Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Tea - My ponderings on the fall of a ministry leader

It has taken me a few weeks to process what we have been learning about Ravi Zacharias and the allegations against him.  The most recent statement made by his ministry is that they were heartbroken to find the allegations to be true.  A video by Vince Vitale on Instagram seems to indicate the ministry as it stands will be dissolved but there are no specifics given.

From everything I have read, it seems there were concerns that should have brought red flags to his fellow workers in the ministry but Ravi seemed to have a credible answer to every question.  It has been heartbreaking to read and watch the leadership of the ministry as they say they should have looked into a past allegation more carefully rather than take Ravi's word for what happened. It is easier now to look back and see cracks in the foundation of his life that were not so apparent at the time.

I took a course in spiritual gifts when my daughter was very young and one of the truths we were reminded of each week was that every gift God gives us has its' own inherit weakness.  We must be just as careful to avoid the weakness as we are to use the gift (or gifts) we have received.

That is shown here since Ravi's gift was definitely an ability to communicate and answer the deep questions of life.  He also used it to deflect questions when friends and coworkers noticed something seemed not quite right.

It is not only that he had a fall from grace after his death but the depth of the sin he withheld from others is shocking to so many who admired him. It is like he was two different people, putting on one face in public and an entirely different attitude in his private life away from family and friends. 

The only reason I am writing about my own feelings is that I have recommended his books through the years as some of the best available on the subject of apologetics.  The sad things is, that is still true. The research and knowledge put into the books, many times with co-writers, are just as good as they were the day before the allegations came out.

Of course, any books he wrote about living a moral life has to be looked at with sadness as well as skepticism now.  However, I still have his books about apologetics in my library.  I think once the shock wears off, it will be easier to use the books as one would use a textbook or other reference book.

Having said that, he has left a terrible number of people who have been victims of his abuse.  The women who are sexual abuse victims are obvious and need the prayers of every Christian.  The leadership of RZIM have said that they will make certain they are given every resource, including financial, to begin to recover.

However, there are the victims who are his co-workers and those who had admired him and his gift.  We need to especially pray for the hundreds of employees of the ministry around the world who are now shaken and have an uncertain future.  We don't know if his family was aware of any of this but regardless if they were or not, they need the prayers of the Church right now.

When a Christian leader as well known and respected as Ravi Z. fails, the sound of that fall is as if one of the tallest trees in the forest has crashed.  The sound waves can be felt far beyond the immediate area and in the instance of a world renowned leader... far beyond the shores of this country.

While I was absolutely shocked when I first heard about this, when I began to read some of the results of the study and what those red flags were that people who knew him should have noticed (it is easier to see them in hindsight), it reminded me once again that as followers of Christ, He is the only One who deserves our admiration.

How often do we as a Church put a fellow believer up on a pedestal and when that idol falls, it has far more significance than it really should in our Christian walk and our beliefs.  We have seen it happen over and over and over again in the past decades.  

It is only Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Everyone else are simply humans who live in a very flawed body.  I have learned to give forgiveness and grace but to also be careful.  It is a good lesson to be reminded of in such a sad way.

I have no desire to look into this any further but I wonder when the cracks in Ravi's character first appeared.  When did he begin to make excuses for his behavior?  How could he rationalize with that brilliant mind the sins which he was committing?  Did he become so proud that he didn't think what is done in the dark would come into the light as the Bible promises?

If the tragedy of Ravi Zacharias teaches each of us anything, it is how easy we as humans can deceive ourselves into thinking we will get away with those things God demands we stay away from.  There is a reason our Father in Heaven warns us against playing with fire.  In Ravi's case, his legacy has been burned to the ground.

Please forgive the rather sloppy prose today but it was too difficult to make these words flow easily.  I think it just reveals how hard they were to write.


Kathy said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree, only Jesus...there are so many false prophets these days. We surely need discernment.
Not to be too political, but didn't your spirit recoil when you saw the golden bust this week and all those who worship there?

Anonymous said...

What has happened is very sad. It is a reminder of what fallible human beings we are. I have taught Bible studies for over 40 years to large and small groups and spoken at many retreats. One policy I have maintained is to never recommend a book by someone who is living. The answers to life's questions are always found in the written word of God. When someone such as Ravi Zacharias fails in their walk with God, the motive of everything they have ever written or done becomes suspect. Unfortunately, many people are unable to separate the message from the messenger. By maintaining this policy, I always know exactly what has been written by an author and there is no chance they will change their mind. Perhaps this seems very drastic, but that policy has stood the test of time. The written word of God never changes, but people do!

