Leadership Lessons: Ravi Zacharias – When Great Christian Leaders FAIL

I’m not sure if everyone knows but I’m a Christian. My mother’s side of the family is Christian, and my uncle and auntie used to be field missionaries and are now head of a church in Marikina.

If you worship in the Christian circles, then you will definitely know who Ravi Zacharias is. Ravi was an Indian born Canadian-American Christian apologist who founded and served in the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM).

1. Who is Ravi Zacharias and Why Was He So Famous in the Current Christian Landscape?

Ravi Zacharias is one of the most famous and most charismatic Christian apologetics in the modern time, with a career spanning over 48 years. He founded the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry, which is rocked by a big scandal today.

RZIM logo

If you went to Christ Christian Fellowship (CCF), you would often hear Ravi preach spectacularly in one of the grand halls, where he is a frequent guest. He is right up there to speakers such as Nick Vujicic and Reverend Edmund Chan of the Singapore-based Covenant Evangelical Free Church. My husband is a big fan of Ravi and his messages, and we would often go to CCF when there’s a hard hitting speaker like Ravi, as we think we can learn a lot from his sermon.

Ravi is a Christian apologist of the modern era. For you to understand what he does, Christian apologists are those who study the Bible intimately and defend Christianity against objections using logic and reason. The apostle Paul and Blaise Pascal are mere examples of popular Christian apologetics over the century. In their sermons, Christian apologists defend and comment on various books of the Bible.

Explaining what Christian apologists stand for, R. C. Sproul in his quote at the First Epistle of Peter wrote, “The defense of the faith is not a luxury or intellectual vanity. It is a task appointed by God that you should be able to give a reason for the hope that is in you as you bear witness before the world.” [30]

In his lifetime, Ravi Zacharias authored over 30 books on Christianity and was a lifelong mister at the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Keswickian Christian denomination in which he was ordained.[7]

He has been married to his wife, Margaret or “Margie” whom he met at his church’s youth group. They had three children, Sarah, Nathan, and Naomi.[81]  Their daughter, Sarah Zacharias Davis, is the current CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministry.

Last May 2020, Ravi Zacharias died in his home in Atlanta at the age of 74 from a malignant and rare spine cancer. When he died, there was an outpouring of love and support from high-profile Christians all over the world, sharing with others on social media how Ravi faithfully served the Lord, and his impact to spreading the word in their churches.

2. So What is the Big Scandal with Ravi Zacharias?

Ravi had two big scandals when he was alive, and a humongous pile of uber big scandals with an S, post his lifetime:

A. Ravi miscredited himself as a doctor, even though he did not earn any doctorate degrees. 

When Ravi was still alive, there was a big hoopla that Ravi wrongfully credited himself by using the suffix, “Dr.” despite not having a single formal Doctorate degree, and embellished his connections to Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Initially, Ravi Zacharias inserted the word, “Dr.” as his suffix via his official biography and in some of the videos released by his ministry. He has been apparently introducing himself as “Dr. Zacharias” since the early 1980s, falsely representing himself to have hold multiple degrees.[vi] Ravi also claimed ian earlier edition of his biography and in some of his books and in about section that he studied at the University of Cambridge and was a visiting professor at the University of Oxford even though they were untrue.[55][56]

His major publishers have been fully on board with HarperCollins listing him as “Ravi Zacharias, PhD”[vii] at the contributor’s page of the 2017 The Jesus Bible, and his author bio at Penguin/Random House that says “Zacharias holds three doctorate degrees.”[viii]

It was later discovered that Mr. Zacharias has NO doctoral degree. While Ravi earned a Masters of Divinity degree, he has done no doctoral work. The only doctorate he had were multiple honorary doctorates awarded to him by Christian schools. Before being called out, the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, of which Mr. Zacharias is a founding member, claimed at its website that Mr. Zacharias “has been conferred a Doctor of Divinity degree from both Houghton College and Tyndale College and Seminary, Toronto, and a Doctor of Laws degree from Ashbury College (sic), Kentucky.”

You can see more of the details on this relatively minor scandal at the link below:

Fact Checking Claims about Ravi Zacharias' Credentials: Is Dr. Zacharias in the House?

Ravi and his ministry eventually did correct the “mistake” that credits him as a doctor in some of his websites and publications. However, they have not corrected all of it and despite people calling them out on it, some sites still remain to call him as “Dr. Ravi Zacharias.”

2. Ravi Zacharias paid Canadian Lori Anne Thompson in November/December 2017 for her to sign an NDRA and for her to Drop Her Suit Accusing Ravi of Sexual Impropriety.

