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The Navigators are an evangelical discipleship and evangelistic organization. Created in Southern California in 1933 by Dawson Trotman, a twenty-seven-year-old truck driver, the Navigators were begun as a program to evangelize the sailors of the Pacific Fleet stationed at naval bases in and around Long Beach. Influenced by several years' experience in Christian Endeavor work and with the Fishermen's Club of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles cofounder T. C. Horton, Trotman developed an intensive regimen of Bible memorization, prayer, and one-on-one mentoring, which he brought to the Navigators. Trotman was a tireless worker with a magnetic personality, and his insistence on daily evangelization and the "follow-up" of new converts created a core of eager workers intent on multiplying their group aboard ship.

The United States' entry into World War II sparked tremendous expansion of the Navigators. Prewar contacts with numerous evangelical leaders across the country proved very helpful, especially radio evangelist Charles E. Fuller's decision that all contacts made by military men and their families to his nationally broadcast Old-Fashioned Revival Hour be turned over to the Navigators. With the help of thousands of letters leading to potential contacts, the Navigators spread their work into the other branches of the armed forces. By 1944 the Navigators were represented on 350 naval vessels and within 450 army camps.

In the postwar period the Navigators branched out from their concentration on work among the military to target business and professional people and college students, as well as expanding their outreach to other countries. The organization moved its headquarters from Los Angeles to the Glen Eyrie estate in Colorado Springs in 1953 and soon opened a nearby youth camp, at Eagle Lake. Throughout this period Trotman and the Navigators played a key role in helping other evangelical organizations, such as Youth for Christ, Young Life, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Wycliffe Bible Translators, develop materials for Bible memorization and discipleship for workers and converts. Most prominent in this regard was the part Trotman and his assistant Lorne Sanny had in developing materials and overseeing follow-up efforts for Billy Graham's crusades.

In June 1956, while leading a Navigator conference at Schroon Lake, New York, Trotman drowned saving a young woman after a boating accident. Lorne Sanny took his place, serving as the Navigators' president until 1986. During his tenure the Navigators continued to expand, both in the United States and abroad. In 1975 the organization established a publishing arm, NavPress, and in 1981 it established a bimonthly periodical, Discipleship Journal.

By the late 1990s the Navigators were a thriving organization with a diverse set of ministries that continued an abiding commitment to the idea of personal evangelism and discipleship buttressed by indepth Bible study and memorization of scripture. Newer efforts included NavYouth, created in 1995 as an organization for junior high and high school youth, which advocated a more personal, interactive relationship between youth and leaders. New ministries specifically targeting African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans were also created. With an annual budget of about $100 million in 1998, the Navigators sponsored more than 1,800 workers in the United States and more than 1,900 others in 103 countries worldwide.

See alsoCampus Crusade for Christ; Evangelical Christianity; Graham, Billy; Journalism, Religious; Publishing, Religious; Televangelism.


Foster, Robert D. TheNavigator. 1983.

Skinner, Betty Lee. Daws:AManWhoTrustedGod. 1974.

Larry Eskridge