Proselytizing Evangelism


(anon65845839) #1

Proselytize: convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.

If you disagree that we should proselytize and you try to convince me of your view, are you not proselytizing or attempting to proselytize? Is this not inherant to evangelism? Doesn’t this speak to our intent, to God’s intent? Why do we shy away from the use of that word and use evangelism and discipleship instead? Aren’t all these words describing the jobs we have when God reconciling the world to Himself in Christ Jesus works through us?


(Steven Morse) #2

Perhaps the word proselytizing is offensive. Maybe it’s because instead of speaking and living the word of God, we try to convince and persuade. It then becomes a my point vs your point and a winner and a loser. Settle of speaking the Word and let the Holy Spirit enter those whom God has selected. Ephesians really helps here. We need to know the Spirit will do all things for Gods benefit and if you are proselytizing, you may be pushing too hard. steve


(Monty Dicksion) #3

Since true conversion is God’s work, people do not convert people.


(Jimmy Sellers) #4

I don’t disagree. Proselytizing is being done at every level of society from football teams to politics and everything in between.
I think of Saul when I read the words of Jesus:

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees—hypocrites!—because you travel around the sea and the dry land to make one convert, and when he becomes one,* you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are! (Mt 23:15LEB)

Can you see Saul doing this (Pharisaical missionaries) and then ironically being faced with same problem in Galatia when he had to deal new converts Christians who were advocating for the circumcision all new converts.


(anon65845839) #5

Yeah, I think that word too has just come to have a negative reputation. 2 Cor 5:11


(anon65845839) #6

Mmm…yes, the foundation of the ministry we carry out to reconcile in Christ is not done without the Spirit’s doing. We persuade men, 2 Cor 5:11, not with pursasive speech but with the power and word of God.


(anon65845839) #7

I appreciate the historical backdrop of the essay. Good thoughts.


(SeanO) #8

@anon65845839 I think the reason we avoid the word ‘proselytize’ is in keeping with Paul’s injunction to become ‘all things to all men’ that we might ‘by all means save some’. There is no need to offend people for no reason if we can avoid it simply by avoiding an unnecessary term.

1 Cor 9:20-22 - To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

I also think that while there may be people who say ‘don’t proselytize’ only to promote their own agenda, it behooves us as Christians to humbly consider what might actually bother someone about this term. Possibilities include:

  • throughout history people have been violently forced to convert - families have been separated, blood shed - all in the name of making proselytes
  • to proselytize someone assumes that our view is better than theirs - doesn’t that seem arrogant?
  • the person may have had past experiences with street evangelists or Christians who said very mean / condemning things to them and left a bad taste in their mouth

Of course as Christians we recognize that truth matters and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We also know that any attempt to convert people forcefully goes against Jesus’ teaching. But people outside the Church may not be aware of those realities.

So as apologists we should be humble and assume the other person may have reasons for disliking this term that are legitimate within their own world view. Then we should engage them in a way that helps them see that Jesus is about sharing the truth in love rather than shoving the truth down peoples’ throats.

I Peter 3:15 - But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

I agree with you that many people misunderstand the fact that all people proselytize and it is unfair to label only one group as attempting to propagate its world view. But our job as apologists is to help people move from where they are towards Christ and the way to do it is humility and respect, as Peter said.


(Monty Dicksion) #9

I perceive forced compliance as being different from true conversion.


(Jimmy Sellers) #10

I am going to quote Abraham:

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.


(Steven Morse) #11

In my opinion, the Holy Spirit is most misunderstood and ignored. Jesus did not leave us on our own, but brought the Spirit to do His work. It was the fulfillment of his promise. Our purpose is to speak and live the Word of God, that is Jesus to all that will listen. If the heart of the person is willing, the Holy Spirit will do the work.
Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Speak the Truth, “I am the Truth” . Trust is the Spirit. steve


(anon65845839) #12

I agree that WE do not force anyone, yet I think of C.S. Lewis’ own testimony:

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.

In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.

The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?

The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."
-C.S. Lewis


(Monty Dicksion) #13

I’ve often heard this section quoted, but I don’t know which C.S. Lewis book it is. I’ve not yet read the book myself. Is it Surprised by Joy?


(anon65845839) #14

Yes. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. I’ve not read it, but heard Ravi quote him many times. I went through a period of that myself, yet something in me compelled me to Him. I should say “Someone”.


