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Proselytism Vs Evangelism

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"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus." (Acts 11:19-20, NIV).

I would be interested to read/discuss other opinions and experiences, with the two terms used in the title of this topic.

Are both evangelism & prosyletism OK under certain circumstances, or no? Its a subject I have been researching for a while now, and I thought that some here might be interested to further explore this too.

Earlier today, I read an article about the current Pope, and it seemed that the article was decrying a criticism that the Pope had made about what he called "proselytism." According to the article; the Pope allegedly stated that "proselytism" takes away our "freedom" and that "evangelism" is by God, as a "witness," to others.

Many churches today struggle with their sinking numbers. Could this be related to confusion between being a "witness," or being a proselytising "expert?" I have not heard very many individuals or churches make the distinction such an affronted manner as what it appears the Pope has done.

How do we (by scripture) make a distinction between "witnessing" and "proselytism?" Or, do we even need to? When we look at HOW Adventism does their "evangelism," do we sport it about online as "trophy baptisms," or is it "wrong" to view this as "prosyletism?" How do we decide which is "witnessing/evengelism," and which is "proselytism?"

The Bible does say that "ye are my witnesses," (Isa 43:12), so in the light of "modern culture" how do we make a distinction between these two terms? Or, do we need to? More succinctly, in Acts 11:19-20, are we looking at "witnessing" (evangelism), or are we looking at some of the disciples caught up in "proselytizing?"

This might turn into an "Adventist Hot Potato."

Edited by BlessedMan
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19 hours ago, BlessedMan said:

"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus." (Acts 11:19-20, NIV).

One of the things that I think we as individual Christians, or, collectively as "the Church" could do a better job of is that we too often buy into the F.E.A.R. of professional politicking and global ambitions. (F.E.A.R. stands for "false evidence appearing real). What we should be doing is anticipating the opportunities or potential opportunities.

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After the death of Stephen there arose against the believers in Jerusalem a persecution so relentless that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria." Saul "made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." Of his zeal in this cruel work he said at a later date: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison. . . . And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." That Stephen was not the only one who suffered death may be seen from Saul's own words, "And when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them." Acts 26:9-11. {AA 103.1}

The thing that is clearly outlined in this text from The Book of Acts is that NOW, Paul has a personal, a very powerful testimony of his experience with Jesus, and in Paul's testimony, he sought not to minimize or to hide his complicity in the horrors inflicted upon Christ-followers of the day. Nor did he seek to assert doctrine. But Paul wasnt giving this testimony in the sense of trophyism where he was proud of what "he did," rather, he just gave the story, exactly as it happened, with very little "interpretation."

According to scripture, a personal testimony is just that. Its nothing to do with a doctrine, although doctrine MAY be involved. Its nothing to do with being "better" or with "being good," its actual life as it happened. (compare 1 John 1:1-3). Also, involved in the text cited from Acts 19, we see the clear benefits of forced migrations and immigrations. In the name of Christ; it always turned around into a benefit; and worked for the true "common good." (see Rom 8:28).

(yes, trophyism is a word I just made up now)

Edited by BlessedMan
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I promised to come back and start posting a few references. Since the above made a specific reference to a comment by The Pope in recent headlines, Ill start with a reliable source for those comments:

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What I mean is that evangelization is free! Proselytism, on the other hand, makes you lose your freedom. Proselytism is incapable of creating a religious path in freedom. It always sees people being subjugated in one way or another. In evangelization the protagonist is God, in proselytism it is the I.

Of course, there are many forms of proselytism. The one practiced by soccer teams, acquiring fans, is all right, obviously! And then it is clear that there are those forms of proselytism for commerce and business, for political parties. Proselytism is widespread, we know that. But it doesn’t have to be the case with us. We must evangelize, which is very different from proselytizing.

St. Francis of Assisi told his friars: “Go out to the world, evangelize. And, if necessary, use words, too.” Evangelization is essentially witness. Proselytizing is convincing, but it is all about membership and takes your freedom away. I believe that this distinction can be of great help. Benedict XVI in Aparecida said something wonderful, that the Church does not grow by proselytism, it grows by attraction, the attraction of witness. The sects, on the other hand, making proselytes, separate people, promising them many advantages and then leaving them to themselves.[4]

Among you there are certainly theologians, sociologists and philosophers: I ask you to study and deepen the difference between proselytism and evangelization. Read well Evangelii Nuntiandi of Paul VI. There it is clear that the vocation of the Church is to evangelize. Indeed, the very identity of the Church involves evangelizing. Unfortunately, however, not only in the sects, but also within the Catholic Church there are fundamentalist groups. They emphasize proselytism more than evangelization.

Another typical thing about proselytizing is that it does not distinguish between the internal and external forums. And this is the sin into which many religious groups fall today. That is why I asked the Apostolic Penitentiary to make a statement on the internal forum, and that statement is really very good.[5]

Evangelizers never violate the conscience: they announce, sow and help to grow. They help. Whoever proselytizes, on the other hand, violates people’s conscience: this does not make them free, it makes them dependent. Evangelization gives you a filial dependence, that is, it makes you free and able to grow. Proselytizing gives you a servile dependence at the level of the conscience and the society. The dependence of the evangelized person, the “filial” dependence, is the memory of the grace that God has given you. The proselyte instead depends not as a child, but as a slave, who in the end does not know what to do unless he or she is told.

 

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How do we determine, as Adventists, the boundaries between "proselytism," and "evangelism? Or, do we need to?

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My “Siri” gives the same definition to both words. “il Papa“ seems to have his own definitions, although he describes different scenarios. A different scenario is what I visualize happening with evangelism, you can disciple someone as requested by Jesus or you can just “dunk em & forget em” as often happens then wonder why they disappear a short time later.