In April 2017, Lori Ann Thompson and her husband demanded $5 million to Ravi Zacharias in exchange for them refraining from filing a lawsuit accusing Zacharias of impropriety. In her demand letter, Ms. Thompson then alleged that Ravi encouraged the relationship and exploited her vulnerability to satisfy his sexual desires. The charge involved an inappropriate online relationship complete with sexually explicit messages and photographs.

Long story short, Lori Anne said that during their conversations, she opened up with Ravi Zacharias whom she grew to trust and considered as a father figure, her abuse-ridden childhood. Over a few conversations, Zacharias then requested he and she correspond via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) citing security reasons

In September 2016, Lori Anne disclosed to her sister about the communication she had with Ravi, and shared to her that the conversations has turned sexual.

While Lori Anne never claimed to have been physically alone with Zacharias at any point, the sister said that Lori Anne reported that her relationship with the preacher involved phone sex and her sending him nude pictures. The sister warned Lori Ann that it seems predatory and absurd for Ravi to keep such sexually explicit correspondence to Lori Anne given that he is 30 years her senior, married and is a respectable spiritual authority from the church.

In 2016, Lori Anne wrote “He stated so many times to me that the cost of ministry has been very high, that none of his time is his own, he has no privacy, no personhood left.” She added that Zacharias assured her that the Lord understood what he had sacrificed and implied their sexual exchanges were God’s way of rewarding him.

In October 2016, Lori Ann wrote the following email to Mr. Ravi Zacharias to tell him she wishes to confess to her husband about their inappropriate relationship:

From: Lori Anne Thompson <…>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 1:04:58 PM EDT
To: Ravi <…>
Subject: Letter

Dear Ravi,

I can no longer continue, even in the seams of my soul, tuck away what I know to be sin against God and each of our spouses. Sin as you know always divides and devours. I cannot however continue to live with myself, with the guilt and shame that I feel about what has happened.

In order to move forward with my spouse, I am planning on telling him what has happened tonight. The cost of this has been staggeringly high, and I have no idea if my marriage will be salvaged. All I can do is beg his forgiveness and try to heal so that something of this nature never happens again. Please do to reply, as I simply cannot hear from you or see you ever again. I have no control over how Brad will respond to or handle the information but I can no longer hold this secret and its soul searing shame.

Let me say I have three daughters [……]. If one of my daughters was approached by a man thirty years her senior in a position of power and trust, and this type of thing had occurred, I would be furious with him. I suspect so would you if it were one of your precious girls.  

You sir, are that man. You took advantage of a devastated daughter, and left her devoured once again. I am so appalled that I allowed myself to enter into this level of deception. You took and I gave a part of my soul and later my body that was not yours. The investment in relationship from taking my email to taking off my clothes makes me weep with the despair; feeling desolate, devastated, and disgusted.

As for always, I recant on a vow I cannot keep. It is only He that will be with me always.  

Lori Anne

This was then Ravi’s responses to the email as follows:

From: Ravi <….>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 4:38:00 PM EDT
To: Lori Anne Thompson <….>
Subject: Re: Letter

Are you going to tell him it’s me? 

From: Ravi <…>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 5:03:34 PM EDT
To: Lori Anne Thompson <…>
Subject: Re: Letter

Can we not meet at lest [sic] once before you do this? Please please

From: Ravi <….>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 4:38:48 PM EDT
To: Lori Anne Thompson <….>
Subject: Re: Letter

You promised you wouldn’t Lori Anne. If. You betray me here I will have no option but to bid this world goodbye I promise

From: Ravi <…>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 5:57:00 PM EDT
To: Lori Anne Thompson <…>
Subject: Re: Letter

Little did I know that was the most dark and accursed day of my life. You will not hear from me again

From: Lori Anne Thompson <….>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 6:15:42 PM EDT
To: Ravi <….>
Subject: Re: Letter

We are Lori Anne’s counsellors and she is currently receiving intensive counselling with us to find healing and restoration for her marriage. It is not her intent to share what has happened to anyone except her husband–which is necessary for any hope of marital restoration. And we are bound by confidentiality. We need some assurance from you that you will not harm yourself. Otherwise, we will find it necessary to contact 911 in your location. We await your prompt response. Thank you.

From: Ravi <….>
Date: October 29, 2016 at 6:18:08 PM EDT
To: Lori Anne Thompson <….>
Subject: Re: Letter

I am fine Thank you. I am just concerned about her. Thank you please tell her I am praying for her. She is very much in my prayers.

