*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 3rd of March, 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

It is common in Church history and on this show to reference the split in Protestantism in the 1920s and 30s as the “Modernist/Fundamentalist” split. But, as many have suggested, today, we don’t have many churches that still use those monikers (some Fundamentalists and maybe no Modernists).

So what happened to them? One significant split to see is the Fundamentalists and “new” Evangelicals. The Fundamentalists had made it their platform to keep culture at a distance. The new Evangelicals sought to change the culture. These new Evangelicals would also journey outside the church walls and standard denominational structures. From them came the Billy Graham Crusades, Christianity Today, and many para-church organizations.

One of the earliest para-church movements in the New Evangelical movement was Dawson Trotman’s Navigators, which marks today the anniversary of their birth in 1933. Trotman came to faith when he was 18 and immediately saw the usefulness of memorizing scripture. In 1933 he began mentoring young converts in memorizing Scripture- one of them, a Sailor stationed in Long Beach, asked Dawson to mentor a fellow Navy-man. Dawson told the young man that he could do it himself- and laid out a plan to do so- this would begin the group that would become the Navigators- a ministry which today has almost 3000 worldwide missionaries in 50 countries.

Billy Graham said, “I think Dawson Trotman has personally touched more lives than anybody I have ever known.”

Trotman would become one of the earliest New Evangelical personalities- sharing the stage and speaking with the likes of Graham, Charles Fuller, Bill Bright, the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Young Life and Youth For Christ. While many evangelistic groups successfully got people to accept Jesus, they lamented that they were less successful in disciplining young Christians to spiritual maturity. This would be the Navigators call.

In 1953 they moved to a large ranch in Colorado Springs, which would become the epicenter of New Evangelicalism and para-church ministries.

IN 1956 he was waterskiing in upstate New York. They hit a wave back in the boat, and Trotman and a young woman were thrown out of the ship. She could not swim, and Trotman kept her afloat. The boat circled and saved the girl, but as Time magazine reported, “as hands reached down to seize Trotman's hand, he sank out of sight.” He was dead at 50 years old.

But the Navigators continued to grow. His initial disciples were in the Navy- the ministry spread throughout the Navy during World War II. With the end of the war and the passing of the GI Bill, more veterans would attend college than ever before. Many of them had been involved in the Navigators and would bring this training method to their colleges and fraternities. The college para-church ministry was born.

While the initial ministry sought out those in the Navy, just a few years after Trotman had purchased land in Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy was born and built its home outside Colorado Springs.

[It’s worth noting that a few years ago, there was a controversy about Navigators being given special treatment by the Air Force in letting them evangelize its cadets. This raised interesting questions about the limits of the Free Exercise clause, but ultimately the story fizzled out]

NavPress is the publishing arm of the ministry and has published many of the works of devotional author Jerry Bridges. But NavPress was put on the map with the groundbreaking and popular translation and paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson: the Message.

The Navigators have remained one of the giants of the New Evangelical movement of the mid 20th century and has continued into the 21st. We remember their genesis on this, the 3rd of March in 1933.

The Last Word for today comes from Peterson’s aforementioned translation/paraphrase. This is from Hebrews 11:

May God, who puts all things together,
 makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
 the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
 up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
 with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
 by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 3rd of March 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose favorite Navigators include the missionaries, Brendan The Navigator (an Irish Saint) and navigator Kit Cloudkicker from Disney’s Tailspin. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who, growing up, only knew of “The Message” as a track by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.