CIU alumnus remembers Ravi Zacharias

CIU alumnus and associate of Ravi Zacharias, Raphael Anzenberger
May 20, 2020

Christians across the globe are remembering the impact of evangelist Ravi Zacharias who died of cancer on May 19, 2020 at age 74. He founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) in 1984, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions around the world. RZIM focuses on evangelism, apologetics, spiritual disciplines, training and humanitarian support. 

Among those greatly influenced by Zacharias is Columbia International University alumnus Raphael Anzenberger, the director of RZIM France, and an adjunct professor of Intercultural Studies at CIU. Anzenberger, a native of France, earned a Master of Divinity degree from CIU in 2005, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2011. In an email Q&A, he shared his thoughts about Zacharias, a man he considered a mentor to him.

How long have you known Ravi Zacharias, and what attracted you to his ministry?

I met Ravi in 2002 through Leighton Ford, the former vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, at the European Apologists Forum in Sopron, Hungary. Professor D.A. Carson was giving Bible lectures in the morning, and Ravi talked on apologetics in the evening. I was sitting next to CIU alumnus and former CIU Provost Dr. Ralph Enlow, and we were having the time of our life. I was just a regular Master of Divinity student at CIU at that time!

What attracted me to him was his heart of an evangelist. At last, someone who knew how to use apologetics in evangelism, and win skeptics to Christ. We had plenty of skepticism in France, so I thought, this is the person who can help me sharpen my evangelistic gifting!

You considered him a mentor. Why?

I remember walking with Ravi at the bookstore setup for the Forum. There were books by the thousands. He started collecting one book after another, passed them on to me to carry, and moved to the next table. As the pile was growing, I thought to myself: “No way can I afford all these books, I am a broke seminary student!” At the end of the tour, I left with a suitcase full of books, a gift from Ravi. A mentor knows how to nourish his protégé. I was not even an associate with his ministry, and he was already investing in my life. The rest is history.

What is the most important aspect of life or ministry that you learned from him?

Ravi used to say: “There is always a person behind each question. Don’t go for the question, go for the questioner.” This key insight drove my ministry in our early years doing apologetics on French campuses. We would give 20 minute lectures, followed by 50 minutes Q&A, and leaving the campus only when everyone would have had a chance to get their questions answered. As my colleague Sam Allberry rightly said: “Ravi was such an effective evangelist because he pastored unbelievers.” This is a life worth emulating.

What will you remember most about him?

His sense of humor. Ravi was very dedicated and focused on his work, averaging 70-80 hours of work each week, as well as traveling around the globe multiple times in a given year. He produced so much material in his lifetime that it will take us years to unpack all of his insights. Yet, he was always ready for a good laugh and enjoyed great dinners with good company. There must have been a little French in him — apologetics can be so cerebral at times, that it takes humor to remind ourselves that friendships in Jesus, for Jesus, and to Jesus (as Leighton Ford would say), are our fuel for life and ministry.

What does the future hold for RZIM?

I believe that RZIM has never been as strong as it is right now as a ministry. With close to 100 global speakers, addressing contemporary issues in all spheres of society, from government to business, from arts to fashion, from academics to sports, RZIM continues to offer some of the best training opportunities for those who wish to help the believer think, and the thinker believe.

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