As you can see, the good reverend Ravi Zacharias threatened to commit suicide if Lori Ann told anyone of what they did. This is a passive aggressive emotional manipulation and blackmail to the highest degree, and not something that a respectable Christian apologist with almost 50 years of Christian work should ever be saying to a woman with whom he had sexual conversations with on the phone.

Upon receiving the demand letter, Ravi Zacharias protested his innocence. He with RZIM then filed a Federal suit against the couple in August 2017. Eventually, the matter was settled out of court under undisclosed terms in November 2017.

In his 3 December 2017 statement,[66] Ravi said, “Let me state categorically that I never met [Thompson] alone, publicly or privately. The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to [her]—I did NOT, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman, not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility.” Zacharias added that he had been “absolutely faithful” to his wife Margie throughout their marriage, but acknowledged that he “failed to exercise wise caution and to protect [himself] from even the appearance of impropriety“.[65][66] 

When Ravi’s last and largest scandal broke in 2020, Brad, Lori Anne Thompson’s husband, wrote in his blog post, TRR Exclusive: An Open Letter to RZIM from Brad & Lori Anne Thompson, last October 2020, asking RZIM to release them from their NDA and sharing their side of the story as much as their NDA will allow.

Brad semi-ended his post by saying:

“We believe Mr. Zacharias and RZIM have extensively profited from, and created a culture of clericalism, elitism, and intimidation. This is a culture that makes use of false credentials, celebrity endorsements, Christian media, and an expansive donor base to fund the suppression of the truth, while claiming the pursuit of it. Unfortunately, the late Mr. Zacharias, whom RZIM has heralded as the defender of the truth, did not foresee the ability of the truth to rise up and defend its self.”

Later, Lori Ann Thompson went on to say that Zacharias and his organisation, RZIM, used a prior situation the couple had been involved to insinuate that they were “a litigious couple who sued people for financial gain”.

“RZ as an individual and RZIM as an institution took a prior abuse situation that had fractured my husband and I years previously, and used that information to publicly and falsely crucify us,” she said. “The consequences of trying to hold RZ to account for his abusive and predatory behaviour was that my husband and I not only had to endure endless interpersonal atrocities — we were also widely publicly humiliated and vilified.” 

C. When Sh*t Literally Hit the Fan — Three Women Who Worked at the Two Day Spas Ravi Co-Owned in Atlanta Came Out Alleging Zacharias of Unimaginable Sexual Relations and Inappropriacy.

Four months after Zacharias’ death in May 2020, three women who worked at two day-spas he co-owned in Atlanta came forward alleging that Zacharias had sexually harassed multiple massage therapists over the course of a period of about five years. They alleged that Zacharias would expose and touch himself every time he was at the spa.

“He would touch my leg, which was kind of by his hand, but then he would run his hand up to the middle of my thighs and then to the private area,” one woman said.

Another woman recalled Zacharias touching her lower back. It seemed friendly, almost comforting. Then he moved his hand down and inside of her pants. Several other times, he moved his hand up her side and touched her breast.

Apparently, in his lifetime, Ravi Zacharias co-owned and co-managed a side business, two health spas in Georgia named Jivan Wellness and the ironically sounding, Touch of Eden.

Zacharias went into business as a spa owner in 2004, opening Touch of Eden in a shopping center in Johns Creek, investing at least USD 50,000 and was listed as vice president and owner of one-third of the company. When Touch of Eden closed in 2008, Zacharias and his business partner Anurag Sharma opened a second spa in the same location. It was called Jivan Wellness, named for a Hindi word for “life.” Jivan remained in business until 2015. At the time, tax records show Zacharias was earning a total compensation of about $365,000 per year from RZIM.

His sideline business allowed Ravi to be alone in a private room with women. Over time, Ravi could not fight the temptation, and did many evil things.

The Damning Christianity Today Report on Ravi Zacharias (September 2020)

Christianity Today reported these allegations of abuse in September 2020. Initially, the ministry leadership stated it did not believe the women.  According to Christianity Today,

Zacharias masturbated in front of one of the women more than 50 times, according to her recollection. He told her he was burdened by the demands of the ministry, and he needed this “therapy.” He also asked her to have sex with him twice, she said, and requested explicit photos of her.

Initially, the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries denied the claims. Due to stinnging pressure, RZIM later on engaged an independent law firm to perform an investigation on the alleged inappropriate sexual activities of their found.

