The following is an article I wrote describing how Ravi Zacharias and Fred Rogers were alike, and how they influenced me as an apologist and pastor. It was originally published by the SOLA Network on May 23, 2020 in the link below and republished on my personal blog with permission. Thank you to the SOLA Network for providing me with the opportunity to share!
Many of us are saddened to hear of the recent passing of Ravi Zacharias. He was one of my favorite Christian apologists. Upon reflection, I realized Ravi stood out among other Christian apologists. With the unique way he spoke, he modeled what I tend to struggle with as an aspiring Christian apologist: sensitivity towards people and their emotions.
Another iconic figure who had a similar influence on me was Fred Rogers. Those who grew up watching his television program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” would consider him as a close friend and neighbor who “liked you just the way you are.” As an ordained Presbyterian minister to children through the medium of television, Fred also modeled what I tend to struggle with as a pastor: sensitivity towards people and their emotions.
I tend to appeal towards logic and reasoning while practicing theology and apologetics as a pastor. However, Ravi and Fred helped me to develop persuasion through character and emotion, which are necessary for effective evangelism, apologetics, and pastoral ministry. I would like to share of their influence on me by presenting three ways Ravi and Fred were alike.
1. Ravi and Fred spoke with humility
Every time I pull up the “Just Thinking” podcast and listen to Ravi speak, I am drawn in by the humility in his voice and reflect on the prideful way I often can speak. Many apologists speak with a great show of knowledge and focus on destroying the arguments that challenge the Christian faith. However, Ravi’s humility and calmness in his voice added credibility to what he was saying and won the hearts of his listeners. He exemplified defending the gospel with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15) and spoke “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Much like Ravi, Fred Rogers also spoke with humility in his voice. He was warm and gentle and captured the attention of his children audience. While many adults talk down to children, Fred spoke on the same level of the children and won their hearts. Ravi and Fred taught me to be humble and consider the audience I am ministering to, much like how Jesus Christ humbled Himself in human form to be the Savior of humans (Phil. 2:5-8).
2. Ravi and Fred evoked wonder
To wonder means to seek meaning and to be curious. This is what philosophy is about! Ravi noticed a lack of wonder and awe of the mystery of God and His creation. This led him to write the book, Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy. Ravi promoted this wonder and thinking in his approach as he spoke at different events and answered the questions of the audience. I learned from Ravi that apologetics involves leading others to wonder and think about God with the eventual hope for the worship of God!
Fred also recognized that children naturally have the propensity to wonder and imagine. During a time when early childhood television programs already became fast-paced mind-numbing entertainment, Fred’s slow pace in speaking and overall flow of his program provided children with the time to listen, think, and reflect on the subject at hand. Although Fred did not explicitly teach Christian doctrine on his show, he provided the approach to wonder and think about everything in the world God created. This is the childlike faith missing in adults that Ravi and Christ also promoted (Matt. 18:3; Mrk. 10:14; Luk. 18:17).
3. Ravi and Fred invoked God’s love for the whole person
Ravi often followed up with the people who asked him questions during an event. He did not see a person as a problem to be fixed or as another question to answer. Instead, he showed God’s love and personally ministered to the needs of the whole person from heart, soul, to mind. Ravi did so publicly on-stage as he did personally off-stage.
Fred was also known for showing God’s love to children. He saw his television show as a ministry as he prayed, “Let some word that is heard be thine” every day. The same love he showed to children on-screen was the same off-screen. Whenever he met children in person, he knelt down to their level and spent long, personal time with each one to the point that his producers would be annoyed with him as his next shoot or appointment would always be delayed. Ravi and Fred ministered with God’s love to the whole person.
Good and Faithful Servants
Ravi and Fred helped me develop sensitivity towards people and their emotions for effective evangelism, apologetics, and pastoral ministry. Ravi Zacharias will be truly missed. As he joins Fred Rogers and other saints in heaven, may God say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”