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Lorne Sanny’s Pursuit of Simplicity and Clarity

In the early 1960s, Navigator leaders gave much attention to describing the Navigator mission and objectives.

Less than a year after he became president of The Navigators, Lorne Sanny declared that “our basic objective is to recruit, build, and send men.” . . . During his thirty years as president, Lorne held to a strong responsibility “to clarify, communicate, and maintain the purpose of The Navigators.”

Flowing out of the lengthy discussions at the Overseas Policy Conference in 1961, we concluded that “the overall objective of The Navigators is to contribute to the fulfillment of the Great Commission by producing reproducers in every nation,” and that, for the next ten years, this would be pursued by “demonstrating producing reproducers in the countries where we decide to operate.”

It transpired that Lorne was restless about this formulation and thus we find him leading a strenuous debate as to how best to express our contribution, when he called together a training policy conference in September 1963. Some twenty Navigator leaders participated. Preparatory committees had drafted twenty-one research papers, authored by fourteen of the men. Participants also had access to questionnaire responses. . . .

. . . What comes through in his remarks (about the conference) is a genuine humility, holding everything with an open hand, yet tenaciously pursuing clarity of purpose and economy of means.

He expounded the basic passage for the conference, which was 2 Corinthians 10:12-15:

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand.”

  • Verse 12: “We could get caught in this trap. Our purpose is not to be different or to do things because no one else is doing them; our basic objective is, ‘Lord, what do you want us to do?’ If this is unique, fine.”
  • Verse 13: “The word policy means to set limits . . . God has not called us to do everything. I think we do have a unique purpose as a calling from God, otherwise I don’t see any reason for the existence of The Navigators. . . . We have to set certain limits. We must decide what not to do, as well as what to do. We may meet the criticism of being narrow.”

Sanny continued, “One purpose (of the conference) is to set limits . . . so that we can have specific enough goals and policies and principles and methods to give direction, but also broad enough to give latitude. . . . Our purpose is to simplify. . . . We will have to analyze and tear things apart and then synthesize.” He observed that “frustration often precedes the light dawning.”

By Donald McGilchrist

Excerpt from the McGilchrist Worldwide History article “Our Contribution, 1960s”

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