Four months later on December 23, 2020, RZIM confirmed that the allegations were true and released a 12-page report confirming the abuse by Ravi Zacharias at his day spas and uncovered five additional victims in the US, as well as evidence of sexual abuse in Thailand, India, and Malaysia.

While the third party investigation is not exhaustive and was not done yet by that time, Miller & Martin attorneys, Lynsey Barron and William Eiselstein, who were hired by RZIM to investigate, conclusively said they had interviewed 50 witnesses and examined phones Zacharias used from 2014 to 2018. In summary, the lawyers reported they “are confident that we uncovered sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct.”

Christianity Today published this devastating summary in February 2021, Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation, listing down all the sexually inappropriate things Ravi did to the women, which includes:

  1. A limited review of Zacharias’s old devices revealed over 200 contacts of massage therapists in the US and Asia and hundreds of images of young women, some of whom were naked: Zacharias continued to solicit and receive these type of photos until a few months prior his death in May 2020 at the age 74. The massage therapists and the women pictured in Zacharias’s phone albums were decades younger than him, many in their 20s.
  2. Ravi misused ministry funds dedicated to a “humanitarian effort” to pay FOUR (4) massage therapists: The money was used to provide them with housing, schooling, and monthly support for extended periods of time.
  3. One said he raped her: One of the above-mentioned massage therapists whom he provided with financial support to said that “after he arranged for the ministry to provide her with financial support, he required sex from her.” She called it rape.
  4. The same massage therapist stated that “Zacharias made her pray with him to thank God for the ‘opportunity’ they both received” And, as with other victims, “called her his ‘reward’ for living a life of service to God.
  5. Ravi guilted the women into silence: Zacharias warned the same woman –—a fellow believer— that if she ever spoke out against him, she would be responsible for millions of souls lost when his reputation was damaged.
  6. One of the three women alleged that eventually Ravi “would expose himself every time, and he would touch himself every time. It was where he went to get what he wanted sexually:” The women who worked at the spas said when Zacharias wasn’t traveling with RZIM, he came in for treatment two or three times a week. His reasoning for such frequency was of a bad back pain resulting from a spine injury in 1985. The businesses were a 15-minute drive from the ministry’s headquarters in Alpharetta.
  7. One woman said Zacharias masturbated in front of her more than 50 times: His excuse was that he was burdened by the demands of the ministry, and needed this “therapy.” He did ask her to have sex with him twice and requested explicit photos of her. Both times, she refused because he was married. He told her that he dreamed of being able to leave his ministry and his life as an apologist behind to live a normal, private life. But he couldn’t because this was his “burden,” the woman recalled.
  8. Ravi led people away from the faith: One of the women said she stopped believing in God for a while after her encounter with Zacharias but has returned to faith after extensive counseling. Another said she has not been to church since and can’t trust religious institutions. It took her seven years of therapy to come to the conclusion that what Zacharias did to her was not her fault, she said.
  9. On his overseas travels, Ravi regularly traveled with a personal masseuse and criticized a fellow RZIM staff member who questioned the “appearance of impropriety” for doing so.
  10. Investigators uncovered evidence that Zacharias routinely met massage therapists when he traveled and arranged for massage treatments in his hotel room.

  11. In Bangkok, it was revealed he owned two apartments in the early 2010s, sharing a building with one of his massage therapists: Between 2010 and 2014 he spent a total of 256 days in one of these apartments and sought rent reimbursement from RZIM for those stays. The other apartment, in the same building but on a different floor, housed one of his massage therapists.[72] The notes app on his phone were found to have included Thai and Mandarin translations of phrases like “I’d like to have a beautiful memory with you,” “little bit further,” and “Your lips are especially beautiful.

  12. The investigation confirmed that Zacharias lied about not being alone with a woman other than his wife or daughters. He also maintained multiple phones at all times, kept them on a different wireless plan than RZIM, and never used the wireless network at the office. The excuse was “security” bit hid his sexual inappropriateness in plain sight.

3. What was the Aftermath When the Scandal Blew Up?

Long story short, the late Ravi Zacharias leveraged his reputation as a world-famous Christian apologist to abuse massage therapists in the United States and overseas over more than a decade. His ministry, which is led his own family members and loyal allies, did not properly investigate these incidents, allowed these incidents to happen, and failed to hold him accountable when they smelled the whiff of scandal.

At the height of his popularity, Ravi Zacharias traveled to 70 countries, spoke to millions about the philosophical foundations and framework of the gospel, and RZIM grew into a global enterprise with 17 separate legal entities and more than 250 employees from Atlanta, Singapore, Spain to Peru.

