The Ravi Zacharias Case: 14 Foundational Lessons
(The revised response from CCF leadership as of March 14, 2021)
The Bible-believing world is severely saddened over the revelations of the sexual misconduct of Ravi Zacharias, the late founder of RZIM.
The CCF Board as well as the pastoral leadership team has had a long and fruitful relationship with Ravi and RZIM, hence we cannot begin to describe the shock and the depth of our sadness and grief over what has taken place. Jesus Himself grieves over sins.
It will be tragic and a waste if we do not try our best to learn from this incident. Here are therefore some of our personal insights and lessons. This is not exhaustive. There are many more lessons that we can draw out from this predicament:
1. No one is beyond sin. This is not to excuse, justify, nor condone Ravi’s actions, but we need to intentionally take a redemptive view of this matter and draw insights that the Lord will want us to learn.
2. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on people. Hebrews 12:2 says “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” Christian leaders may sooner or later disappoint us. We may also disappoint others. No one is perfect. We are who we are because of His grace – as 1 Corinthians 15:10 states, “but by the grace of God I am what I am…”. Our role is to pray for our leaders and not idolize them.
3. We need to be careful stewards of influence. The reality is others are watching us. When Christian leaders fall, the damage is tremendous. It dishonors the name of Christ. Our life is a model to both believers and unbelievers. It is crucial that we be holy and humble, walk circumspectly, and practice accountability and authenticity. Being authentic is not about perfection – it is the willingness to be confronted, to admit, to confess, and to repent.
4. God’s people are in an unrelenting spiritual battle. Scripture reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12), hence we should be careful not to trample on a fallen fellow soldier, even if in this case many will claim his wounds were “self-inflicted“. Let us accept the fact that “if one member (of Christ’s body) suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Let us “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), especially with Ravi’s family members, ministry colleagues, and of course, the many victims of his sexual misconduct.
5. We need to heed God’s clear warnings. The need to “flee temptation and take heed lest we fall” is a warning we must take seriously (1 Corinthians 10:12-14). No one is above temptation. We must practice accountability and consistently avoid situations where we become vulnerable. Allow your wife/husband access to your cell phones, computer, and social media. Always practice PRUDENCE. Always be willing to listen to correction. Give your family and other accountability partners permission to call your attention should they have any concerns about your behavior.
Avoid being alone with the opposite sex in a private place or room. Avoid going on domestic or foreign travel alone and if possible, bring your wife with you – she is your partner. It might be costly but falling into sin is costlier.
6. Belonging to a church community is vital and important. It is in fellowship within a church community where we should allow ourselves to be accountable to various groups of people like our discipler, discipleship small group, accountability partners, and of course our pastors and church elders “who keep watch over our souls and will keep an account” (Hebrews 13:17).
7. God can and does use fragile, flawed instruments because His truth never changes. As we take a look at Ravi’s failure, we are reminded of people from the Bible like King David and Solomon who blatantly disobeyed God and yet were still used by God. Ravi’s sin does not invalidate what we learned from him nor from other RZIM leaders and speakers that is consistent with Scripture. We should not reject the teachings in the Psalms and Proverbs simply because of the moral failures of the writers. Hence, we should not judge an entire ministry based on one man’s actions – even if that man was its founder. All ministries belong to the One to whom we all ultimately serve: our Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Always look in the mirror first. Beware of acting like a Pharisee. Heed the command of Jesus when He said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged… Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1,3). Our sin may be different but just like what Jesus said in John 8:7, “he who is without sin can cast the first stone…”
9. Sin will always be found out. Indeed, there is no such thing as a “secret sin” that we can consciously commit and hope to keep hidden in the shadows. “God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7). “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2) Sin will always be revealed, whether during our lifetime or after our death; if not in this world, at the final judgment. “For we must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ …” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Numbers 32:23 tells us, “…and be sure that your sin will find you out.”
10. Beware of cynicism and discouragement. The truth is there are still many God-fearing leaders who are faithfully serving the Lord. They may not be famous, but God knows who they are. Let us not allow the failures of a few famous leaders to discourage us, make us cynical, or lose heart. Let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 instructs us “…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” Galatians 6:9 encourages us, “let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.”
11. We must assume personal responsibility for our walk. In the final analysis we will all be individually accountable to God. Do not blame others or make excuses. Beware of using the failures of others to justify your behavior. Beware of blaming others for your failure to walk in purity.
12. Guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” This is important because Jeremiah 17:9 tells us “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” To guard our heart means we need to be cautious that we don’t get deceived by our own emotions. Beware of justifying our own sin. We need to be aware of our own mistakes and failures, and confess it to God so that our hearts will not be hardened.
13. Ask God to examine your heart. As 1 Timothy 1:5 puts it, “… the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” We need the ask God to reveal to us the things that dishonor him. We may not be aware that we practice some “respectable” sins such as gossiping, being materialistic, or being too critical. Ask God to reveal these things to you by intentionally setting aside time for personal reflection, bible reading, and prayer.
14. Create a safe place environment for your family members and Dgroup members to share. A safe environment is characterized by love, grace, encouragement, and hope. It is a place where people can freely share without fear of rejection and condemnation. To do this, we need to teach that the Christian life is not designed to be lived alone. Build relationships and trust with them and maintain confidentiality. Model what it means to be open and transparent by sharing your vulnerability. Teach them what it means to be accountable.
We in the CCF leadership see this incident a strong reminder of the need to strengthen our own practice of accountability and transparency.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 says, “19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”
It is in this light that we encourage you, that if you observe any misconduct or impropriety on the part of our elders, pastors, and leaders or members, to please file a report directly to your Area Pastor or Satellite Pastor, or Dgroup leader. You may also send an email to the Office of the Senior Pastor at [email protected], the Office of the Executive Pastor at [email protected], or the Office of the Beyond Director at [email protected] If you do, please include your name and how we can contact you. Most certainly, if and when an accusation or allegation is brought against any member of CCF’s leadership team, we will address it with earnestness and objectivity. For this reason, we covet your prayer support. Please pray that we all be faithful to our Lord to the very end of our lives.
We likewise enjoin all of you in the world-wide CCF movement to pray for comfort and wisdom for Ravi’s family, the RZIM board and staff, and most of all for God’s immeasurable loving embrace to be upon those who were victims of Ravi’s misconduct. We pray that their eyes may be fixed on the perfect person of Jesus Christ and not on those who have failed them and caused them unfathomable pain and disillusionment.
You may also have many more unanswered questions. For example, why did this come out only after he died? How can he explain himself? My humble advice is we don’t have to understand everything or try to figure out everything. We just focus on our personal walk with God in holiness and humility. Let us do our best to have open accountability and discipleship with the people we are close to. My family and I have surrendered this case to the hands of the All-loving, All-sovereign, Holy God who knows everything and who will make things clear someday.
Finally, let us pray as David did that the Lord “acquit [us] of hidden faults” and to also keep us “back from presumptuous sin” that they may “not rule over [us]” (Psalm 19:12-13). Let us keep Scripture’s warning always before us, that if ever we think we are standing firm in our walk with God, we should be careful so that we do not fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Should you have any further concerns, please get in touch with your Area or Satellite Pastor and/or Dgroup leader, and they will help process the situation with you.
God bless and keep us all!
Dr. Peter F. Tanchi