President's Address: Dennis J. Donnelly


Essence of Brother Donnelly's message:

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4

Work is what it takes to answer the great commission, work is what it takes to be men and women that witness in 196 countries, work is what it takes to distribute over 84,000,000 Scriptures, and work is what it takes to raise over $104,000,000 to provide those Scriptures. However, before we look forward to the upcoming year and what work we need to be doing, first let's look at what happened this past year.

Last year we met in Dallas under the banner, "Be doers of the Word." We were inspired to be doers, realizing the need is great and the time is short. Now, looking back, the question is: How did we do? As we look at our key performance indicators for last year, I am happy to report to you that there is some joy in the journey.

First of all, total world Scripture placements were up almost 1% from the year before at 84,632,342 -- an all-time ministry record. We fell 3% below the goal of 87,500,000; however, we shipped over 5,000,000 copies of the Life Book, which has expanded our outreach to USA youth. We also had an exciting positive trend with USA Personal Workers Testaments up over 9% for both Gideons and Auxiliary. We continue to emphasize one of our newest goals: that of every member being a “doer" and presenting one Personal Workers Testament per week.

In summary, World Scripture Funds (excluding Legacy Receipts) reached $100.9 million or 101% of the total Scripture Funds Goal of $100.3 million for the 2012- 13 fiscal year. Overall World Scripture Receipts totaled $104.2 million (including Legacy Receipts of $3.3 million) representing an increase of approximately $1.1 million, or 1.1% over the prior year. USA Church Offering Receipts last year were 3.4% over the prior year, coming within 0.7% of the $25.6 million goal. Faith Fund receipts exceeded the goal by 6.7%, totaling $29,018,743.

Last year the average USA church offering was $428, which was an increase of $17 over the prior year. Praise God for His goodness. However, we still have a number of tools we're not using well. Next time you speak in a church, closely review the Church Bulletin Insert. It has a QR (Quick Response) code on it. Call this to the congregation's attention. They can sit right there in their church and make a donation to provide Scriptures. Also, if they prefer, on the donation tab is a box they can check if they would like to make a recurring monthly gift. You can say something like, "For just $11.00 a month this year you can supply a box of 100 copies of God's Word; and Gideons around the world, on your behalf will place them in outstretched hands. This year you can reach 100 people with the Good News of Jesus Christ!

This next year, we will continue to emphasize developing pastor relations and close the gap in church presentations, which, along with membership, have been on a slow but steady decline. At a recent International Cabinet meeting, a Pastors Awareness Campaign was approved. In the coming months, targeted emails and banner ads will communicate our story with pastors in select church-related media. You can expect to see more information concerning this Pastors Awareness Campaign.

We undertook an aggressive church presentation rally in March, April, and May which resulted in an increase in reported USA church presentations of 7% over the same time the year before. To God be the glory. Pray that this trend will continue and that we continue this work while it is day. Last year,3l.2% of USA camps reached the LY+3 goal. Yet, we are only making presentations in about 25% of our eligible churches-only one out of four. We can do better than this; we need to do better than this; we must do better than this.

Moving on to membership, our worldwide Gideon membership now stands at 195,411. We had a net increase of 3,831 members after having signed up 20,27I new members worldwide. 29.8% of USA camps achieved the goal of a net gain of one member. While we are thankful for the steady increase in worldwide membership the last five years, we need to take a closer look at the membership numbers. In the USA, we now have 2,928 fewer Gideons than we did five years ago. Consider this: in those five years we signed up 38,403 new members in the USA. That means in the past five years we lost a little over 41,000 members. This isn’t a US regional problem, but a nationwide problem. 30 of 38 USA state associations have fewer members today than five years ago. Brethren, we need to take this to heart.

We cannot continue moving in this direction-we need to turn this around. We need to pay additional attention to retaining the members we have. Each camp must achieve the goal of a net increase of one member. That goal encompasses new sign-ups and the retention of current members.

A similar problem exists in our qualified national associations. Six of ten of the qualified national associations have fewer members than five years ago. Our worldwide increase in membership has come from the strong growth in the four supported national associations: Brazil, India, Nigeria and The Philippines, all of whom have more members today than 5 years ago, and our international outreach countries. They are doers and are at work while it is day.

This is another critical area in which we need to 'do' better. Men and their wives will still join this for the same reasons you and I joined. They want to make a difference in the world. They want to reach the lost for Christ. But it does take "work."

Consider the testimony of this new member:

I am a professional aircraft technician. I served honorably in the United States military for 21 years, retiring in 2002. I am currently working in the United Arab Emirates. When I was in Bitburg Germany, years ago, someone handed me a green Gideon New Testament, which was my first Bible. As I read that New Testament, I found that I could go directly to God in prayer and ask for forgiveness of my sins. I found that the Lord Jesus is the sacrifice for me. It was then that I became born again of the Spirit of God. I have been in Iraq and Afghanistan for four years now, and I have committed my life and my family to the Lord Jesus Christ. My new life in Christ got started because of The Gideons International, and God has now brought the Gideon organization to me once again. I want to be a part of this ministry.

