Evangelizing vs. Proselytizing

What is the difference between the two or is there a difference?

I’m pretty sure the difference is in the intent. Proselytizing aims to “convert” to one’s own religious position, but isn’t necessarily concerned with the person’s spiritual well-being. Evangelizing aims to “convert” another’s heart, and is essentially concerned with the person’s spiritual well-being (ie, relationship to Christ).

Evangelizing is proclaiming the Gospel, preaching the Good News. It was commanded by Christ.

Proselytizing is trying to convert. Proselytizing was condemned by our Holy Father. en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/08/pope_francis_at_wednesday_mass:_build_bridges,_not_walls/en1-690203.


To evangelise is to offer the life and faith God Himself has given us - through word and action.

To proselytise is to tell people about this faith, but not back it up with actions.

It’s sort of like what a grammar teacher of mine said several years ago: “Don’t tell, show.

I found this answer makes a good distinction.

“proselytization” refers to using inappropriate tactics to get someone to convert, rather than allowing them to make a free choice for Christ. The inappropriate tactics can take a number of forms, including deception, coercion, emotional manipulation, threats, and even bribery. An explanation of this usage is found in the 2007 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith titled Instruction on Some Aspects of Evangelization.”


according to the dictionary i just checked, the only practical difference is that “evangelise” specifically implies christianity. of course, “proselytise” gets tossed around by atheists like a dirty word, so it has a certain social stigma attached to it.

Proselytizing, in the negative sense rejected by the Church, is not “trying to convert.” We should try to convert. The CDF issued a document on this a few years ago, which specifically lists a kind of pseudo-evangelization “without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith” as part of “a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective.” (paragraph 3).

Proselytism, in the negative sense, means trying to convert with means or motives contrary to the Gospel:

“More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person.” (footnote 49)

Historically speaking, at different times and places, the terms were used interchangably.

More recently, there has been a distinction drawn between the two – which I think is helpful. I think the nutshell version is that evangelization proposes while proselytism imposes.

So using this logic, I could say the same thing, but the way I say it determines if it is proselytism or evangelism.

Now this is an interesting quote from a good source. Thanks!

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