By Baker Owens –
This past week, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) held their Summer Institute in Atlanta. RZIM is known around the world but maybe not so well-known in their own hometown. His weekly radio program, “Let My People Think,” airs on 2152 outlets worldwide. Many Atlantans may be familiar with Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio or others, but maybe not Zacharias. Zacharias is actually not a preacher or a pastor, he is an apologist. For those not familiar with the term, an apologist specializes in the field of Christian theology called “apologetics.” Apologetics presents reasoned bases for Christianity, defending it against objections.
Zacharias and his team do not work in a church, they work out of offices, the headquarters of which are in Norcross. They also have offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Romania, Turkey, Austria, Spain, and South Africa.. RZIM holds events around the world in churches, on campuses, convention centers and wherever large crowds may gather. RZIM celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2014. Zacharias has spoken all over the world for 43 years in scores of universities, notably Harvard, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and Cambridge. Born in India, he immigrated to Canada with his family near adulthood and was pursuing a career in business management as his interest in theology grew. He received his Master of Divinity from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois and held the chair of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary for three and a half years. He has also been a visiting scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.
Every summer, RZIM holds a Summer Institute in Atlanta. The Summer Institute is a concentrated week of study conducted by RZIM speakers and multiple adjunct lecturers. Limited to about 275 attendees, they come from around the country and the world for a chance to study with RZIM. The week also features a guest presentation open to the public. Last year’s speaker was Os Guiness, the English author and social critic. This year’s presenter was a hometown guest, Tom Key, the Executive Artistic Director of Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit.
The Theatrical Outfit makes its home it what used to be Herren’s Restaurant, the first restaurant to voluntarily integrate in Atlanta. In an interview with the Saporta Report several years ago, Key noted that “Dr. Lee and Delores Shelton, who were the first African-Americans to eat at Herren’s, are today subscribers and patrons of Theatrical Outfit. We’re feeding the spirits of Atlantans with stories that stir the soul, creating discussion on those topics that truly enrich and strengthen the civic discourse, right in the heart of our city.”
Key recently celebrated 20 years in his position at the Theatrical Outfit and for his presentation at the Summer Institute gave what may be his most well-known performance, his one-man show of C.S. Lewis. Sheldon Vanuken, an author who knew Lewis has said “As one who knew C.S. Lewis in Oxford days and after, I was astonished that Tom Key became C.S. Lewis for me.” Key performed for about an hour and then there was a question and answer session with Key and Zacharias discussing how art and storytelling are an integral part of their lives and ministries. Key talked about how reading C.S. Lewis changed his life and developing his stage persona. The crowd packed into ChristChurch Presbyterian on Peachtree certainly appreciated it.