Isn’t it the same thing? (Evangelize/Proselytize)

Financially, my family is in a pickle. From things that I’ve read, this is a common problem in re-marriages and step-families, when substantial child support and alimony payments are part of the financial equation. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to generate more income on my end of things, as my husband is already doing all he can.

To that end, yesterday I had an interview with a company that does academic enrichment tutoring and instruction. They are looking for people to be English tutors. The company has a solid reputation in the area, and I really liked the director. I hope they decide to hire me.

Because I list my graduate degree from Fuller Seminary on my resume, it often prompts questions in secular interviews. Sometimes the questions have to do with something they heard on the radio, or they want something basic explained. Like the time someone asked me what the difference was between Catholics and Christians. I really don’t think they believed me when I tried to explain that Catholics ARE Christians.

Yesterday, my interviewer asked me where I fell on the Christian spectrum. He is not a believer and doesn’t know Christian jargon, so I tried to explain it simply. I said that I am an evangelical who believes that Jesus has asked us to bless not just our little believer’s corner, but the larger community. He asked if I was a fundamentalist. I told him that I didn’t really feel like I was in that camp, although I believe in the authority of the Bible. Then he said, “So if you’re evangelical, you’re basically saying your goal is to proselytize people.”

Remember, I’m interviewing for a position tutoring English. I said that I was pretty sure those two words are not synonymous. I explained the Greek root of the word evangelical. Euangellos in Greek is “bringing good,” so an evangelical is one who brings something good, in this case, the “good news” about redemption in Jesus. Proselytize, according to my OED, is “to make proselytes,” and a proselyte is “one who has come over from one opinion, belief, creed or party to another; a convert.” It comes from the Greek aorist form of proserk, meaning “to come to a place.”*

So is it the same thing? No, it is not. I hope that I manage to bring the good news about God in Jesus. If it causes a person to move from one opinion to another, that is really cool. But my primary work as a follower of Jesus is to share the good news, and to share it as if it really is good news. Good news is not scary or threatening. Good news doesn’t sound like, “if you don’t believe in Jesus you’re going to Hell!” You’d be hard pressed to find Jesus inviting people into his circle with that kind of talk anywhere in the Gospels. Good news doesn’t come in an argumentative or defensive tone. Good news makes a person feel relieved and comforted.**

The good news sounds more like this. In spite of the fact that I am broke, I know I serve a God who will somehow, some way take care of my needs and my family’s needs. It is good news that God loves me abundantly, and that his love can transform my life for the good. He can help me turn into a person who joyfully serves others, rather than a person that is only concerned about herself and her little family circle.


*I had to look up the definition and root of proselyte after the interview.

** I am aware that sometimes the gospel/good news is received badly, but that is another post.


9 Responses to Isn’t it the same thing? (Evangelize/Proselytize)

  1. mdott922 says:

    Interesting! I don’t know where you are located, but I’m in a part of the country where people normally don’t go to church. In fact, Eugene, Oregon (about 90 miles south of here) is known as the least-churched place in the United States.

    I frequently run into situations with people who are not Christian who either have a preconceived notion or a misunderstanding of the Christian faith. To compound matters, they extend that belief into a judgement of my personal beliefs. Oh well….we just take it with a smile as best we can!

  2. Megan says:

    Hey Mdott:

    I’m in SoCal. It’s funny that you mention Eugene as the least churched place – I grew up in the Northwest and it IS unchurchy! I wonder how they figured out it was the LEAST unchurched. I love studies like that.

  3. This is what the good news is for me: to recognize that I am broken as a person and I can be loved with all my weaknesses, the good news is that day by day I am being transformed, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but He still believes in me. The good news is that I welcoming even if I mess up badly. …….Hopefully one day we can seat down and have coffee… gusta mucho como escribes…

  4. corisa says:

    isn’t it illegal to ask you about your faith in an interview??? i realize that it’s on your resume but i’m appalled at him.

  5. I have some similar concerns of Corisa, but I guess the current Republican presidential candidate faith wars shows that the country does conceive of one’s faith as being integral to one’s resume. Though I’m not sure what I think of Romney, I appreciate Huckabee’s “Faith defines me” as being thoroughly Christian.

  6. Kim says:

    I agree that it’s out of line to quiz you about your faith in an interview, but if you think faith is an integrated topic in your life, you might as well take the chance given to … umm … evangelize.

    I regard conversion as God’s responsibility, and my responsibility is to be faithful to the good news in BOTH word and deed. “Be ready to give an answer to any man who asks you the reason for the hope that is within you …” I’ve always thought of proselytizing as taking on God’s responsibility of converting somebody, and evangelizing as just being faithful and honest about my own experience when an opportunity opens up.

  7. missionseeker says:

    Dedication. The Lord always asked for, commanded, and expected it for those following Him. Hearing Him is God’s loving call. Are we afraid to let this light shine? It is obedience our Lord desires. A young baby, soon learns, and can be lead to the gospel and then when the understanding comes, can decide to become a follower of Christ, so evalgelizing becomes the mission to seek and to save those who can understand. Fear must be put behind us. Speak for Jesus. He came to seek and save the lost and made this known. The good news, YES, the gospel, Christians have answered this calling by the gospel, Jesus, the promised Messiah lived, died, and rose again. We can obey the gospel call, and go forth to be placed by God into any job, hopefully we will find someone lost who will respond. Looking for open doors to tell someone that good news of salvation, a beautiful home in heaven someday and loving kindness here until then. Jesus suffered too though and we must be ready to do that at times. He said so in the beatitudes, blessed are the persecuted for righteousness sake.

  8. Enjoyed your blogpost. Thanks. Bless You in your search for finding a way to bring additional funds to your blended family situation. We fully understand that.
    We will pray for you, and your family. Keep trusting the Lord…we have seen His goodness and glory in our 12 years together as a step-family. God is good.
    Dan and Rebecca Snell,
    Co-Founders, The Bonded Family

  9. Christy says:

    Excellent article! Found it while Googling “evangelism, Greek root.”

    I work for a ministry that empowers its denominational lay people to go on short-term missions all over the world to “evangelize.” Except that for the most part, they are not evangelizing unbelievers. They are proselytizing predominantly Christian-cultured people into a specific Christian denomination with distinctive beliefs. **sigh** My colleagues will argue that point with me, because they are of a completely different mindset. And I figure, why argue? I need my job, and can’t afford to give it away.

    PS: Did you get the job, or must I read every blog entry in your archive to find the answer?

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