Proselytism Vs Evangelization

We’ve heard that Proselytism is “solemn non-sense”. We have also heard that we are to go out and promote the New Evangelization. We are told that we are to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to evangelize our brothers and sisters, both within the Catholic faith and without, but, when we do preach the faith, strongly and firmly, we are told that we might offend others and we should choose our words wiser. We can’t be “touting our faith as better”. So, what is going on here? First, I want to explain the difference between Proselytism and Evangelization.

Let’s define the terms.

Proselytize: to try to persuade people to join a religion, cause, or group.

Evangelize: to try to convert (a group or area) to a different religion (especially Christianity).

What is the difference? Absolutely nothing. Both have the same definition, really. Proselytizing is the same as Evangelizing. I don’t care if proselytizing has “taken on a negative connotation” these days. Maybe, instead of trying to sound hip and cool with the rest of the world, we teach the rest of the world what a word actually means, you know, kind of like we are attempting to do with marriage. Marriage has taken on a negative connotation these days, maybe we should forego this word? Both these words attempt to persuade/convert to a different religion, and in this case, that religion is Catholicism, you know, the religion that Jesus Christ started (but don’t tell anyone, it might offend them).

This is something that you can trace back from a secular (historical) view. Protestantism started with Martin Luther, formally breaking with the Catholic Church, and starting his own church. From there, others broke with Martin Luther and founded their own church. Kind of get the picture? Proselytism and evangelization are in essence, the same. exact. thing. Both attempt the same, that is to bring the person to your faith, with the intent that they convert.

Really, there is no point to evangelize if the intent is the person stay where they are. Faith requires conversion, even if you are already a part of that faith. We need to continually convert because we are not perfect.

I say, go forth and proselytize while you evangelize. And if the New Evangelization leaves out that of proselytizing, the actual intent of bringing said person into the Catholic faith, then count me out. I’ll stick with the Old Evangelization.


  1. Sandra

    In St. Matt. 28: 19-20 Our Lord’s mandate was to go out and proselytize and
    evangelize. And this mission belongs especially to the Pope and bishops as
    successors of St. Peter and the Apostles. It’s the continuing work of Christ
    that is to endure until the end of the world.

    We, too, the laity should do the best we can to call all those outside whom
    we come into contact to convert to the one true Faith of Christ.

  2. Steven Schloeder

    I think you need to be a bit more fair to the Holy Father and to the meaning of words than just flippantly declare, “What is the difference? Absolutely nothing. Both have the same definition, really. Proselytizing is the same as Evangelizing.”

    προσήλυτος/προσήλυτοι in the OT and the NT (Acts 2:11) has the sense of a convert to Judaism. It has come to mean essentially anyone who converts from one thing to another, or in the verb form to try to convince or convert anyone from one position to another, etc.

    Evangelize is quite specific to the good news of the Kingdom of God (Is 41:27, Lk 8:1, Act 21:8, 2Tim 4:5) which is to proclaim the Gospel.

    I would suggest that you give Holy Francis the benefit of the doubt that he really does know what he is talking about, and probably actually understands the real difference between these terms. There is no sense in which he is telling us to not evangelize — but the point is not to make proselytes out of people, merely converting them to our side, but sharing with them the faith of Jesus Christ.

    You might take some time to read what he actually says about the need to evangelize.

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