ministry of The Navigators began in the 1930's
through the call of God to a young Californian,
Dawson Trotman. He began to teach high school
students and local Sunday school classes. Then in
1933, he and his friends began to extend their work
among sailors in the U.S. Navy.
A US Navy sailor by the name of Les Spencer was
dissatisfied with his Christian walk. Spencer wanted
victory over sin. Victory in his prayer life.
Greater boldness in his witness for Christ. So he
asked for help.
The person he went to for help was Dawson Trotman.
Trotman was a Christian full of contagious zeal,
drive and creativity. Dawson worked in a lumber yard
40 hours a week, and spent another 40 hours a week
teaching Sunday school classes, evangelizing and
exhorting every Christian he met to single-mindedly
“Dawson Trotman was one of the most unforgettable
characters I have ever met in Christian work . . .
He was on duty at all times, touching lives
daily—and sometimes hourly—for Christ.”
— Billy Graham
The ship sank but the dream didn't
So Dawson took Spencer aside and began to mentor him
in the Christian faith. He taught him how to pray,
how to read his Bible, how to witness, and how to
live an obedient life.
Soon Spencer found a sailor on his battleship whom
he won to Christ and began to disciple. That sailor
then found another, who found another, until 125 men
had come to faith in Christ before their ship was
sunk at Pearl Harbor. After the Second World War was
over, men off that battleship were serving as
missionaries on four continents.
From man to movement
From this experience, Trotman saw the enormous
potential that one-on-one discipleship had for
changing lives. So, in 1935, he formed The
Navigators and adopted the motto "To know Christ and
to make Him known."
Thousands responded to Trotman's challenge. Through
their labours, Dawson has helped reclaim some
forgotten biblical truths: the importance of
follow-up with those new to the Christian life,
one-on-one training, and the multiplication of
. Many hours were spent with individual sailors in
Bible study, Scripture memorization and prayer with
an emphasis on each teaching another what he had
learned. By the end of World War II, thousands of
men on ships and bases around the world were
learning the principles of spiritual multiplication.