When the scandal blew up, RZIM apologized and restructured within 8 months:

  • The RZIM leadership reduced the involvement of the Zacharias family.
    • Margie Zacharias, Ravi’s widow, resigned from the board and the ministry in January
    • Their daughter Sarah Davis stepped down as board chair but remains as CEO
  • Multiple speakers and RZIM staff members left the ministry during the course of the investigation as they were concerned about the management’s initial response to the allegations.
  • Many layoffs occurred. At its height, RZIM boasted of 100 speakers and 250 staff members nationwide. Now it is reduced to a fraction of that. As a result of falling donations, RZIM decided to make 60% of its workforce worldwide redundant. The plan reduced RZIM to 10 US apologists and a few international speakers, supported by a small staff.
  • On 19 February, Zacharias’s denomination, the Alliance World Fellowship, revoked his ordination after its own investigation confirmed a “pattern of predatory behaviour.”[14]
  • RZIM’s Canadian branch suspended fundraising efforts and donation collection through April. RZIM Canada began winding down operations.[76]
  • By 24 February, RZIM Africa had suspended its operations.
  • The UK-based Zacharias Trust threatened to split if RZIM does not apologize to victims and institute major reforms. The day after the report was released the UK board voted unanimously to separate from RZIM and choose a new name.
  • On 8 March, RZIM stated it will alter its name and take all Zacharias’ content out.[12][13]
  • HarperCollins which published Ravi’s books pulled them out from circulation. The HarperCollins site listed 16 English titles authored by Zacharias, which totaled more than 2 million copies in sales by the time of his death in May 2020.
  • RZIM apologized to the victims. Here’s the letter.

4. How Many of the 10 Commandments Did Ravi Zacharias Break?

Ravi Zacharias pretty much demolished through 5 of the 10 commandments.

You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me

Despite his many talents as God’s servant, writing many books and preaching to millions, at the end of the day, it is highly likely that Ravi lost track on who His Master is, and instead served himself first. He used his ministry to travel around the world, hide his sexual activities, manipulate these women in servicing him as if they are servicing God, and silenced those who went against him.

I sincerely believe that Ravi also enjoyed and took pride in his position. While he may have been repentant and aware of the sins that he was doing, I am confident that it is his ego that made him still continue. Even after settling his 2017 suit with Lori Anne Thompson, Zacharias continued to exchange sexual messages with other women, but did a better job of deleting his messages in ways that could not be detected or uncovered. 

You Shall Make No Idols

Ravi asked women to send him nude photos where he most likely masturbated with. Whatever he worshipped on his off duty time, it was not God’s will.

Carson Weitnauer, a former employee, referred to Zacharias in response to the allegations as “one of [his generation’s] greatest frauds,” a “sexual predator”, and a “uniquely charismatic manipulator.”[68]

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

Ravi Zacharias adamantly insisted that he was always loyal to his wife, and was never alone with a female who was not a family member. In December 2017, Zacharias said that he had been “absolutely faithful” to his wife Margie throughout their marriage.uThis was despite Zacharias continuing to solicit and receive these type of photos until a few months prior his death in May 2020 at the age 74.

You Shall Not Steal

Ravi stole people’s innocence. He would display his Christian books at the spa, of which his ownership he never hid. However, he did masturbate, have sexual relations and kept women he had sex with on the payroll in the guise of spending ministry funds into a humanitarian effort.

Ravi stole money from His God and the Church, and paid for the financial needs of his four masseuses, one of which he raped.

Given his life’s testimony, many fell from the faith and turned away from God. Many cannot believe how someone who calls himself God’s servant could use the power, talent and authority given to Him by God for his own sexual purposes and perversions.

So the one woman told me that she sort of suddenly stopped believing in God, and it took her a lot of therapy to kind of recover her faith. Another woman told me that she hasn’t been to church in over a decade since this happened and that she can’t trust religious institutions.”

You Shall Not Bear False Witness 

He lied about his academic credentials. 

Ravi lied about his loyalty to his wife.

He had sexual activity with lots of his masseuses. He masturbated in front of them frequently. He asked for their nude photos. He even had sexual relations and raped one them.

He intimidated his victims.

Told them that he would commit suicide if they squealed, and it would have been a big loss to the Christian community. He told them doing what he want is their way of servicing the Lord. He countersued a victim who was telling the truth and had her sign an NDA.

He hid his sexual perversion and deviance. And pressured people to silence when somebody would call him out on him.

