Should Christians Proselytize?

Perhaps you are like the many who are truly thrilled by the truth of God that you are learning through the Philadelphia Church of God. Perhaps you sincerely want others to understand what you do. Perhaps you see how the knowledge of God’s truth can set people free from needless pain and suffering. Perhaps you are genuinely concerned about those presumably on the verge of losing their salvation.

Should you then try to preach the truth?

The real truth on this subject will probably surprise many new Christians.

First, it is imperative to understand that no human being has the authority or the ability to call people into the truth. In John 6:44, Jesus Christ said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him ….” Even the ability to understand the truth comes from God the Father. Jesus told Simon Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it [the truth] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Nobody actually volunteers to be a true Christian! “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” Christ explained (John 15:16).

Of course, an individual must be willing to respond to God’s calling. But nobody has the ability to volunteer himself or herself to true Christianity—let alone volunteer others. Calling people into the truth is God’s responsibility.

He therefore does not obligate anyone to evangelize or proselytize.

But wait—what about what Christ said in Matthew 28:19-20? “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you ….” God definitely does want His truth proclaimed and taught! His Work is an evangelizing work. The question is who exactly He was speaking to here. Christ was giving final instructions to the men He had trained into the ministry. This is God’s instruction to those He has specifically called and ordained to make His truth available to those who want it. And even then, God’s ministers never try to “talk anyone into” accepting Bible truth or being converted. They do not force God’s precious truth on anyone.

This scripture, and others like it, does not obligate individuals to personally proselytize. God, however, does require people to support the work of the ministry through their prayers (e.g. Matthew 9:35-38), tithes (Matthew 23:23) and offerings (Malachi 3:8-10). God also obligates people to be a light—to set a positive example for others (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15). Your personal conduct, dedication and attitude can have a powerful impact on those around you. That is the kind of light John the Baptist was—“that all men through him might believe” (John 1:7). That is the kind of light we all should be.

Sometimes people feel obligated to preach the truth to friends and relatives because they fear that their loved ones are, in their view, so irreligious that they are on the verge of losing their salvation. They presume that their efforts could “save” them. But they may actually end up doing more harm than good! The truth of God is precious; Jesus Christ taught us not to cast it before those who would trample it underfoot (Matthew 7:6). If you try to force it on those who do not want to learn, you may be doing just that.

There are times, though, when you may be called on to literally speak the truth. The Apostle Peter wrote that we should “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Notice: We should all be ready to answer—when asked in sincerity. The reason people would ask you “a reason of the hope that is in you” is that as you let your light shine, they will see something different about you. The people who know you will realize that you are different. That may motivate them to ask you about it. An example of living hope will be seen and will positively impact others. That is what God wants and expects of His people. This is not an invitation to preach, but to give. It is an opportunity to demonstrate how you live and to stand up for what you believe.

God actually has a plan to try to save every human being (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). A time is coming soon when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all people (e.g. Joel 2:28-29), and they will be willing and able to learn. God will even resurrect everyone who never received His calling and give them their very first chance at salvation! In the meantime, we must support God’s Work as it aims to reach the largest audience possible, and let God decide whom to draw to His truth now.

Chapter 19 of the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong is devoted to the subject of trying to convert relatives and friends. “Now a passion swept over me to ‘get our families converted,’” he wrote about his experiences shortly after God led him to conversion. “With the best intentions in the world, I set out on a vigorous campaign. To me, it was the loving and intense desire to share the wonders and glories of Bible knowledge with those we felt we loved most. But to most of them, it was an unwanted effort to ‘cram my crazy religion down their throats.’ … I had to learn, however, that … I was unable utterly to ‘cram my religion down my relatives’ throats.’ My efforts only aroused hostility. They said I was ‘crazy.’”

This is something you must avoid—especially if your spouse is not a believer. Mr. Armstrong continued: “Of all things evil and harmful a newly converted Christian can do, the very worst is to try to talk your husband or wife into your religion. Whatever else you do, let me plead with every such reader, never commit this tragic sin. If you love your husband or wife, don’t do it!! If you love your Savior who died for you, and now lives for you, DON’T DO IT!!! … God made every human a free moral agent. Thank God!—no one has power to force on you any unwanted religion.”

To learn more about the Christian way of life, enroll in our free Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. To learn about what the Bible says about the process of conversion, read Just What Do You Mean … Conversion?