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Overseas Policy Conference 1961

Overseas Policy Conference Directors -1961
Lorne Sanny (far right) with the overseas directors, 1961

Summary: This conference was historic because it was the first occasion on which Lorne Sanny called together the directors of our young ministries outside the US. We needed to take stock of how best to connect with other agencies and churches, and to distill the essence of the Navigator contribution to God’s purposes. Our five overseas leaders (Robertson, Sanchez, Boardman, Sparks, and Scott) hammered out our future priority countries and which groups to focus on. We refined our use of Nav homes, training centers, materials, and money in advancing into countries other than the US. We developed policies and looked forward to absorbing non-Americans into our future program. The conclusions of this OPC set our direction for the 1960s.


Historical Context
Critical Issues of the OPC 1961
List of Attachments

Historical Context

There were three significant trends that helped shape the background against which our first Overseas Policy Conference (OPC 1) gathered at Glen Eyrie in 1961. These were:

  • An ecumenical challenge to the need for missionary agencies such as The Navigators, which had complex roots. Many had a low view of our legitimacy and indeed of the evangelistic impetus which we saw as globally necessary.1
  • The perceived threat of the spread of Communism. This gave rise to a sense of urgency and foreboding among our leaders.
  • The rapid increase in the number of independent countries. It was a time of shaking off colonialism, which came with some resistance against Western cultural or even religious imports.

We will look at the first of these in more depth before considering the timing and content of the OPC.

Although there was a surge in church attendance in the West after World War II, with a sense of recovery and restoration, it did not last long in Europe.

Soon, the traditional “sending countries” began to be seen as needing to be re-evangelized. One could no longer think in terms of the “Christian West” reaching out to the “heathen lands.” The mandate was coming into focus as everywhere to everywhere: The Gospel of Christ should flow to and from every nation.

Unfortunately, the term mission, which refers to all of God’s purposes (the missio dei) pushed aside missions, understood as “cross-cultural work” in ecumenical circles. Thus, in 1957, the International Missionary Council voted to merge with the World Council of Churches (WCC). This union took place in 1961.2

Navigator Identity among Churches

Structurally, the WCC was an association of churches. Thus, it came to pass that the missions—voluntary societies like The Navigators—were not represented, even though they were designed to pursue cross-cultural ministry. It was assumed that “once the conciliar structure was built, the scaffolding of the voluntary society would come down.”3

Such voluntary societies traced back to the formation of the London Missionary Society in 1795, and had been multiplying ever since. They included, of course, The Navigators. Although sometimes brushed aside as merely “para-church,” largely marginalized, or even unwelcome within the WCC, they were indisputably where the evangelistic energy and excitement largely flowed. The WCC, as a structural unity of denominations, was not going to reach the world, especially when quite a few countries still regarded themselves as “Christian” and thus adequately aware of the Gospel. Indeed, comity had already carved up and assigned various fields to different denominations.

What was the response of the interdenominational but productive missions agencies? Uninvited to the first conference of the new WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism in Mexico (1963), they pushed ahead with their own congresses on evangelism (Berlin 1966 and regional congresses) culminating in Lausanne 1 in 1974.

Why is this context important for our purposes? Because it diluted the cross-cultural work of the denominations and because it caused the religious hierarchy to question the validity of the missions societies. After all, they were not churches—and the churches had assumed the mantle of (a declining) Christendom. So, did agencies such as The Navigators have a legitimacy? What was the identity of The Navigators? At best, were we not merely alongside (= para) the official churches?4

However, our Fundamentals of Our Ministry (FOM) which spoke clearly into our identity would not be published for another fifteen years.5

The FOM laid out carefully and biblically the grounds for our legitimate existence, making use of the distinction introduced by Dr. Ralph Winter between the two expressions of the body of Christ: modalities and sodalities.6 We were in the latter group.