You Shall Not Covet

How would you explain Ravi’s common excuse on why women should service him:

One victim said Zacharias “made her pray with him to thank God for the ‘opportunity’ they both received” and, as with other victims, “called her his ‘reward’ for living a life of service to God,” the report says. Zacharias warned the woman—a fellow believer—if she ever spoke out against him, she would be responsible for millions of souls lost when his reputation was damaged.[71]

And I think also the knowledge that “all have sinned” is not like an excuse. And I think that that’s something that I think we should all be wrestling with as we talk about who Jesus is and who we are. That when we say, “all have sinned,” we don’t ever say that with a shrug. We say that with serious tears in our eyes, knowing that all have sinned, and all have hurt. And that the people who know that the solution to sin is in Christ are also the people who should be taking a sin the most seriously.

5. When Charismatic Leaders Fall, Where Shall We Seek Guidance? 

I would like to share this beautiful sermon by CCF’s Peter Tanchi entitled, “Live a Full Life – No Regrets” that was published last March 21 on the CCF Youtube Page:

The gist of the message is, God has given people in the world talents. Some have more, some have less. It’s the same with Ravi Zacharias. God has given him a lot of talents so much that Ravi is able to spread God’s word in many countries, in front of millions of people, and write many books.

However, with great power comes great responsibility.

The more authority and responsibility that is given to us, the more ACCOUNTABILITY we should have to our master, the people we serve, and the people around us.

Honestly, the story and downfall of Ravi Zacharias perplexes me — WHY DID PASTOR RAVI ACT AS IF THERE WAS NO GOD?

I wonder —- A man who spent decades “serving” God and His ministry, who read and studied the Bible and taught everyone its depths, who knew for a FACT that our God exists and the type of wrath He has against those who try to use His money for personal gain and perversion, and knew for a FACT of the afterlife and God’s order of accountability after death on this earth —-

Knowing all these, how could Ravi still do such things? Was he not afraid of our God? Did he not think God disapproves and will seek accountability? That you cannot buy your way to heaven because you “saved” souls?
How could Ravi not be afraid to use God’s funds and ministry to feed his perversions, adultery and sin?

 

I honestly do not know what has gotten into Ravi’s mind.

Regardless, I also do not think I am in the position to judge others. The Lord warns that there is a time of reckoning and it is him who will decide what to do with everyone. Not I or anyone else is in that position to judge at the risk of being too self-righteous and shooting ourselves in the foot.

THE BEST LEADERS ARE THOSE WHO ARE SERVANTS FIRST

A lot of people think that being a boss is an easy job. They seem to think that a boss is actually having a corner office, sitting on a huge leather office chair, putting your heels up in the table, and ordering people around.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Ever since I have become a boss (instead of a corporate utusan in a competitive rat race), I have been a servant of the people I have hired. Last year, during the lockdown, I had to make a difficult decision to take a hit and still financially support my staff during the ECQ. The help is not their full salary, but is something they did not earn, and is given so that nobody would starve during the 2-month lockdown.

When you become a leader, people look up to you for guidance. They trust you that you will rightfully steer the ship (business you manage), don’t steal from the company’s coffers, and make the right decisions for the good of the employees, customers and the people around you.

If you make the wrong decisions — like what Ravi did — the whole organization disintegrates. People lose their motivation and the will to work, and everything that you worked for will be destroyed as a result of your foolish decisions. Investors or donors whom your business rely on will abandon you, similar to the donees who abandoned RZIM causing them to retrench most of their workers. Outsiders will bash you and stomp your business to dust. Everyone will question what the hell they’ve been working so hard for. And your people will spit on the ground you’re buried in.

All the hard work you did — instead of a legacy, you’re left with dust. Sayang din yung pinagtrabahuhan mo in your lifetime.

Ravi was the right leader for RZIM until he was not.

He let his ego and pride get in his way and he put himself FIRST over others. Disappointingly, regardless on what good he did, it is the sexual immorality that people will remember, and RZIM will be just a shadow of what it once was.

I wrote about the fall Ravi Zacharias as a warning to leaders and businesspeople alike. Actually, I wrote about him as a warning to everyone. To my perplexity, I wonder what the Christian community thinks about it. They had been so quiet to what happened to Ravi. None of the mega-churches in the Philippines has really talked about Ravi and his story, as if out of respect to a man who has fallen so far. Where shall we start exercising our accountability if not today.

Look, in this world, we only have very limited time. A pandemic is raging in our doors. Many people are dying of COVID-19 as we speak. We don’t know who will survive this year or the next.

We need to be accountable for our own lives.