As we look toward the future, there is no doubt that the continued long-term growth of our membership will be one of our major challenges. Two years ago, we appointed a committee to look into our membership qualifications and application process in view of a changing business and professional environment. Business conditions and environs may change, but let me assure you, the spiritual qualifications for this ministry remain as strong as ever. The spiritual qualifications are not changing in any way.

We are hearing a lot about relevance. In a rapidly changing world, does this ministry still have something people want or need? Are we still relevant? Let me remind you that there is nothing in the world today more relevant than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With that said, since 1969 we have used the King James Version (KJV) and a modern English version (MEV) of Scripture for our distributions. Next week the English Standard Version (ESV) will begin shipping to camps that order the Modern English Version. This change in the modern English version does not affect our use of the King James Version in any way. The King James Version is not going anywhere.

Largely due to its accurate, essentially literal translation, the ESV has been widely accepted in evangelical churches. Many influential pastors and authors are using the ESV in their preaching and in church pews. The Scofield Study Bible III now uses the ESV as its base text. The Reformation Study Bible, edited by R. C. Sproul, now uses the ESV as its base text. The MacArthur Study Bible is now published in an edition using the ESV as its base text. An ESV edition of the Ryrie Study Bible was published in 2011. Concordia Publishing House (the publishing branch of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod) released The Lutheran Study Bible using the ESV text in 2009.

At our request, Crossway Publishing has graciously consented to accommodate a number of acceptable alternative translations of key verses that we believe will make a good translation even better. We will be able to distribute the ESV with complete confidence that we are distributing an excellent literal translation of the Word of God. The Gideon Edition of the ESV will be slightly different than the one for sale in bookstores to the general public.

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, in the past year we shipped over five million copies of the Life Book for distribution to USA high school youth. Non-believing students are being drawn to Christ while student believers from churches are learning to share their faith. Brethren, that's relevance.

The first time I saw the Life Book it was on the hallway floor next to my feet. I picked it up of the floor and started reading it, and I knew right then and there that I wanted God in my heart. So I prayed asking for God’s forgiveness for all the wrong actions I took in my life. I asked Jesus to be my Savior for the rest of my life, even if I didn't deserve the forgiveness. Jesus knew that today would be the day I would ask him to be my Savior. - Danielle, New York

Thank God for what He is doing through the Life Book. A very significant bonus or by-product of the Life Book is the opportunity we have to share it with senior pastors, thereby enhancing our relationship with them. All of the Life Book saturations are listed in the Connection by state under the Church Ministry tab. This gives us an excellent reason to call those churches, or to stop by and talk with the pastor and ask about their experience with the Life Book. Use it, INTENTIONALLY, to enhance relationships with senior pastors. Here are two examples from the field:

Tuesday July 9, 2013

Dear Gideons,

On May 15, I delivered the Life Book intro material to Center Grove Baptist Church. Yesterday I followed up by phone.
Today I received an encouraging phone call from Joseph Tucker associate pastor for youth. He said he has received the 1,500 copies the church had ordered. He’s committed to using the Life Book with the high school boys and girls as an evangelistic tool.

Check it out on the Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Here is a response to that email: "Harry, this is a great tool. I'm on my 5th set. The youth pastors Iove’em."

Once again, the Life Book experience with churches has been overwhelmingly positive. We need to take advantage of that and use it to open doors to churches that have been closed. Use this as another tool to enhance your camp's church ministry program.

What about this year, what do we need to be doing? We have a very simple ministry, so keep it simple. We need to get back to the basics, the fundamentals. We need to get back into the churches, sign up new members and keep them. Sign up members, and speak in churches. Do that, and everything else will take care of itself. Simple; not simplistic, simple. Everything we need to succeed is in the church: prayers, members and funds. More funds equal more Scriptures; more members equal more Scripture placements; it's simple.

We are a "simple, disciplined, well-defined ministry that is carried out exclusively by the membership of the Association under the authority and direction of the International Cabinet."

A few years we ago, we embarked on a set of long-range objectives known as Vision 2020: Objective 100. If the Lord tarries, six years, ten months and five days from now another International President is going to stand before you and give an account. I hope, Lord willing, that I will be there to share in the rejoicing of having reached these objectives:
• To have developed, personally and corporately, a culture of excellence throughout the worldwide ministry where 100% achievement, commitment and effort is the benchmark.
• To have 100% of our members, Gideons and Auxiliary, in every camp involved in camp activities.
• To have intentionally developed a relationship with each eligible church in every camp area.
• To be distributing 120 million Scriptures annually.

We have the tools -- videos, PowerPoints, books, cards --everything we need. All we have to do is use them. Our theme verse for this convention is altogether fitting -- we must "work... while it is day.'' If we really believe in what we're doing, we will not rest until we are witnessing to and reaching every possible person with the Gospel within the scope of our ministry. We have a lot of work to do -- we must "work... while it is day.” It seems that everywhere you go in the world, regardless of country or culture there is an overwhelming sense that the Lord’s return is very soon. No hysteria, no dire predictions, but a deep down sense that time is short. There is a sense of urgency among God’s people that we are "burning daylight" -- we need to get moving. The "night is coming when no one can work.” We can do this, the Lord has called us to this ministry, He is with us, He sustains us, He wants us to get moving, for the "night is coming when no one can work."