Saturday, August 8, 2015

Evangelizing or Proselytizing

         Similar to the "Redeeming the Time" posts, there is a distinction to be made in how to witness, to evangelize or proselytize. 
         Biblically speaking, evangelist is found in the Scriptures,  where proselytizing, or any form of the word, is no where to be found, so what's the difference between these two methods?

Here is the meaning and origin of the word evangelist:


Original: εὐαγγελιστής

Transliteration: euaggelistēs

Phonetic: yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace'

Thayer Definition:

a bringer of good tidings, an evangelist
the name given to the NT heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles
Origin: from G2097

TDNT entry: 14:16,3

Part(s) of speech: Noun Masculine

Strong's Definition: From G2097; a preacher of the gospel: - evangelist.

Because proselytize is not found anywhere in the Bible, here is the etymology and definition from an online source:

The word proselytize comes from the Greek language and the etymology or the "true sense" of it means converting someone into one's very own path or way of life. 

Proselytizing says that this is truth and I don't care what you think, you need to accept it and seems to have a more forceful connotation in trying to convert or somehow trying to make the person believe the truth and also seems to leave out the free will of man, when evangelizing is basically the act of heralding.  Evangelizing says that this is the truth and it's up to you whether you accept it.  The evangelist realizes that the final decision of whether or not a person believes is between them and the Lord and they don't have anything to do with that, and can't control that heart decision.  
       However,  a lot of Christians seem to have a mindset that they hold the truth and with that seems to come a mindset of proselytizing. We're still human and have a sin nature, but God's word is perfect and only God's Word can change the heart of man.
       I've known pastors that will prepare a message and then tell me that they are re-thinking it simply because they don't want to "go over the people's heads."  That thought is, not only arrogant, but statements like they "need to hear it" is along the lines of proselytizing, especially if that message is not exactly what God's Word says.
         Whether the truth of the Bible being evangelized is directed towards an established church or towards an unbelieving group of VBS kids, it is God's Word that will have the effect. 
     The truth of God is found in scripture.  There's a power in God's Word that is inexplicable and we can explain it in the most eloquent and clear way, but when the actual words are read by a person, it seems to have a supernatural effect. And rightly so since it is God's Word.

Redeeming the time part 2

          My previous post was left stating that in Colossians 4:6, believers are exhorted to be tactful in their witnessing.  Every situation is different, however some situations can obviously dictate certain scripture verses or direction of conversation, but ultimately, all these things will be led by the Lord.  As good stewards of the truth of reconciliation, we as believers need to think before we speak that truth, (James 1:19) so we do not unnecessarily close that door. 
           Being tactful in witnessing is, not only wise to keeping opportunities open and is biblical, but also helps maintain a good testimony before others.  For example: Christian A might be convinced that "redeeming the time" means that every time they have a conversation with an unbeliever, they need to push the love of Christ and force the direction of the conversation.  I know Christians that are convinced of this, but then complain when the unbeliever cuts them off or distances that relationship.  That relationship is now limited and the opportunity for witness to that person is at least hindered, if not ruined.
           On the other hand, Christian B is convinced that "redeeming the time" and the "how" need to be utilized at the same time.  The Lord is sovereign over all and is very capable of directing conversations and situations.   Maintaining a good testimony before others is vital to witnessing.   It shows others a kind of patience that can only come from the love of God, although they may not realize that at first.  In time, and perhaps in their personal reflective times, that may be a factor in their salvation.  People also do not like to be pushed into a decision and have information thrown at them.  Once the unbeliever knows that we are always willing to talk, letting them start the conversations will be much more effective in the long run.  When people know they are being treated with dignity, that simple and basic privilege of letting them make their own decision and being given the time they need to get to whatever that conclusion is, goes a long way and is a huge sign of respect.