Ravi's Ministry Update, February 2016

Dear Friends,
We are well into 2016 and the team is busy across the globe. But before I get into that, let me say how much I enjoyed the break during Christmas. From the 10th of December til January 2nd I rested and enjoyed times with the family. But alas! It goes by as the fastest three weeks of the year. Not only that, but just as you begin to feel the benefit of the rest, the mind has to move into high gear. To use automotive parlance, it’s zero to a hundred in a few seconds. And in this case that is an accurate description because my first engagement was to speak to 40,000 at The Passion Conference. The audience was 18 to 24-year-olds who clearly desired to hear from the Lord. Louie Giglio, a local pastor here in Atlanta, has anchored that conference for the past decade and a half. It is truly a masterful vision to reach young college and university students. For us as well, that is a primary audience. But I have never spoken to an audience this large, except years ago at a Promise Keepers Conference when there were sixty thousand in attendance. It takes a particular gift to speak to that large an audience and I’m not at all sure I’m in that league. Keeping eye contact and noting responsive expressions are important for me as I speak, so this presented a particular challenge. You move between awe and uncertainty, but by God’s grace, lives were touched and the response has been very gratifying. We have heard from many different countries. The audience, we were told, represented over 1,680 colleges and universities from 51 countries. How amazing that is! When one looks at the cultural crisis of our time, so much of the change has come from the university crowd that is programed by a radical left ideology where absolutes are debunked and atheism is in vogue. The amazing thing in the survey from the students was the struggle of many on issues like pornography and suicide. I believe the two are connected: The one is the devaluation of others and the other is the result—the ultimate devaluation of self. Violation of the sacred ultimately victimizes the victimizer. This is the result of a “selfie society.” It’s fine to keep it to a photograph, but when it moves to the struggle of the soul, the self-portrait is one of desolation. This is the reason that we still get packed audiences everywhere. The search for meaning is deep-seated and emptiness is the result of a life without boundaries. Boundaries were intended for protection and respect. RZIM takes this challenge and calling very seriously. I have maintained for years that if we do not reach the young, the road ahead will be fraught with cultural upheavals. The illustration I use is that we boast that we are a nation of laws. So let’s look at that. The laws provide our roots. The trunk is the political expression of the laws. The branches are the cultural entailments. The roots, the trunk, and the branches. But there is a question: What provides the moral soil that holds the roots? Laws are not developed in a vacuum. There is the need for a moral soil to hold the roots. That soil is now gone; we shun the absolute and we have made a political structure that has lost the core of values and moral reasoning. Interestingly, the atheist Richard Dawkins opined that Christianity at least provided a bulwark against alien and destructive worldviews. Isn’t that a remarkable statement? For so long we have been saying that secularism simply doesn’t have staying power. This is in effect a concession now being made. Young minds have been brainwashed into an anti-God state of mind. Ironically it is really an “anti-Christian God” state of mind. Now our culture is seeing that all religions are simply not the same.
There is another theme at work, that Islam is a peaceful religion. I find that fascinating. That is the very debate in the Islamic world. Is it a peaceful religion or is it not? How is it that Western politicians who have probably never read the religion’s history or its so-called sacred texts are casting their opinions when the debate rages among Muslims themselves, both claiming what the text says? History and doctrine dictate the behavior. The doctrine is set forth plainly in the text. That is why there is the strident march of a worldview that wishes to go back to its original teaching. Listening to our political rhetoric leaves one dismayed at how shoddy our understanding is of belief and history. This issue goes very deep and threatens Western culture. So there you have it. A rabid secularism that cannot provide a basis for moral reasoning and a strident religion that debunks secularism as the greatest curse upon mankind. Can secularism with a cosmetic humanist ethic resist a violent religious perspective that claims divine sanction? Is it any wonder that even Dawkins recognizes that Christianity has provided a bulwark of resistance to the destructive worldview now destabilizing the whole world? We must reach this generation and the next. That is why we are about to launch into the most significant thing we have ever done. The recent purchase of a major property in Atlanta is the first stage of this vision. Let me explain. Nearly two years ago, I began to think seriously about the establishment of a center for training and preparation in apologetics at a popular level for the young Christian or the serious Christian who wishes to learn how best to defend their Christian faith in the kind of hostile environment in which we find ourselves. How do we respond to the challenge of science when life is viewed through the lens of a scientific single vision? How do we deal with cultural shifts without demonizing people and yet not com- promising the convictions we hold? How do we respond to the challenge of so many religious worldviews, each claiming to be the answer? How do we know the Bible is true? The truth is that we cannot set a tepid Christianity beside a scorching paganism. The center that I envisioned I had called IACT: The Institute of Apologetics and Contemporary Thought. But a few weeks ago, the leadership of RZIM approached me and presented a suggestion on which they were united, along with some board members’ recommendation. They suggested that we not call it IACT but rather, The Zacharias Institute. I struggled with that but have agreed, even though it puts more pressure on me personally. But that will be the name going forward. The Zacharias Institute will be a place, a program, a plan, a people (the faculty of RZIM), and now we call for a partnership. We need churches, foundations, and individuals to get behind this vision. RZIM brings together some of the finest minds to teach our young. One of the major provisions in this center will be the cyber capacity we want to build into the plan, so that all media available is used for touching the globe. Dr. Vince Vitale will move from Oxford to Atlanta and become the Director of the Zacharias Institute. Vince is a gifted and anointed speaker and writer. The buildout and renovation of the building God has given us through the generosity of some of God’s choice servants will soon be underway. Here is my plea. We need supporters to get behind this without impacting the global fund, which needs to continue our worldwide program. It will take a minimum of 6M for the complete retrofit and state of the art broadcast/technology over and above one’s support so that the branch doesn’t outweigh the trunk. That is a staggering number for us. RZIM has 47 speakers in fifteen countries. Our worldwide budget is critical to keep that team going. If God lays it upon your heart to give over and above, we will be most grateful. As we pray, may we seek God’s mind in our giving. I pray that the Lord will lead our supporters to do his bidding. Thank you for all you do and why you do it. Even more important is your prayer support, so that we will be led of the Lord to follow his leading as a team.
