Ratio Christi is pleased to award RC’s Legatus Christi certificate to Zach Paresi!
Zach was kind enough to answer some questions for us as he reflected on his time as an RC student and his reception of the Legatus Christi certificate.
When did you find Christ as your Savior, and how did that come about?
I found Christ as my Lord and Savior in March, 2018. After a battle with depression, I had gotten caught up into new age spirituality thinking I had found the answers to life. During this time I was meditating, practicing yoga, experimenting with psychedelic drugs, and then became interested in studying philosophy and religion. I was under the impression that Jesus was just like any other religious figure like Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, whoever you could think of. I thought that Christians were grossly misrepresenting and misunderstanding Jesus. It got to the point where I decided that I needed to study the Bible for myself so that I could truly understand the scriptures and help Christians to know the truth. God is very ironic. I started reading the New Testament first and after I had finished the sermon on the mount, I was astonished. I remember saying “Now I understand what the big deal is about Jesus.” The more I started to read it, the more I realized that this was the most incredible book I had ever read before and the more I fell in love with Jesus. It took a few months of me studying the Bible to be absolutely sure that all the things I had learned in the new age were false and that Jesus was the only way to God. It was the realization of what Jesus went through in the garden of gethsemane and on the cross because of His love for me. I’ve had struggles here and there since then but I’ve never looked back.
If you were in a high school church youth group, how much did you learn there about the Christian faith and reasons to believe?
I was not involved with a high school youth group.
How did you get interested in apologetics, and then how did you get involved with RC?
When I first came to Christ I became involved with as much as I could. I became a member of a local Methodist Church, started attending a reformed bible study on campus, and got involved with the charismatic group at my school. I then got invited to go to watch a Christian philosopher speak and a student that came with us happened to be a part of Ratio Christi and invited me to come to one of the meetings. After the first meeting I was hooked, I thought it was such a cool ministry. I then started listening to the late Walter Martin, William Lane Craig, and Ravi Zacharias on my own time and became really passionate about “earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
What is this RC chapter like?
Our RC chapter is pretty small consisting of about 5-10 people each meeting. We usually go over different topics for the first half of each meeting with a presentation from our chapter director and then we have discussion for the second half of the meeting. While outsiders occasionally attend our meetings, our main goal is to equip and train the Christian students that attend the meeting to be effective witnesses for Christ wherever they may find themselves.
If you were an officer in the RC chapter, which office did you hold?
Last year, I was the SGA Senator for our chapter and this past year I served as the President.
What does receiving the Legatus Christi certificate mean to you?
The Legatus Christi award is such an honor and was such a surprise. I’ve gotten discouraged at times because of the low membership of our club and because it’s difficult to see the results of our evangelism efforts but now I know that the hard work has not gone to waste. I also want to thank the other members of the club who have been dedicated to spreading the gospel with me. I couldn’t have gotten this without them.
In what ways has apologetics enriched your life, your own faith and your witness to others?
Apologetics has helped my own faith tremendously and especially my witness to others. In the beginning of my Christian walk, I got tripped up on the doctrine of the Trinity. I met a man who really made me question and start doubting the divinity of Jesus. It really concerned me for a while until I read No God but one by Nabeel Quershi and started listening to Walter Martin. Now I can confidentally defend the trinity by using the Bible to any Muslim, Jehovah witness, or anyone else who would want to challenge the nature of our Triune God.
In my witness to others, I started noticing that the same questions and concerns keep popping up. How can you say Jesus is the only way to God? What about evil in the world? How do you know that you can trust the Bible? And so on. Apologetics and especially what I learned from Ratio Christi has given me the ability to confidently answer these types of questions and people are usually so shocked to see that there are actually good reasons to become a Christian!
Do you think you will “carry the torch” of the apologetics you’ve learned into your future endeavors, and please describe how you imagine doing so.
Yes, I definitely will be “carrying the torch” of apologetics into my future endeavors after graduation. Many of my childhood friends and family are unsaved and I feel that God has put me in a unique opportunity to be that Christian witness to them. I’m sure that along the way I will hear all types of questions and oppositions but I thank God and RC that I feel ready for the call. I also see myself becoming a full time evangelist or leader in a local Church body in my future and in my opinion, a background in apologetics is essential.
Define in your own words the “Exponential Evangelism” component of why you received Legatus Christi.
Some of the evangelism that I have undertaken in the past year to merit this award was both on Rowan’s campus and in Philadelphia. We were able to get around 2-6 students every other week who were able to go around campus witnessing to other students. We would give out New Testaments, gospel tracts, and just try to have genuine conversations with students about their spiritual beliefs. Some of the conversations were so fruitful and we even witnessed some students confess belief in Christ and had some backsliding believers take their relationship with God more seriously.
Members of RC and some members of my Church would also go into Philadelphia virtually every Saturday night for the past year to serve and bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the homeless population there. We must have spoken to, prayed for, fed, and given Bibles to hundreds of homeless people in Philly. It was very hard at times but so rewarding. I don’t know if I will ever be able to see the long term effects of our efforts but I trust God that people got off drugs, got off the streets, and most importantly came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Are you graduating now, or will you be back in RC next year?
I will be graduating this May.
What is your major, what is your degree and are you going on to more education?
My degree will be in Philosophy and World Religions. I am considering continuing my education in Religious studies or Theology in the future but have not totally made my mind up yet.
What are your short and long-term career/ministry/mission plans?
My short term ministry plans as mentioned before is to win my friends from home and family to Christ. I also plan on starting a weekly Bible study for nonbelievers and new believers to understand the basics of the gospel and core doctrines of Christianity. I also planned on continuing the homeless ministry that I was a part of in Philadelphia to New York City. Sadly because of the Covid 19 situation, I don’t know when I will be able to start that but I will leave that in God’s hands. I am not really sure of my long term goals for ministry. I think God may be calling me to some type of full time evangelism ministry but at the same time I am not sure if it is just my own zeal and idea for my life. I will be in prayer for what God has in store for me and whoever may be reading this, please pray for me to have clarity and know my calling of God!
Would you consider coming back to work with your RC chapter or start one at another school, or work with RC in any capacity?
I would definitely consider either helping a RC chapter or starting my own chapter in the future. I don’t think I would be able to help the one at Rowan because it’s two hours away from my home. But I will definitely look at the colleges that are near me and possibly reach out to the existing ones if they need any help. If I were to start my own I think I would really have to brush up on a few subjects such as creation science, archaeology, and Church history but if given the opportunity at the right timing I would do it in a heartbeat.
Tell us anything else you’d like our readers to know:
I think that every young Christian should be familiar with apologetics. It’s not that every Christian needs to become William Lane Craig, but should have at least a basic understanding of why you believe what you believe. If you grew up in a Christian family going to Christian private schools your whole life never really questioning or thinking about the reasons for Christianity, you will be in quite a surprise when you go to College. All of the atheist professors, different religions, and areas to fall in sin will be overwhelming if you aren’t firmly rooted in Christ. But if you are well equipped with the reasons for the faith before college, you won’t get rattled with the objections and deceptions you might hear and will be in a position not only to help yourself but also help others who may be wrestling with these questions.
I also want to thank my RC chapter director, Keith Kendrex. I’ve known Keith for about two years and he has been so dedicated to RC the entire time. He really has a heart for all the students and more importantly a strong love for Christ. In the summer he opens his house for leadership training for both of the chapters that he is director for. He is a wonderful man of God, full of knowledge and has been a great example to me and to the other students. He is so helpful not only with answering objections to Christianity, but he goes above and beyond to make sure we are growing in our walk with the Lord. I am very thankful to have gotten to know him and could not have achieved this award without him.