US vice president joins Black church leaders in global tributes to iconic Christian apologist by Shirin Aguiar

“The story of the Gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in God’s presence. I will never be ‘no more’. I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me.”  

These are the words of world-renowned Christian evangelist, Ravi Zacharias, from his last book before his death from cancer aged 74 in Atlanta on 19th May 2020.

In a statement, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), which he founded, said that Ravi had spent the past 48 years ‘commending the Christian faith and addressing life’s greatest existential questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny with eloquence and grace.’

Under his leadership, the organisation launched a global team of nearly 100 Christian scholars and authors, who continue to speak, resource, train and address the questions of millions around the world.

He spoke to audiences in over 70 countries, with his answers to life’s biggest questions viewed by millions on YouTube.

Born in India but belonged to the world

Born in India in 1946, Ravi was a self-avowed atheist until he converted to Christ following a suicide attempt aged 17.  A local Christian worker brought a Bible to his hospital bed in Madras, and he heard the words of Jesus in John 14: “Because I live, you also will live.”

In a tweet, US Vice President Mike Pence described Ravi as his friend, and said he was “deeply saddened”. His ministry “impacted millions around the world,” he added.

Reverend Canon Yemi Adedeji, director of One People Commission at the Evangelical Alliance, was a speaker alongside Ravi at the Advance conference in Birmingham last October. He described him as spiritual, simple and compassionate.

“A gift, unique and rare. A legend”

“He was a gift to us all, unique, rare and a legend. He challenged the spiritual to be intellectual and the intellectual to be spiritual…. I love his apologetic presentation of the Gospel. He brought the thinking into the spiritual narrative of the Gospel. He brought an understanding of the intellectual without losing the spirituality, and the spirituality without losing the intellect. He was one of those few people who can combine both together.”

The pain of itinerant ministry

Poignantly, Rev Adedeji revealed that Ravi spoke to him about the pain of itinerant ministry, including jumping from one airport to another, one hotel to another, one conference to another.

“He said there is a lot of pain that comes with it, which most people would not know.  But he said the biggest pain is always being away from your family, which I totally identify with, being in the itinerant ministry myself. It’s something that most people don’t understand and it’s more demanding even than being a local pastor.”

He said Ravi had no sermon notes to speak to the audience of 2000. “All he had was from his heart to the book, and from the book to his heart.”

“He articulated the realities of men’s hearts”

Reverend Les Isaac, founder and CEO of Street Pastors, was part of a team scheduled to host Ravi this year in London. He described him as a great evangelist and apologist: “He had a deep conviction about his faith, but also clearly articulated the realities of men’s hearts. He was very clear about the redemptive work of the Cross and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“He helped you see yourself, your heart, your society and Jesus. He painted pictures in people’s minds and intellect about God, and enabled them to reason within themselves.

“Every time I listened to him I began to reflect on my thoughts, my life, my attitude, my relationship with Jesus and the Scriptures. That was what he was good at.”

Same league as Billy Graham

“He will be greatly missed by the church and by millions of people, because his ministry had such a great impact on the world. I would put him in the same league as Billy Graham. He reached a lot of intellectuals, academics and influential people globally. His ministry was global, people from all over the world were strengthened, challenged and encouraged.”

Esther Ema Essien, a Nigerian evangelist based in Spain, said: “Ravi was a true minister of God. True ministers go through the worst. You can see the glamour but behind the glamour is a story of pain. He fought the good fight, worn many souls for God, and built giants for the Kingdom of God.”

A memorial service to celebrate Ravi’s life and legacy was streamed live on YouTube and on Facebook on 29th May 2020.  He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Margie, daughters Sarah and Naomi, son Nathan and five grandchildren

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