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16 minutes ago, B/W Photodude said:

My “Siri” gives the same definition to both words. “il Papa“ seems to have his own definitions, although he describes different scenarios. A different scenario is what I visualize happening with evangelism, you can disciple someone as requested by Jesus or you can just “dunk em & forget em” as often happens then wonder why they disappear a short time later.

I can agree, he does give a confusing message about it.

I should have made it clear in the OP too that while my intention is not to single out any specific denomination; singling out a specific group is OK for me, as long as it doesnt degenerate into a "turkey-shoot" against a specific one.

The over-all question has gotten me to wondering about how to sort it out. As in differences between "prosyletism and evangelism."

While the Pope seems to trying to make a distinction; I am not sure that RCC doctrine actually does, as in the "true church" dogma, and I dare-say, Adventists also have a version of that too.

So, in summary, I am looking for input from others who are far wiser than me, to contribute to analyses of the text cited in the OP.  Does that and similar texts portray any distinctions between "evangelism and proselytism? Or, does scripture even make such a distinction? What have we misunderstood? What have we gotten right? And what is a historical reflection on the RESULTS of same?  The farther reaches of this subject could show a complicity of "Christian Missionary work" in civil strife, and even wars.

In the OP, I reflected briefly on "trophy baptisms," and it wasn't my intention to make an accusation there. Im just wondering, what is the real-time effects of our beliefs in this department?

A text that @8thdaypriest had mentioned from John 9:4, in a different topic, might be one example of several places where we could start? I think sometimes, we Christians attach the wrong kind of "urgency" to our "message."

Edited by BlessedMan
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 9/27/2019 at 8:58 PM, BlessedMan said:

The Bible does say that "ye are my witnesses," (Isa 43:12), so in the light of "modern culture" how do we make a distinction between these two terms? Or, do we need to? More succinctly, in Acts 11:19-20, are we looking at "witnessing" (evangelism), or are we looking at some of the disciples caught up in "proselytizing?"

More than once; I have had someone approach me, sometimes a complete stranger, and say something along this line:

"you look like you are a Christian. Can you....?"

And then they would proceed to tell me what they wanted to talk about. Does this kind of thing ring a bell with anyone? Is that different, or the same, as "evangelism?"

Please share your thoughts, experiences. :)

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On 9/29/2019 at 3:13 PM, BlessedMan said:

Evangelization is essentially witness.

It has to be more than just a "witness".  Jesus Himself "witnessed to people by His exemplary and balanced spiritual life style for 3-1/2 years and only managed to garner 72 disciples.  It wasn't until those disciples began fanatically preaching the Gospel - convincing people to change their beliefs - that the Gospel really took off.  Jesus' final command to His disciples was:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt. 28:19-20)

Teaching people involves giving them new information that will change the way they think.  Isn't that what "prosyletism involves.

On 9/29/2019 at 3:13 PM, BlessedMan said:

Whoever proselytizes, on the other hand, violates people’s conscience:

Many things Jesus did violated the conscience of the Pharisees - like healing people on the Sabbath, eating with "sinners" and tax collectors, etc.

That being said, there is a difference between evangelizing and proselytizing.  IMHO, Evangelizing might be telling someone "Jesus loves you"; while proselytizing might be more like "Give your self to Jesus or you're gonna burn!!

Evangelization brings people to love God, proselytizing brings people to fear God. 

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51 minutes ago, JoeMo said:

That being said, there is a difference between evangelizing and proselytizing.  IMHO, Evangelizing might be telling someone "Jesus loves you"; while proselytizing might be more like "Give your self to Jesus or you're gonna burn!!

Appreciate your reply. I think that, as with most issues/questions, there does have to be at least two sides, if not more? Is it really so "wrong" for Christians to "give the warning?"  When does "the warning" become proselityzing, and when is it evangelism? Jesus Himself did sound several warning messages? Or did I read it wrong? (I just noticed the spell-checker keeps saying I am spelling the word 'proselityze' wrong. Wonder if there's a message in that? lol)

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2 hours ago, JoeMo said:

IMHO, Evangelizing might be telling someone "Jesus loves you"; while proselytizing might be more like "Give your self to Jesus or you're gonna burn!!

I thought "proselytizing" involved recruiting and educating someone for your particular group or movement.  Each denomination proselytizes new people for membership. 

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3 hours ago, 8thdaypriest said:

I thought "proselytizing" involved recruiting and educating someone for your particular group or movement.  Each denomination proselytizes new people for membership. 

I think that both you & JoeMo are correct, and that it would depend upon what circumstance we are looking at, in order to further define.  Thats the short story version. Ill return soon with the longer story. I can say, however, that neither of the two should be "wrong" if done correctly, and I think we could find Biblical precedent for both evangelism, or proselytism. I think often people tend to misinterpret the threat here.

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5 hours ago, JoeMo said:

That being said, there is a difference between evangelizing and proselytizing.  IMHO, Evangelizing might be telling someone "Jesus loves you"; while proselytizing might be more like "Give your self to Jesus or you're gonna burn!!

This almost sounds like syncretism.

"Just talk about Jesus..." 

Has that ever worked? lol

IMO every religion does the "your gonna burn" thing, to some degree. THAT, in and of itself, may not in fact be evangelism or proselytisation It might just be codswallop.  But, is there not also some validity to it? Dont we want to get out 'the warning" before its "too late?"

There are some churches which have "proselytes" as part of their religion.

On 9/29/2019 at 3:13 PM, BlessedMan said:

How do we determine, as Adventists, the boundaries between "proselytism," and "evangelism? Or, do we need to?

 

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