Dr. Valson Abraham
On May 19, 2020, Ravi Zacharias, world-renowned Christian evangelist, apologist, debater, author and preacher, met his Lord Jesus face to face. He was 74.
He was a chosen vessel of God, surrendered to Him. God greatly used him for His kingdom, and he blessed our own ministry in many ways to enumerate here. He will be greatly missed by many people who were privileged to know him.
He was what cricket lovers call an “allrounder,” or one with numerous talents, able to fill many roles and do them all well.
I was privileged to know Ravi. I first met him in 1965 at the Asian Christian Youth Congress in Hyderabad. That year, he won the preaching competition, and soon went on to preach at many youth rallies. The next year, he and his family moved from New Delhi to Canada. Our paths have crossed on different occasions. The last time we spent some time together was at the Atlanta airport lounge. He and his associate were on their way to speak in the UK and Laly and I were returning to California after a week of preaching in the east coast.
He has influenced our own ministry at India Gospel Outreach and sponsored some of the young people in our fellowship in their advanced theological studies.
He founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) in 1984, the same year we began India Gospel Outreach in California. The RZIM staff has conducted classes on apologetics at India Bible College and Seminary. He sponsored some of our believers and students who went on for advanced degrees.
He began his life in Chennai and grew up in New Delhi. He was the son of nominal Anglicans, who never read the Bible. He became an atheist, and at age seventeen, he tried to commit suicide. A servant discovered him and managed to save his life, getting him to the hospital just in time. While in the hospital, he received a visit by Fred David, a Youth for Christ staff worker, who shared with him the words of Jesus: “Because I live, you also shall live.”
(Fred David, who led Ravi Zacharias to Christ, later became a dear friend of mine, emigrating to Los Angeles, where he sometimes attended our church at India Christian Assembly and sang with his smooth baritone voice.)
Fred David’s words changed the rest of Ravi’s life. From that day, the former atheist devoted himself to Bible study, Seminary training and ten years of study in the field of apologetics, fiercely devoted to the truth. Although he was not initially interested in academics, he developed a brilliant mind through intense study that contended for the faith equally well with the world’s most intellectual unbelievers, or the average person. He developed a ministry of apologetics to universities around the world.
He did present or defend the Gospel in a contentious and argumentative spirit, but spoke in a tone of gentleness and love, not disparaging his opponent’s false beliefs, but letting Jesus speak for Himself.
He wrote or co-authored more than 30 books on subjects related to apologetics. His books have influenced millions. He traveled to more than 70 countries. He debated atheists and met with people of all backgrounds, including many political leaders, Bollywood actors, military generals. He spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Challenged by Billy Graham, he ministered and presented Jesus Christ to many universities around the world. He would always encourage believers everywhere from many different backgrounds and nationalities.
His vision was closely shared for 48 years of marriage with his wife, Margie, and his three children who continue to minister through RZIM.
Ravi Zacharias was sold out to Jesus Christ. Pray that God will multiply his gospel vision many times over through the dedicated people he mentored.