Ravi Zacharias, who died in May of this year, was loved deeply by the team at RZIM, not because of the gifts he exercised, but rather the manner in which he lived. Several people have asked why they sometimes hear Ravi referred to as “Ravi Ji”. It is a term used in the Hindi language to convey both endearment and respect.
Ravi was the same man at the dinner table as he was on the platform, an accolade that should be far less distinctive in the church than it is. It will come as no surprise to any of you reading this, therefore, that Ravi’s passing left the ministry he leaves behind in pain. We grieved because of who we knew. Yet that grief is not without hope, as Ravi Ji himself would have been the first to point out.
Ravi’s memorial service was a remarkable celebration of a remarkable man. His influence reached further than many had imagined. As one person remarked afterwards, there aren’t many services that start with the Secret Service searching your car and end with Lecrae rapping. That reach is something that the Lord has blessed RZIM with and shows why Ravi was determined his lasting legacy would be a team of speakers around the world.
In the past few months, millions of Ravi’s messages have been downloaded and listened to. Even his memorial service has now been watched over 2 million times, and these messages, as well his books, will continue to be made available and distributed globally.
Apart from Ravi’s own messages, in the past few months, over one million downloads of messages and sermons by our team have been listened to or watched across the Middle East. Just think about that one fact for a moment. It wasn’t long ago major news outlets such as the BBC reported both on the flight of Christians from some countries and the dwindling church sizes in others. Yet, in some of the most challenging situations and difficult areas in the world, especially in restricted countries, the ministry of RZIM is flourishing and continues to bear fruit. For some of those who watch or listen, the encounter is life-changing, as they meet Christ for the first time and understand the message of the Cross.
In Europe and North America alone, figures have reached nearly 10 million reads, including video downloads and podcasts across all platforms. As the world locked-down and turned online for spiritual sustenance, we responded to that need with a series of new programmes including: The Saturday Session and Take Five. Take Five is a series of five, five-minute episodes published each day throughout the week, inviting viewers to be briefly interrupted by the gospel. To date, the series has featured speakers including likes of Michael Ramsden, Amy Orr-Ewing, Tanya Walker, Abdu Murray and Max Jeganathan (Asia).
The Saturday Session by contrast, was conceived to allow people to use their weekend to engage in a longer-form video essay from one of our speakers. Ravi was the first contributor to be showcased and the making of the episode provides a perfect encapsulation of how this time of pandemic has accelerated RZIM’s digital transformation. Ravi’s talk, which has now been watched half-a-million times, was filmed in HD in Manila; stored on a cloud until needed; edited in Oxford, packaged in the Philippines; an introduction was filmed on an HD phone in Singapore; the complete package was transferred across the Atlantic, where it was published. Once published, analytic tools track engagement across channels and across the globe; data that will inform future decisions on the content we provide. And the whole production process was managed by our Global Media Director from their home study in the UK.
It wasn’t that long ago that some were predicting the collapse of Christian belief in the West. Now, however, writers as distinguished as historian Tom Holland and journalist Matthew Parris are arguing that the beliefs we take for granted, such as human dignity and the value of all human life, are inexplicable save for the impact of the gospel. To that end, we aim to preach the Gospel through the questions of the day, so even a sceptical audience can hear that the Gospel of Christ speaks right to the heart and centre of their questions, concerns, fears. To communicate the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in a way that connects with people where they are, so that they can connect with him and find life with him.
The mission of RZIM remains unchanged, to reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ravi’s true legacy is expressed through the RZIM speaking team of almost one hundred evangelists. We will continue to preach the gospel through the questions of the day.
A clip of Ravi speaking was played at his memorial service and contained these words, “What I had envisaged from the beginning has come to pass, so that if at any moment God calls me home, the team is there. My prayer is that our greatest years would be ahead… I say it in a way that I hope even we have not yet envisioned what our God is actually going to do, through some dramatic conversions somewhere in the world, people who can change history – and I think that’s going to happen.“
As millions tune in to what Ravi has already said, millions more are now rightfully looking at the next generation to see what they will say. It is a space that RZIM continues to strive to fill whether online or in person when the time is right for live events to recommence. Until such time comes, as a ministry and as apologists we adapt.
Our first live Trending Questions event in London was the first to shift from the physical to the digital, this outreach into the heart of the City of London hit a mark and is returning this autumn for a follow-up digital event featuring Amy Orr-Ewing, Sam Allberry and David Bennett. Going digital has made our events accessible in a way we never envisioned and, when that vision matches with our partner’s, beautiful things happen. For example, we opened up a series of internal events with Barclays bank’s Christian Forum to our supporters and followers, allowing us to forge connections in areas that often remain discrete in the physical world. The series, which was instigated by Andy Moore, continues this September with Amy Orr-Ewing, as does a similar series with the Ministry of Defence’s Christian Network, for whom Tanya Walker spoke just last month.
Looking further ahead, Rethink Jesus is taking place in the third week of November. An evangelistic festival, the brainchild of Simon Edwards, that has been two years in the planning and involves partners across London, including the Bible Society, HTB, All Souls Langham, the London Mission Collective and Hillsong UK. RZIM apologists will be speaking every day at events across the capital, talks that will then be streamed live across the globe with the aim to bring the life and ministry of a first-century Middle Eastern carpenter into the hearts and minds of 21st-century sceptics.
The spirit driving Rethink Jesus and all our other outreach events is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains as beautiful and as credible as ever. Whilst all around us is shaking and uncertain, we can place our hands in the hands of Jesus and trust him absolutely.