The Navigators ministry began in the 1930s, when a young California lumberyard worker caught a vision. After seeing the benefits of basic discipleship principles in his own life, Dawson Trotman wanted to teach them to others, echoing the call of 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
Dawson Trotman’s early work among sailors enabled discipleship principles to spread exponentially across the military as the United States entered World War II. Dawson began teaching high school students and local Sunday school classes these principles. In 1933, he and his friends extended their work to sailors in the U.S. Navy. There, Dawson taught sailor Les Spencer the foundations of Christian growth. They spent many hours together praying, studying the Bible, and memorizing Scripture. When one of Spencer’s shipmates asked him the secret of his changed life, Spencer brought the man to Trotman: “Teach him what you taught me,” he said.
“You teach him!” Trotman responded. And the 2 Timothy 2:2 vision was strengthened.
Spencer did teach the sailor, and soon the two men were meeting with others. Eventually, 125 men on their ship, the U.S.S. West Virginia, were growing in Christ and actively sharing their faith. By the end of World War II, thousands of men on ships and bases around the world were learning the principles of spiritual multiplication by the person-to-person teaching of God’s word.
At the same time, those high school students Dawson had taught began to reach out to others around them in Southern California. Today, more than 75 years later, we minister not only in the military and with college students, but with businessmen and women in every line of work, among homemakers, ethnic groups and international students, in 100 countries around the world—wherever there are people who need Christ. Our vision is to see followers of Jesus next door to everywhere!
The Navigators in New Zealand
Joe Simmons, the New Zealand pioneer, came to New Zealand from England in 1953 after being asked by Dawson Trotman to start the work in this country. He taught the fundamentals and disciplines of Christian living to many individuals and groups.
It was not until the early sixties, however, that internationally the organization decided it needed to demonstrate what it had been talking about.
At that point, people who became Christians and were being discipled began to gather around Joe. Those people were the first New Zealand Navigators.
From the 1960s onwards, The Navigators work in NZ grew to include serving churches, laying faith foundations in university students and graduates, and helping people grow in their walk with God in their various communities throughout the country. In all of this, the emphasis has been on investing in individuals and small groups of people to help them live out their transforming faith in the midst of everyday life.