I was then a very young university student at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) when I first heard Ravi Zacharias speak. At the time, I was enrolled in a class on the history of the Ancient Near East. Next to me was a young man who was completing his medical degree, but had decided to take this class because, in his words, “he wanted to study something totally different.” We struck up a friendship. My friend was intellectual, engaging, warm, respectful, and not a Christian.
Over the course of the semester, we engaged in many conversations about the gospel. Because I had read Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis extensively, I was interested in defending the faith, and in discussing the meaning and results of various worldviews. My medical friend immediately engaged in the conversation. Against the background of a university class that examined the world in which the Old Testament was birthed, our conversation stretched both of our thinking.
But my friend remained unconvinced. And he also remained my friend. It was (by the providence of God) during that time, that I learned that Ravi Zacharias was going to be speaking at our university. Ravi was not well-known at the time, but I had heard of him, and was genuinely interested to hear what he had to say. I invited my friend to join me, and he readily agreed.
I have tried to remember what Ravi said that day, but for the life of me, I can’t remember. Perhaps I was too busy praying while he spoke. But I do remember that in Ravi Zacharias fashion, he was warm, engaging, fascinating, and inviting. I do remember thinking how grateful I was to have invited my friend to such an excellent presentation. When it was done, both I and my friend had to run. We had classes and commitments. The time for downloading would come later.
The next time we met was during the next session of our joint history of the Ancient Near East class. Following the class, I asked my friend what he thought of the Ravi Zacharias presentation the day before. In a most unremarkable, and in an even tone, my friend explained to me, he had given his life to Christ. I was overwhelmed. As I think about it, I am still overwhelmed.
That event occurred approximately 40 years ago now. I have since lost touch with my classmate, but the strength of his declaration to me that day, makes me confident that, if he is alive, he is living for Christ today. But that event was also my first introduction to Ravi Zacharias.
I have no doubt that, in the coming days, there will be many tributes to Ravi Zacharias. Already, Alister McGrath has pointed out that “Ravi Zacharias will be remembered for his landmark contribution to Christians apologetics, especially his concern to connect the gospel with the life of the mind.”
Sam Allbery, a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministry mentioned that he had learned three lessons working with Zacharias.
- The person matters more than the question.
- Tone is as important as content.
- The cross is the heart of the message.
“Ravi didn’t preach an argument, he used argumentation to preach a person.”
It will also be mentioned that Ravi preached the gospel in over 70 countries. He had a significant impact on world leaders, never hesitating in sharing Jesus. He is the author of over 30 books, on a number of apologetic themes. Furthermore, the work of RZIM, which includes evangelism, apologetics, humanitarian work, spiritual disciplines, and training will also be highlighted.
Zacharias has left a marvellous heritage.
I have heard Ravi Zacharias preach on numerous occasions, and have read a number of his books. But for my part, the most profound impact Ravi Zacharias has left is the day in which he proclaimed Jesus at the University of Saskatchewan.
Thank you, Ravi, for being used of the Holy Spirit, to win my friend to faith in Christ.
Thank you, Ravi, for a life of faithfulness.