Anonymous said...

I think we need to think carefully about continuing to use books by leaders who have "fallen". It is really communicating something that we as Christians certainly don't want to communicate to those who suffered abuse: that we value the books more than we care about people. It is also dangerous to make light of the behavior by saying "we all sin in different ways...who am I to judge? That's why Jesus died..." I recommend the following article (see link) called "Five Stupid Things Christians Say about Sexual Abusers". It is excellent. -Joy

Tammy Dougherty said...

Thank you for your post. You expressed what I too felt when I heard the news. This was one show that I always listened to on the radio. It is as you said, we cannot put our faith in any MAN but only in Jesus. Thank you again.

Deanna Rabe said...

I read the report and was heartbroken for the victims and for his family. I’m sad to hear about the ministry, it’s a vital one, and perhaps they could go forward with a new name. Of course they may just need to shut RZIM down completely and start something new.

We really should never put someone on a pedestal. Sinners fail and fall. Jesus never does!

I know this was hard to write, but I don’t see anything sloppy here.

Jenny said...

This short talk might help you & your readers process this. It's very good.

The link is a video from the Australian Christian Lobby; their show titled 'The Truth of It'. I discovered this speaker last spring when everything shut down from covid & have been so encouraged by him.

Amanda said...

I appreciate your insight on this matter.

Judy said...

Thank you Brenda.

This is everything it needs to be - truthful, gracious and wise. Well said.

Vee said...

It's a difficult post to write and I understand why you needed to write it based on your endorsement of his books and ministry. It is a horrible conundrum. But this is not the first nor shall it be the last. It raises difficult questions about eternal security and where this man who did so much good (as well as evil) is today. A paradox... Guess that there are some (many?) things we are not meant to know. Our eyes are to always be on The Lord.

The Journey said...

Words well spoken. Many of us who admired him are deeply grieved. At this moment I don't know what I'd do about his books.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this...I do not know why this has shaken me so badly ...I really felt I learned a lot from him and now all these things are I am upset with myself that I seemed to have had no discernment ... I have seen many others fall and always know that Jesus is the only one to follow, all others are just human...I must have followed this mans teachings too much, for it to have shaken me .Karen

Cheryl said...

I appreciate your honest, straightforward discussion of this tragedy (and I am not using the word "tragedy" lightly). Such sadness. If it grieves our hearts, I cannot imagine how it grieves the heart of God. And yet, it does not surprise Him, nor does it change one iota of Who God is. I am so thankful that He is Faithful and True.

Elizabeth said...

One of my good friends was married to such a pastor. What you say is true...we can never place ANY human upon a pedestal!! From my personal experiences, these kind of problems arise usually in childhood...perhaps from some abuse that the person suffered. Which in no way excuses them, but often they hide in places of ministry or work such as physicians etc. The mentally ill (like psychopaths and sociopaths) also love to hide in worship places...and it is easy to fall prey to them (as happened to us a couple years ago). We can no longer attend anywhere due to my hubby's health issues...but we no longer would want to do so...we are too old to go through such a thing again and realize our empathetic tendencies make us a target. Thankfully so many ways to worship and learn online!! Also, even outside the faith family, it is especially common today to have those who appear very wonderful but turn out to be pedophiles (as we learned a couple years ago after daughter divorced, from my little granddaughter not yet even 4 yrs old). The courts, cps, the police, the justices, the lawyers ALL WENT TO EXTREME LENGTHS to help him so he still has them just like he was normal. Much to our horror and extreme grief. The main thing I hope is that those who began with Trump to take out these abusers, are hopefully still working at it. We pray most every day that the one in our life is taken out (however GOD deems is fine with us). Because evidently anyone who is into such must not fear GOD at all. Well, I always remember how Jesus said if you offended one of the least of these it was better to have a millstone around the neck and be dropped into the sea!! Must be one of the unforgivable sins...I do wonder. I hope everyone is praying for the success of those fighting to take down the huge organization in the world that runs these trafficking things. The scope of such is beyond comprehension to most of us normal folks.

Kristy said...

I too loved Ravi Z and was truly shocked to read of what he has done. His books were instrumental in my early Christian walk. His book Walking East to West was one of my favorite books ever. It has made me very sad.