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Dawson Trotman


The Discipled Life

     The Reverend Billy Graham preached the funeral of Dawson Trotman in 1956 after Trotman died while rescuing a swimmer at an upstate New York lake. 
     I think Dawson Trotman has personally touched more lives [for Christ's sake] than anybody that I have ever known," Graham said. 
     Graham knew Trotman and the ministry he founded—The Navigators—quite well, using material Trotman developed as follow-up instruction for his crusades. 
     The Navigators' influence has since grown to worldwide proportions with about 3,600 staff representing 60 nationalities working in 101 countries. 
     Trotman founded The Navigators in 1934. He originated its Bible teaching material and led it through its formative years as it expanded from an initial emphasis on discipling military personnel to reaching college students and laymen. 
     At the heart of Trotman and the ministry he founded was and is the discipleship of believers—grounding Christians in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, and service. 

The Conversion 
     Trotman's high school years featured impressive credentials. He was class valedictorian, student body president, chairman of the student council, and captain of the basketball team. 
     However, the next several years saw Trotman's life drift dangerously. He gambled. He drank. He became a noted pool shark. However, a late night encounter with a local policeman was the catalyst for a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ. 
     Drunk and unable to find his car, Trotman was arrested at an amusement park. Fortunately, the officer saw a deeper problem than alcohol. 
     "Son, do you like this kind of life?" the officer questioned. "Sir, I hate it," Trotman replied. The policeman returned Trotman's keys and encouraged him to change his lifestyle. 
     Two days later, Trotman attended a youth gathering at a local church where contests were conducted for Scripture memorization. 
     Given ten verses on salvation, Trotman was the only person in the group who memorized them for the next week's meeting. Given ten more verses to memorize on spiritual growth for the next week, Trotman quickly grasped them as well. 
     Several weeks later, one of the Scripture verses on salvation flashed through his mind. And it was then that he asked for Christ to change his life. "Oh God," he said, "whatever it means to receive Jesus, I want to do it right now." 

The Beginning Of Ministry 
     Trotman spent the next several years engaging in intensive personal evangelism while committing himself to a disciplined life of prayer. As usual, his focus was on the intake and absorption of God's Word. 
     In 1934, Trotman was asked to visit a sailor, Les Spencer, and share God's Word with him. Betty Skinner, the author of Trotman's biography Daws, described the scene: "Parked by a schoolhouse, they were pouring over the Scriptures when a security guard approached and asked what they were doing. 'Reading the Bible,' Trotman answered and seized the opportunity to witness . . . Dawson turned from one passage to another to explain the Gospel and answer all the defenses of the hapless guard. 
     "On the way back to the landing [Spencer] said, 'Boy, I'd give my right arm to know how to use the Word like that.'" 
     It marked the beginning of The Navigators ministry, so named for its nautical origins. Spencer led another to Christ who in turn led still others to salvation. The discipleship ministry of The Navigators was birthed, and the process of winning and discipling men and women for Christ continues throughout the world today. 

Memorization And Meditation 
     Trotman's conversion experience centered on memorization and meditation on God's Word. He was a discipler of men because he himself was first discipled by God through the Scriptures. His emphasis on memorizing Scriptures, arranged on topical themes, continues to be part of the core curriculum of The Navigators today. 
     Memorization was not approached in legalistic fashion by Trotman, who understood that God's Spirit must create the desire and will to mine the treasures of His Word. 
     Regular Scripture memorization and meditation are fundamental to experiencing an abundant Christian life. The psalmist "treasured" God's Word in his heart (Psalm 119:11) and meditated on the Scriptures "day and night." (Psalm 1:2) 
     As you write God's Word on the tablet of your heart, you will find your mind renewed and ready to face temptations, challenges, and adversity from God's perspective of truth. 
     It is truth that sets you free; and the more Scripture you store in your heart, the more like Christ you will become. 
     Graham summed up Trotman's life this way: "Dawson loved the Word of God. I think more than anybody else he taught me to love it. He always carried his Bible around and always had it marked. The Word of God was sweetness to him."