For me, watching the development of young apologists to reach this generation is the path we must follow. The 40,000 students at Passion are only a fraction of the many more that are hungry for meaning and for answers. Outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no hope for them. The gospel speaks to our greatest need, which is that of a Savior. The gospel speaks to the transformation of the human heart. The gospel speaks of God’s love that needs to be shed abroad through our hearts and our obedience. The gospel speaks to strengthen our homes and provides moral reasoning from our very Creator. The gospel commands us to be to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us. That is why we speak and teach and have a vision for this ministry. That is why we build for the now and the future. We need to do this together. In order to buy this property, donors from six different countries participated. I am earnestly praying that our home base—North America—will now enable us to move forward with the renovations to make this place ready to function by the end of the year. With each one of us participating, it can be done. The new year is truly a landmark year for us. When we begin in 2017, I sincerely hope The Zacharias Institute will be opening its doors for seminars, symposiums, individualized study programs, and a library to equip those who wish to be better prepared. Visiting scholars will be on hand and different groups will have access to our teaching plans. We also hope to have a special program for the arts, both the performing arts and the fine arts. This generation has an eye and ear for that. The vision is relevant, the basis is The Truth. I earnestly pray for our best days ahead. Please especially pray for Vince and his wife, Jo, as they move to the US to anchor this vision. Vince actually hails from New Jersey, so for him its “returning home,” albeit to Atlanta. The itinerary for the year ahead looks busy and wide-ranging, from numerous university engagements globally to State Prayer Breakfasts to academic, business, youth, church, and political gatherings. We speak on issues of the soul no matter what the audience. In India, in March, I will be speaking at two of the finest university colleges in the country, one in the north and the other in the south. Our whole team is busy in Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas. The reports we receive from all of these places is heartwarming. We are placing one of our key apologists in Kenya beginning in July. John Njoroge has finished his doctoral work here and returns with his family to the land of his birth. This is truly a calling from God. He could comfortably settle here but right from the beginning when he came, his goal was to open wide the door in Africa for Christian apologetics. His ministry there is extraordinary. So now in addition to Mahlatse Winston Mashua in South Africa, we will have John Njoroge in Kenya. We also have Australia and New Zealand in mind for expansion this year. We are watching carefully the possibility of one Chinese apologist. Our Asia Pacific region is growing dramatically. May I close with a couple of personal anecdotes? One of the most thrilling things we see is military personnel writing to us or sending messages of how they listen to our programs wherever they are based. Their letters touch us deeply. With that in mind, I will be in several military bases and venues this year and the next. In addition to that, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen-year-olds ask to come and meet us. Their parents write and say they are listening to us all the time or reading our material. One young lad of fourteen had his mother drive him several hours, just to say how deeply he has been touched by our work. One mother, whose son had attended the Passion Conference, wrote to say that she had started listening to our messages when her father was listening to them. So she said, “Ravi, your work has touched three generations.” Those are the comments that keep us going. I could tell you more stories because prominent leaders in the country tell us of their young teens listening to our programs. That is so heartwarming. We feel so honored and privileged to be in ministry. I ask for your prayers. More than ever we need to be sensitive to our Lord’s leading. We need to be in his will. We need to spend time with our families and meet their needs as well, to say nothing of our own. Our calling is clear, our responsibility is great, our need is real, our dependence is great. We count on you all to stand with us as we surrender our hearts to the Lord afresh every day. He gives your friendship and support to remind us that He will provide and we are not alone.
Have a blessed 2016, and thank you for standing with us. With gratitude,
Ravi Zacharias and the entire RZIM team

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