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-So What is the Difference Between Evangelizing and Proselytizing?

by Dr. D ~ May 4th, 2013

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In a recent statement by DoD Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen the Pentagon supposedly ‘clarified’ their earlier statement about restricting religious discussion in the military:

“Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).”

So ‘evangelizing’ is OK but ‘proselytizing’ is out. Sounds good but exactly what is the difference between the two?

When Christians share their faith and testimonies with others we call that ‘evangelizing’ but when Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses come to our door doing the same thing we refer to that as ‘proselytizing.’ So what is the real difference? As far as I can tell it really is the same thing except when others are doing it to us then we use the negative “P” word?

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of EVANGELIZE

transitive verb

1: to preach the gospel to

2: to convert to Christianity

intransitive verb

: to preach the gospel


Also from Merriam-Webster:

Definition of PROSELYTIZE

intransitive verb

1: to induce someone to convert to one’s faith

2: to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause

transitive verb

: to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause

So what is the real difference? When Christians ‘proselytize’ –that is try to convert others to their faith -it is called ‘evangelism.’ That is why this new ‘clarification’ by the DoD is entirely inadequate because one man’s ‘evangelism’ is another’s ‘proselytizing.’ It is a matter of perspective and arbitrary to say the least.

Therefore, Christians in the military discussing and sharing their faith are still possibly in danger depending on how it is received and perceived. The real and actual line needs to be drawn at coercion. When coercion is involved it violates the teachings of Biblical Christianity and should not be acceptable in the military or in the church.

Here are links to our earlier posts on this issue:

-UPDATE: Pentagon ‘Clarifies’ Proselytizing Court Martial Statement

-Pentagon: Talk About Jesus and Face a Court Martial?               *Top

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5 Responses to -So What is the Difference Between Evangelizing and Proselytizing?

  1. -Re: Concerns About Religious Liberty in the US Military- Facts and Conclusions | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] The joint statement reflects my greatest concern that “proselytizing” will be defined so broadly that real religious liberty and freedom will end up being compromised. The report emphasizes the […]

  2. -Air Force Officer in Trouble Over an Open Bible? | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] but I contend that the Obama administration policy against sharing ones faith in the military (which they call ‘proselytizing’) is itself a violation of the First Amendment. Actually our first general and Commander-in-Chief […]

  3. Abbie Jones

    Thank you for your information. Even I too have felt the same. I Also too have the same opinion of that written in the blog. Evangelizing means to preach the gospel to or to convert to Christianity. Proselytizing means to convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.

  4. Jim

    Proselytizing strikes me as communicating a particular belief in a “coercive” or intimidating manner with the specific intent to “convert” a person to that belief.

    Evangelizing is the communication or “sharing” of one’s belief in an open and friendly manner and allowing the person the “choice” to believe or not.

  5. -MRFF: Christian Air Force Commander Should Be Jailed for Sharing His Faith | ANSWERS For The Faith

    […] of ones faith in any way and rules were devised to curtail it by labeling it- ‘proselytizing.’ We wrote about that effort several times. Fortunately now the administration under Pres. Trump values religious liberty. It will be […]

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