life free of any public scandal that would bring reproach upon his dear Lord.

That, by itself, is remarkable in this day and age.

Now that he has run his race with endurance, finishing strong, and has left the ranks of the Church militant and join the ranks of Church Triumphant in eternity, one can scarecly help but imagine that one of his own personal heroes, Malcolm Muggridge, would be among the first to welcome him to his rest.

He casts a long shadow and leaves big shoes to fill. But Ravi would be the first to tell you — and in fact mentioned in a message this writer was just listening to a few short days before his death — that the gospel outlives those Christ calls to proclaim it.

As he himself said, the work shall go on, and new workers shall rise up to declare an enduring message with a different manner of delivery, to a different generation… according to the gifts and talents he gives to each of us.

And this closing thought is directed to skeptics and some of the usual drive-by snarky anonymous commenters who cannot resist sniping at any Christian message.

Take up the challenge of listening to one of his Question and Answer sessions in largely hostile audiences comprised either of secularists or believers of a different religion.

Pick any Q&A session you like, or Google one with your own search terms. We’re not cherry-picking.

Pick one you think might challenge him and then listen — REALLY listen — to what Ravi has to say to the pointed objections those well-educated groups pepper him with.

Ask yourself if he is giving the boilerplate answers like some unintelligent huckster, or if he’s offering reasonable and intelligent responses to deep and meaningful questions.

If the latter, the next question an honest person would ask themselves is: should not your own objections to this faith rise to at least the same level of intelligence as his defense of the belief?

If you simply dismiss his arguments without doing so, it might be for a lot of reasons… but intellectual honesty will not be among them.