The Gideons are members of the Gideon Society, a worldwide evangelical Christian organization. While the Gideons are probably most famous for distributing copies of the Bible to hotels, as they have done since 1930, the organization also engages in other evangelical works all over the world. Membership in the Gideon Society is restricted to Christian men over 21 years of age who are of good spiritual character.
This organization was founded in 1899 in Wisconsin with the express goal of spreading the word of God to people who are not of the Christian faith. The Gideons refer to their work as “saving the lost,” reflecting the idea that many Christians believe that people who are not Christian are lost in the eyes of God, but that they can be saved through conversion and an acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior. A key aspect of the organization's work from the beginning has been the distribution of Bibles, allowing people who are not Christian to access the Bible so that they can read it and think about the Christian faith.
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Gideons also place a heavy emphasis on personal witnessing. Individual members of the organization participate in outreach programs, talking directly to the people they are attempting to influence and educate. In addition to distributing Bibles, Gideons are always happy to talk about the Bible with people who are curious, and to lead prayer meetings and workshops which explore the nature of faith.
Members of the Gideons work in their local communities, and the organization encourages a highly decentralized organizational system. By using local Gideons instead of importing missionaries, the society saves money, but it also increases access. Individual Gideons are familiar with local customs, mores, and laws, and they can navigate complex cultural situations much more easily than foreign missionaries. They may also be able to reach areas in which Christian evangelism is frowned upon, dangerous, or even forbidden.
In the Bible, Gideon is a man who serves God even when His orders seem contradictory or strange. In much the same way, Gideons dedicate themselves to serving God and bearing witness as Christians wherever they may go. Anything from a casual conversation on a plane to a mass distribution of Bibles to members of the military is an act of witness, and Gideons prize every opportunity to discuss Christianity with people who are interested. By providing copies of the Bible, the Gideons also leave people with lasting food for thought.