(Steven Morse) #15

It really is a recruiting to a membership word. Our job is not to recruit, but to supply the truths that are needed so the blind may see, the deaf may hear and then we leave the credit go to the Spirit who will enter their heart and soul. Remember that God the Father selected 12 for Jesus, but one was doomed. Then one that was destined for salvation said he would not believe unless he saw. It is an unknown world to us, but the Father knows and when we get to heaven we will see Jesus. Ravi says it well when he states that we need to live a Christian life. What the other see is so important.


(JOHN RUFF) #16

Speak the WORD with gentleness and love and the Holy Spirit will do the rest


(Warner Joseph Miller) #18

Some really good stuff on this thread! Excellent points and great insight all around. If I’d humbly add something to the pot, I’d submit that in my interactions, I rarely (if ever) use the word “proselytizing”. For one thing, it’s just unnecessary to do. Some wouldn’t be all that familiar with the word and I’d come across as pretentious and disingenuous. But also, that word carries with it an undesired weight. Many associate “proselytize” with colonization or imperialism. There’s a connotation of converting the disenfranchised population to the dominant culture, religion, ways of doing things, etc. As @SeanO astutely put it:

So, for those reasons - and because I simply have no need to use the term – I don’t. :man_shrugging:t6:

Do I evangelize? Yes. Do I openly (and audibly) communicate the Gospel as I understand it; prayerfully and intentionally making disciples (learners)? Absolutely and without a doubt!: through one on one dialogue; open-air subway preaching; with an audience listening in or group discussion. Whether it’s labeled proselytizing, evangelizing, preaching/communicating the Gospel, sharing my faith or “choppin’ it up” as the kids say :wink: is of little to no consequence. If the message is clear and Spirit-lead…then that’s a win.:+1:t6:However, I always attempt to…“proselytize” – as Jesus did – knowing my audience, trying my best to speak the language of my hearers: whether in Brooklyn or Brixton, Uganda or the US, in patois, slang or using the Queen’s English…making disciples of all nations and making sure that those disciples I’m making are disciples of Christ and NOT of me.

I hope I stayed on topic and didn’t veer too far off. Great thread, though! Peace and blessings!


(Monty Dicksion) #19

It makes a huge difference that the word proselytize should not be mis-defined.


(Warner Joseph Miller) #20

Hey man! Thanks for the follow-up.

Regarding what you asked, essentially, I refrain from using the term “proselytizing” - not because I don’t understand the correct meaning of the term – but rather, insisting on using it adds nothing to conversations that are intended to point toward Jesus Christ, His cross and Gospel and instead act as unnecessary barriers and distractions to try explain. The truth of the matter is that someone could absolutely STILL associate the term “proselytizing” with oppressive, forceful conversion under duress…and yet STILL be a Christian. So, if I had to choose to replace a word that has the potential to be a stumbling block for some people…then it costs me nothing to refrain from using it in select conversations.

Look…much of the Gospel is JUSTIFIABLY offensive in and of itself. To tell someone who may see themselves as “good” that they’re, in fact, NOT as good as they think they are; are actually wicked and depraved, by nature, and if left to their own devices would stand to inherit eternal separation from God (aka ‘hell’) is INCREDIBLY offensive. So, there’s no need to pile on to the JUSTIFIED offense of the Gospel with an unnecessary and loaded word.

Listen…I totally agree that many of the folks who don’t like the term “proselytize” are also those who’d rather Christians pipe down about their Jesus. But see…I don’t mind that.
At the end of the day, my overall objective is not to define or prove to someone why the term “proselytize” is good. My overall objective, in most contexts, is to faithfully communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They don’t need to be sold on the term, “proselytize”. Again, that’s of no consequence. What they NEED is Jesus. And it’s my task…the task of the Gospel communicator to – as much as you are able – to know your audience, contextualize (WITHOUT DIMINISHING THE INTEGRITY OF THE MESSAGE) and clearly and lovingly communicate it to my audience. Again…some to Christ and still carry negative feelings toward the term “proselytize”. That’s fine. I point them to Jesus. Jesus redeems’em. Like my great-grandfather used to say:

_“We catch the fish. God cleans’em up.”_😉


(Monty Dicksion) #21

The word proselytize too often is equated/defined as evangelism, which is a mis-definition of the word proselytize.