I hope that Ravi Zacharias’ story will help us reflect on what we are currently doing with our life. It will help us realize who we are, and who we want to be. We must remind ourselves that no matter where we are in an organization, we must never work WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY. We must always surround ourselves with people who will keep us in check. We must never be too proud to say we are invincible, because the moment we die, our enemies will come out in the darkness and cast a mirror on what we did in our lives.

When we die, what will people say about us? What will God say about us?

I end this blogpost about the Parable of the Talents as said in Matthew 25:14-30:

Jesus again used a story to encourage his followers to be ready for his return at all times. “Be on the alert,” he said, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).

In the parable, he describes a man who goes on a journey, entrusting his servants with his wealth and possessions in his absence.

To one servant, the master gives five talents, to a second servant he gives two talents, and to a third servant he gives one talent (Matthew 25:14-15). A talent, in this instance, refers to a unit of measurement, often used to weigh out silver or gold.

It is different than the modern concept of a “talent” as a gift or natural ability. Here, the master is entrusting his servants with a measure of his wealth, proportionate to each of their abilities (Matthew 25:15).

The parable goes on to say that two of the servants, the one given five talents and the one handed two, were good stewards of their master’s money, investing it in such a way that when the master returned, they handed back double what he had originally given them (Matthew 25:16-17).

The third servant, however, was not so prudent. According to the story, “the one who received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (Matthew 25:18).

When the master eventually did return, the servants who were faithful were praised and entrusted with more of the master’s wealth. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” the master said to each of them. “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

The servant who was fearful and negligent, however, was swiftly reprimanded by his master, who called him “wicked, lazy, and worthless.” His talent was taken and given to the one with ten talents, and he himself was thrown out of his master’s presence (Matthew 25:30).

When the time comes, and we are in front of our Lord, will we be happy to show how much we have used our talents for His Greatness? Or shall we hide in shame for what we did, as we wasted the talents given to us by God?

ON A HUMAN RESOURCES NOTE, WHAT CAN WE DO IF OUR BOSS OR OWN LEADERS DO SOMETHING WRONG —- HOW TO TAKE ACTION?

This is really the problem. What can we do if our company CEO, high level “malakas” manager are the ones who are doing the hanky panky? How do you escalate? Saan mo siya isusumbong?

Ang hirap diba? Leaders are supposed to protect you. They should be our role models, and guide us to do the right thing. Pero what if our leaders are like Ravi —- Sila pa yung gumagawa ng masama, and then pag sinisita, sila pa ang galit and threatens us to keep quiet so we can keep our jobs?

Should we remain as enablers? Should we keep quiet? Should society keep quiet? And if we want to say something, bakit tayo pa ang kawawa?

It’s really hard when such a powerful leader/boss does something bad. We know it’s bad and yet, nobody else is saying anything. If this can happen in the USA and the Christian community, paano pa in the Philippines?

How about you? What can you do to protect themselves? How can leaders be accountable to their followers? Simon Sinek said before, “Leaders Eat Last?” What do you do when your boss has stopped becoming a good leader and instead became the leader of doing bad things?

SOURCES:

1. Report of Independent Investigation into the Sexual Misconduct of Ravi Zacharias (February 2021)

 

Miller and Martin was hired by RZIM to refute the allegations, but instead, they quite easily found out that the allegations were true. Here’s the report.

6. Christianity Today September 2020 and February 2021 expose on Ravi’s actions:

7. How reliable is Christianity Today? Who are They?

Christianity Today Bias and Reliability Overview

Something to really reflect into. Please comment below if you have any thoughts on this subject.

Have a great week ahead!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Posted by

www.TinainManila.com Thank you for subscribing and commenting if you like what you read. ❤

8 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons: Ravi Zacharias – When Great Christian Leaders FAIL

  1. I am a Christian, too Ms. Tina. What happened to Ravi Z. was heart-breaking and it tainted not only him but the Christian community. It’s sad that he stood to what was wrong and sin until the end. It only shows that humans err. We forgive flaws but fraudulence should be paid for.

    1. I have nothing against Ravi. And God is the only one who can judge him capably following His standards.

      But as a fellow leader and Christian, I was angry when I found out what Ravi INTENTIONALLY and BLATANTLY did when he was still alive. God gave him talents like everyone else, and Ravi explicitly misused this talents. On the outside, he was this respected preacher, teacher and leader.

      But on the inside, he used his power and authority to do bad things to his family, his wife, his subordinates, the masseuse he hired, his congregation, his ministry and to the community. He bullied his attackers and called them liars when he himself lied on a daily basis. He was an expert on the gospel but was the leader of disobeying what he preached. He visited churches and spread the word and misused God’s words by threatening women thqat if they told, “millions of lives would go to hell.” His ministry and family kept quiet because the money train was rocking.

