To illustrate the difference between proselytizing and evangelizing, let me explain what groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) do.
The JWs and the Mormons engage in proselytizing, and this is what it involves:
*]They have a mission to inform you that your religious beliefs are wrong and unacceptable to God.
*]The mission includes educating you on where you are wrong and what you must believe instead.
*]This program of education often includes dismissing your current way of life and the majority of your religious and ethnic customs (in exchange for Western ones).
*]The mission concludes with educating you on how to proselytize and do the same to others.
What is often most disturbing is point number 3. If you are a man with a beard, be prepared to shave it off. If you are a woman with anything more than one earring per ear, get ready to say goodbye to your jewelry. You can eat your ethnic foods, you can wear some of your ethnic dress at home, but when you worship and when you go out to proselytize you are often forced to adopt Western garb. You must also give up any ethnic and/or religious celebration and accept only their Westernized ones (as in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, no celebrations at all). These are but a few examples.
Evangelizing is sharing the Gospel through word or action. It involves recognizing:
*]That God has often given truths in various ways to various different cultures.
*]That the Church is enriched by diversity found in others.
*]That a journey into the Church often includes joining of things old and new.
*]That becoming Christ to the world means serving others without a judgmental or triumphalist attitude.
As such Catholics recognize that not all people are lost in the current state they are in. Many are serving God in ways that may not be completely clear to Catholics at present. Catholics share their hope with those who inquire, but do not avoid offering it even to those who might not. They recognize that neither God nor the Church is limited by denominational lines when it comes to bringing salvation to the world, and that we as Catholics cannot therefore always be sure of how our mysterious God is working to do this. We speak up when we should, we are quiet when required, but we are always examples of the Gospel. Our example can often speak louder than words, and our love is not limited to those who accept our message or our way of worship.
Evangelizing is the bringing of a message that can only add to your life, not destroy it. It recognizes the good and blesses that which needs it. And it does more than bring a message of “turn-or-burn” like proselytizing does. It involves ministering to the practical everyday needs of others out of genuine care and love for humanity.