This matter of our identity is also important because it helps to explain why our OPC in 1961 spent so much time discussing whether we should obtain churchly permission to minister in a country. As Chuck Farah opined, we were merely “a gap organization called into being to satisfy a deficiency in the Church.” Note that Sanny agreed with this, though his later thinking would evolve.7

Lorne Sanny and Navigator Growth

By the summer of 1959, Sanny had been leading The Navigators for three years, long enough to observe and distill some of the dangers which we might reasonably anticipate as we continued to lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes (Isaiah 54:2-3). As we transition into the 1960s, it is instructive to quote what Sanny had written his staff in late 1956:

. . . the most outstanding thing on my heart from Isaiah 54:2 is a phrase of three words that stands out like a neon sign: ‘Strengthen thy stakes . . .’ This, to me, is our greatest current need in the Nav work. We are in danger, I think, of growing too fast. During the fifteen years I was with Daws I saw how he fought growth and I have learned from him and from observation the importance of building carefully and thoroughly. We often used the illustration of the corn stalk which grows up quickly but can be pushed over with your big toe as contrasted with the oak which stands against storms but takes a long time to grow.

Even though the transition from Daws to Sanny had been confirmed well in advance, the unexpected shock of Dawson Trotman’s death created some turbulence. This was natural. Moving from the founder to his successor usually produces a different climate. Sanny was by disposition and gifting very different from Daws. Also, much younger.

Sanny had been openly designated for some years as Daws’s successor. One contrast that was later made8 was between Moses asking the Lord to appoint a man to succeed him as leader, Sanny, in this analogy (Numbers 27:15-23), and Joshua later commissioning Israel’s “elders, leaders, judges, and officials” to carry on the work of holding fast to the Lord their God (Joshua 23:6-8). Diffusion of responsibilities to lead is dangerous.

Sanny wrote to his staff at the time of the OPC in 1961, observing that, “We are engaged in total spiritual war. Books on military strategy have been a great help to me. One of the biggest problems in warfare is maintaining the objective—sticking with the main job . . .”9

What did Sanny then see as his own contribution? He took responsibility from the start of his tenure “to clarify and maintain” our objective. He told his staff in 1958, “People sometimes ask what Daws would do under the present circumstances, but the fact is no one really knows. Daws had his eyes on the Lord and a passion for His purposes.” Lorne would say in the late 1950s that, “The distinctive vision God has given us is to recruit, build, send men to reach the world for Jesus Christ.”10

In 1959, Sanny wrote a perceptive “Dear Gang” letter to the staff in which he anticipated what he called “second-phase dangers.”11 These were:

  • The original revolutionary thrust of the movement tends to diminish.
  • There is a tendency for the ship to collect barnacles (hangers-on).
  • The movement is confronted with the problems of success, such as the tendency to scatter strokes instead of hitting a few basics; the tendency to scatter personnel and thus lose the strength of close fellowship; and conversely, the tendency to rely upon the fellowship and slacken the pace.
  • The refusal to face up to failures that inevitably accompany a movement (a reluctance to call a mistake a mistake).
  • Difficulty in transmitting the original vision to the second generation with the same enthusiasm the first generation had.
  • The complexity of the organization as it is now. It takes greater maturity, greater capacity to relate ourselves to all the others and all the functions.
  • The problem of death. This rarely faces a movement in the first phase, but confronts it with increasing frequency thereafter.

Hammering home his concern, Sanny wrote to his staff from Paris in October 1959:

We must go deeper, go deeper, and go deeper—not broader—but deeper. This is a recurring theme that has been increasing in intensity in my heart. It seems to me that we must produce in the areas where we are now working, whatever that takes, before we allow ourselves to do very much expanding. We must move forward by going deeper and bending our attention towards speeding up the development of men.12

Another comment, from Rome: “We must slow down on our running around, explaining the theory of producing reproducers to people, and not doing much of it. . . . Our testimony throughout Europe is exceptionally good, now our big job is to produce the goods.”13

The fact that our overseas staff (Reps and others) had more than doubled in the three years from the loss of Daws to the end of March 195914 buttressed Sanny’s concerns.

