Amid news that Sarah Davis has stepped down as CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) to launch another apologetics ministry, observers and critics are speculating whether the new organization will simply be a reboot of RZIM.
Davis, 46, has filed incorporation papers in Georgia for Encounter Inc., a nonprofit ministry. Its purpose statement is similar to that of RZIM, the apologetics ministry that Davis’ late father, Ravi Zacharias, founded in Atlanta in 1986. After Zacharias died in May 2020, a report uncovered “significant, credible evidence” that he had engaged in sexual misconduct. One year later, via a video posted online, Davis acknowledged her father’s abuse and apologized for leadership missteps.
In March, RZIM announced it would rebrand as a grant-making organization. Reports have surfaced of internal division among the ministry’s board members (who are anonymous). One hot spot is a “culture review” by Guidepost Solutions, which has been completed but not yet made public.
Encounter’s Goal: Spur Gospel Invitations, Conversations
As Christianity Today reports, Encounter’s incorporation papers describe its mission as “carrying the Gospel invitation to individuals and engaging in their questions so that they may encounter the love of Christ and enter relationship with Him.” The ministry also will aim to encourage “thoughtful…Gospel conversations” and to train and disciple “messengers of Christ’s love for their spheres of influence.”
Encounter, according to CT, will share an office building with RZIM, will be staffed by some former RZIM employees, and may even receive funds (in the form of grants) from RZIM.
Sarah Davis, who worked at Pepperdine University and CNN before becoming CEO of RZIM in 2019, said in her May 2021 video that working at an apologetics ministry was “really the last thing I wanted to do.” She added, “In many ways, my life as the daughter of an evangelist hasn’t been what I would have hoped.”
In a statement emailed to ChurchLeaders, Davis said:
Encounter is a “holding” name for a new Christian evangelism and apologetics ministry we have formed with a talented team of speakers, writers, media specialists, and professional staff. We exist to give people an imaginative experience of Jesus Christ and to help answer deeply held questions, sharing the gospel through spoken, written, and digital word. We seek to thoughtfully engage people in gospel conversations and to train and disciple Christians to be messengers of Christ’s love in their spheres of influence.
We believe we can reach a hurting and searching world from our base in Atlanta, GA, and we look forward to sharing more information about our team, vision, and plans—and our name—in the months ahead. We look forward to answering further questions in the near future.
RZIM Critics: ‘If It Walks Like a Duck…’
In response to news about Sarah Davis’ Encounter, some former RZIM staffers question whether it’s actually a new ministry. Former RZIM public relations manager Ruth Malhotra, who says RZIM leadership “maligned” her for asking questions about the abuse scandal, tweeted on Monday: “I’m disappointed to read that Sarah Zacharias Davis is launching a ‘new’ ministry… [She] fostered a toxic org. culture” and “continually drove key aspects of RZIM’s destructive actions which enabled leaders to operate without accountability, silenced victims, maligned internal dissenters, & allowed ministry resources to be severely misused—all actions which significantly harmed many people.”