It was never just about Bibles in hotel nightstands
A new name and a new mission: one of the oldest evangelistic ministries on the planet shifts its approach to partner with churches to tell the world about Christ—together.
The Gideon’s name is one of the most respected brands in Christendom. In addition to stewarding international recognition as a leader in evangelism, the ministry has placed gold-embossed New Testaments in hotel rooms around the globe and distributed them in schools to millions of children for over 110 years. Building on this rich legacy, the organization is now ushering in a new era of ministry with a new name and an enhanced mission.
Armed with a rejuvenated passion to share God’s Word, the organization is refocusing its approach and changing its name to ShareWord Global. This banner anchors its new evangelistic mission in partnerships with local churches that aim to ignite and fuel Christians to share the gospel alongside Scripture.
“We’ve never just been Bible distributors,” said ShareWord Global President, Dr. Alan Anderson. “The organization represents in people’s minds only a small portion of what the ministry does today. Our new name is more aligned with our calling of coming alongside our brothers and sisters, here at home and abroad, to tell the world—together. Our belief that the Word of God is alive and powerful hasn’t changed. By building upon our legacy, we can now focus on working with the local church to help women and men of all ages to feel more confident about sharing their faith to bring hope, and ultimately transform our communities.”
A Multi-Generational Legacy That Spans Over a Century
The ministry began over a century ago, with two salesmen who shared a passion for the Gospel. From their initial meeting, The Gideons was born as an evangelistic association of travelling salesmen. One method they employed in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ was the distribution of Bibles in hotel rooms. Over the following decades, the ministry steadily broadened its outreach to sharing the Bible with prisoners, hospital patients, public servants, students—and anyone else along the way.
As for the Canadian side of the story, after becoming an autonomous organization in 2011, The Gideons International In Canada began to reshape its ministry by inviting Christians to share the gospel with innovative new Scripture resources alongside local church partners. The distinction from the Gideons in the USA also allowed for more leadership opportunities for women, which is hugely important for the Canadian organization. This new autonomy in Canada led to the development of Scripture magazines (Hope, Redemption, Light, and Spark) and a digital app called NewLife to introduce people to the Gospel of Christ in a new way. These innovations not only energized the domestic ministry, but also helped propel new international work, starting in Peru and spreading to many other parts of the world. For many years now, the international arm of the Canadian organization has gone by the name “ShareWord Global”. Now with the retiring of the “Gideons” name in Canada, the work locally and internationally is under the same banner and common mission.
It was thanks to this new energy and growth that ShareWord Global’s ministry model gradually took shape. The organization’s work is ongoing in Canada, Kenya, Ukraine, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Middle East, and many other regions. While last year the organization shared almost 2 million copies of the Bible abroad, and more than 600,000 here in Canada, thousands will be mobilized to share the Gospel. Through them, millions more will hear of the person and work of Jesus Christ and receive portions of or a complete Bible.
God is opening amazing doors in the global context. In Nicaragua, the government has asked ShareWord Global to work with local churches to share the Gospel with every school-aged child in the country and leave them with scripture. This totals 2 million students hearing the message of Jesus. In Cuba, they have been asked to leave scripture in every household in the entire nation. The government of Kenya has asked the organization to train all their prison chaplains and inmates to share the Gospel with the other prisoners.
The Changing Landscape
I received my own New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs from this organization in elementary school. This was in the 1990s, and my mother was surprised that we had to submit a permission slip from our parents to receive the bible at all. In her day the bibles were simply given freely, but of course with each new generation of Canadians, the tolerance for religion within the school system has lessened. I still have my little red Gideon scripture. I remember sitting in the library that day in grade 5, where a simple Gospel message was given right in the school. It strikes me now as a piece of history, as we need completely new strategies and approaches to evangelism in this post-Christian culture of the 21st century.
Attitudes around religion are shifting, and so too are Christians’ views on evangelism. Even though a survey in the Barna study called Reviving Evangelism reveals that 94% of Christian millennials attest that coming into a relationship with Jesus is the best thing that could ever happen to a person, that same study shows that 47% of that same group feel that it’s wrong to share one’s personal belief with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. At their core, most Christians are hesitant to share their faith out of fear of offence, of looking bad or of losing a relationship with a loved one.
That sentiment, combined with the reality of the post-pandemic landscape of churches in Canada, means that we are seeing fewer and fewer people profess faith in Christ or attend a local church. We need to freshly prioritize the work of reaching people for Christ, because he is still the Good News in the 21st century.
It is for this reason that through my work at Word Made Digital, I love to partner with organizations like ShareWord Global to build strategies that work in the Digital Age and reach a post-Christian culture. I am convinced that Jesus is not just the Good News, but the BEST news in the world. Jesus still brings hope, purpose, love and transformation to the lives of people around the world. This message doesn’t just need to be something we hear about in other regions, as the Church explodes in the Global South and nations like China, but we can offer this same message to fellow Canadians, even as the number of people in our pews dwindles more and more. ShareWord Global is building strategies to work with local churches and Christians across the country to consider how to present Jesus in our time. The task is not easy, and must be soaked in the prayers of the saints. But it is our collective responsibility, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations.
“The Gospel is meant to be shared,” concludes Dr. Anderson. “Though we distributed 650,000 Bibles here in Canada last year, there’s nothing like sharing one’s story to bring a personal touch to evangelistic encounters . . . That’s surely why God has commissioned each of us to go and make disciples. By partnering with us, together we can tell the world.”
Whether it was arranging for presentations in schools, bibles in hotel nightstands, or ministry in prisons, Gideon’s was never just about scripture distribution for its own sake, but about a loving presentation of Jesus, from one follower to the next. He is the hope of the world.
To learn more about ShareWord Global’s approach for the 21st century, and how it can help you and your church with evangelism, visit www.sharewordglobal.com/ca/notjustbibles