      Christianity is how you live your life. Ravi did not live his life as if he was God’s servant and a Christian. Such hypocrisy makes people unbelievers. My father stopped being a Christian afrer seeing people like Ravi. If you lose a soul because of your decisions, whag does that make you?

      That’s why I wrote this. Because there are crickets when the news broke in February. Very few of the Philippine Christian leaders talked about this out of respect kuno, but all we are doing is enabling and seemingly approving such behavior. Why do leaders do this? What Ravi did was wrong and NOBODY in the Christian community talks loudly about this. Everything is in whispers?

      If we keep quiet, we are the SAME as Ravi’s family and ministry. We do not hold another accountable. If so, how can we improve? What about our staff? Our members who trust us? That’s why we should openly discuss dirty secrets like these so we don’t repeat the same mistakes selfish leaders like Ravi make.

  2. The whole incident reflects about the integrity of God, IMO. Christians should not be afraid to be questioned of their faith or to be questioned of the re-birth or born again experience. But we should have the “holy fear” because it only shows that God cleanses his own house before revival, before bringing new believers to the church.

    Because of this, Christians should not abuse the mercy and grace of God.

    And for the non-christians, this is only one of the different dimensions of the Christian faith. This episode shows the God justice of God.

    The message is loud and clear, it serves both warning and encouragement. Warning to both Christians and non-christians who are fooling around or not refusing to repent in time of grace take. Encouragement to those who suffered abuse in whatever form that God will give them justice.

    1. What you said is true — Given that Ravi has already died, the secret could have been hidden. It is only through God’s grace and plan that the secrets came out. In one way, we can say the incident is embarrassing and will discourage people from beginning. But I think what you said is right — God cleanses His own house. And disclosure of such incidents can only bring more believers into a more authentic church.

      It is a lesson that Someone is always watching. And for leaders and followers be humble and try to do the right thing whether they think someone is watching or not. This news is the right path for Christianity, and as you said, will serve both as a warning and an encouragement to both Christians and non-religious people alike.

  3. why close the comment section if you really believe in your opinion? I dare you. post it to nurse’s group. tamad pala ha. I hope your desire to chase clout is satisfied. the taokes might have agreed with you but I know some of them who are swimming in cash and does not even care about their employees. They don’t teach or help their employees to be better people. why? because they don’t care about them. and so that they would be stuck in their dead end jobs and taoke does not have to worry of hiring some one else, albeit a well informed employee. pati si Ravi hindi mo pinalampas sa clout chasing mo. matagal na tapos ang issue pero sige lang. lastly, your relatives’ faith does not make it your own. You can’t justify your Christianity just because your relatives are church workers.

  4. I share some of your questions. As HR people this shows me how important it is to create a system with checks and balances. No one should have zero accountability. No one is immune. Kahit honest ang staff mo if iiwanan mo ng petty cash na malaki tapos di mo i-checheck until the end of the year. malakas yung temptation. Putting those safe guards can limit the temptation.

    Honestly the entire thing with Ravi left us shaken. My daughter who’s a preteen said “If someone like that can fall, what hope do normal people like us have?” but for me it’s just a reminder na we’re humans and we badly need God’s direction not to fall.

    1. You’re right — a system of checks and balance in ANY organization is key.

      I think instead of looking at the situation negatively, EVERYONE should use Ravi to learn. Instead of weakening the faith by asking, “If someone like that can fall, what hope do normal people like us have?” we should look at it as:

      1. God is the one we need to look at. Not leaders like Ravi. If we put Ravi on a pedestal, then that may be the problem. While Ravi does God’s service, he is like any of us, a sinner, and thus, must still be held accountable to God, who is our only master and leader.

      2. We are all sinners. Ravi is the same. If Ravi can fall, so do we. So instead of being dismayed, we can use it to more strictly police ourselves so we do not make the same mistake.

      For example, I like how Pastor Peter Tan-Chi of CCF polices himself and his family. They are like us, weak to sin and vulnerable. They fight and make mistakes too. And it is only by grace, that we are saved. The more influence you have on the church, the more you responsible you should be.

      And even if we are not working in the church, we should still watch ourselves. Because we can still be tempted by our own arrogance and ego.

      Ravi’s story humbles us. It shows us that EVERYONE is human, and it is only by God’s grace, we can ever hope to be saved. 🙂

Leave a Reply