[*Author's Note. February, 2021. This article was originally published on May 19, 2020, the day Ravi Zacharias died. It is a snapshot-in-time of my thoughts regarding two personal heroes, written before the terrible allegations against one of them, Ravi Zacharias, were learned by the general public. Ravi is no longer alive to respond, but the exhaustive research by independent investigators has laid out the apparent reality of major moral failures, marital infidelity, sexual abuse and chronic deception. A jarring reminder for us all that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) With that knowledge, I have decided to leave the original article available,as written, for 3 reasons. First, because the shocking knowledge of Ravi's secret sin does not negate the truth of what he shared or the articulate way in which he shared it (though it is admittedly much, much harder to separate the man from the message). Second, because my other hero who passed away that week, Paul Bubar, also impacted the world in a powerful way. And finally, because it is a powerful reminder to us all of the power of sin, the devastation it causes, the power of the Gospel to transform, and the need we all have to remain humbly dependent on the Holy Spirit in our lives, and to remain mutually accountable to our brothers ans sisters in the body of Christ.]
This week, two giants of the faith arrived home.
One I never met. The other I knew personally.
Both have had a profound and eternal impact on me personally. And on millions of others.
One was born and raised in India, but grew to travel the world. The other was born and raised in Maine, and also traveled the world. Both preached the Gospel. With words and with their lives. Both wrote books. Both shared their personal faith in Christ boldly from the pulpit to crowds of thousands, and quietly to friends across a cup of coffee or to strangers across an airplane aisle.
Both were bold leaders who helped establish ministries whose impact will far outlive them. Both were men of integrity who led their public ministries and private lives free from scandal*, and with the accountability and deep respect of those who lived and worked closely with them for many years.
[*Author's Note. January, 2021. For a fuller discussion of the allegations made against Ravi Zacharias since his death, please read my post here.]
Both were loving, faithful husbands and devoted, caring fathers who are now greatly missed by their widows, children, and grandchildren. Both would ask us to pray for God’s comfort and care for their loved ones.
Ravi Zacharias was a follower of Christ and one of this generation’s deepest thinkers. An intellectual giant who could reason and debate the best minds in the world with a sharp logic and a gracious love for the Truth and also for his opponent. Never caustic or petty in his argument, he was the epitome of the Apostle Paul’s command to “speak the truth in love.” He spent a lifetime dispelling the myth that a faith in Christ and in the Bible means an abandoning of reason and intellect. His organization, RZIM, holds a motto “Helping the thinker believe, and the believer think.”
I never met Ravi personally, but I have learned so much from hundreds of hours spent listening to his teaching through podcast and video, and by reading his books and articles. I place him among other giants in my understanding of God’s truth. Men like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, A.W. Tozer, Chuck Colson. It will be wonderful to finally meet these heroes one day in Glory.
Paul Bubar was a follower of Christ and one of this generation’s most creative and versatile minds. A hilarious, energetic summer camp director whose antics, skits, and pranks are legendary. An innovative youth evangelist who used whatever means possible to win the opportunity to share Christ with young people. Everything from a conventional youth rally to an innovative sports tournament to a spooky “Operation Nightmare.” His was a life of joy and he decried what he called “old fuddy-duddy’s”--people who made Christianity look boring and stale. People he described as having been “baptized in pickle juice,” one of his many “Bubarisms.”
I first got to know Paul when his son Jonathan and I would pal around Word of Life Island as summer staff kids. He was a genius at creating effective youth ministry, and using the fun of summer camp to break down the walls in teens’ lives so they would be open to the Gospel. I got to know him even better when he led the Word of Life Ranch for a few summers. I got to work up close and personally with him and to glean from his wisdom. I saw first-hand how he treated everyone with respect and kindness, no matter who they were or how they were acting. How he solved problems, through much prayer and godly wisdom. How he handled stress, with a deep sense of humor and an even deeper sense of God’s ever-faithful provision. How he loved his kids and adored his wife.
And incredibly, as funny and zany as he was, Paul was much, much deeper than his homespun humor. He was a student of the Word. He published books and articles. He taught at the Word of Life Bible Institute. He launched Word of Life’s Local Church Ministry, establishing curriculum and training materials to help hundreds of congregations reach their local communities. And he also directed Word of Life’s International Ministries for many years, trailblazing the Gospel into places thought impossible. You can hear him tell the miracle story of how God brought the ministry behind the Iron Curtain and into communist Hungary here. And you can get a glimpse of his his heartbeat for ministry in this interview.
Paul Bubar had a passion for Christ, a love for people, and a perspective for eternity. When another giant of the faith died six years ago (my own hero, my dad), it was his good friend Paul Bubar who spoke at his funeral. After many kind words and, of course a few jokes, he added this: “Oh, and there’s something I want to say to you, Art. As you’re enjoying Heaven, and reuniting with all of your believing loved ones, keep looking over your shoulder friend. Because there’s a whole bunch of us coming right behind you, any day now.”
For those of us who read the news, it seems that almost every day we find a headline mourning the passing of a famous actor, legendary musician, or noted celebrity. And these announcements often include the reactions of other celebrities who comment on the person’s talent and career. Celebrities remembering celebrities. Of course, these are real people with real families who deserve our prayers for comfort, and being a celebrity doesn’t diminish the loss felt by those around them.
But when someone who lives their life passionately for Jesus Christ and selflessly for others, with little fanfare, with little regard for their career advancement, their personal branding, or their public persona . . . when such a person dies, it is a different thing altogether (Psalm 116:15). It is not a light going dim on Broadway or a star shining no more. It is not the fading of applause. It is a celebration in Heaven. It is a long-awaited hug from the Savior. It is a shedding of the broken shell born to a broken world and the donning of a perfected body in an incorruptible kingdom. It is the deafening song of the angels rejoicing. And the whisper from the Creator, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Come and share your Master’s happiness!”