The Navigators After World War II

At the end of World War II, Sanny recalled, “We had to decide whether to close down the work, to become a fellowship of men who were in business . . . then Dawson went around the world.” In letters to Dick Hillis, Hubert Mitchell, and Dave Morken, he mentioned the spread of the Gospel in this generation. He used three phases—propagation, multiplication instead of addition, making disciples. When Daws came back, he said, “From now on we are going to beat our drums.”15

There was ample evidence that Daws’s style was to preach our vision16 rather than to define it.17 This was one of the reasons for moving toward our first Overseas Policy Conference (OPC 1) in 1961.

At our Staff Conference in 1958, Jim Downing described a progression in Daws’s thinking:

  • 1940s: to glorify God
  • 1950: to win men and get them down to business
  • 1956: to devote the rest of his life to seeing some of his sixty close companions doing what he had taught them

Looking back in 1961, Sanny commented that, “We have to be careful in speaking about Dawson’s vision because it was a developing thing. It was still growing when he died. There aren’t very many people who know what Dawson’s vision was. I don’t think it is too easy to define the Dawson Trotman vision.” Clyde Taylor chimed in: “I knew Dawson in 1953 and he was still very flexible about his plans for an overseas work. This thing impressed me—his flexibility and mobility.”18

Sanny wrote a preparatory letter to Bob Boardman, Warren Myers, George Sanchez, and Doug Sparks in August 1960 to describe how he felt about the coming Overseas Policy Conference:

It is an evaluation of our entire overseas program since we first began in 48. It will include our objectives, what has worked, what has not worked, our present policies, what policies we would like to see inaugurated, what policies we do not wish to have, etc. We have been thinking and praying about this now for over a year and a half. . . . I am looking forward to it and yet in some ways it scares me. It scares me because it can be one of the greatest things we have ever done in our overseas program, and yet it could be a catastrophe—especially if it is not soaked in prayer before and during. Each of the fellows coming has strong ideas. There could be regional bias. We could come feeling we have to “fight” for something. . . . Unless there is open-heartedness, humility, genuine love, and surrender to the Lord of any pet ideas or projects, we could end up divided rather than united. . . . Remember, overseas is not a separate entity. The Nav work is a whole. What we decide concerning overseas has its repercussions at the Glen and back to the areas. . . . You will stay over for a third week with the stateside representatives, because the areas are more basic to the Nav work than either the Glen or overseas. While we seek to get the area men better informed on overseas, it is important that you seek to sympathetically enter into the area man’s problems, whether or not they directly apply to you.19

Later, during the OPC discussion, these thoughts were expanded by our overseas directors in describing our trajectory:

  • Before 1948 the thought was that we could fulfill our objectives by operating under other missions.
  • In 1948, Daws interviewed TEAM20 and CIM and found them too inflexible for accomplishing the Navigator objective within their society. And so, the first Navigator representatives were sent out.
  • Our first invitations nevertheless came through missionary societies. Navigator men worked under established Christian leaders of other missions such as Dave Morken and Dick Hillis in the Orient and Bob Evans in Europe. So, we first went out by invitation from individual missions or even individual missionaries.
  • God used these means, without doubt, to get Navigator representatives onto the field.
  • However, these arrangements did not work out satisfactorily. And so, by 1954, Clyde Taylor made the statement that from henceforth The Navigators ought to enter countries under their own name.
  • In the last five years (1956-1960), adjustments were made in the Orient from a situation in which we operated almost totally under Orient Crusades and Youth for Christ to where we are strictly on our own.
  • We now feel that we must have the freedom to fulfill our objectives under our own name and leadership.

Crucial Issues of the OPC

First, however, we need to introduce the setting of the OPC. It was a watershed in our history. Never before had we brought together our senior leaders responsible for ministries outside the US with a view to charting our intent for the decade to come. Each of the six overseas directors (all Americans)21 was invited to submit his most pressing issues and challenges out of which Lorne distilled a comprehensive agenda.

The conference was a foundational event in the clarifying of our purpose. The men set about probing and praying over:

  • God’s plan for his world
  • The lessons of our history
  • The existing mantra: “recruit, build, and send”
  • Our experience in relating to local congregations
  • Our new freedom to enter countries without an invitation
  • The value of continuing as a specialized service agency for other works
  • A need to distinguish objectives from tactics and methods

How were our missionaries distributed on the eve of the OPC? We had sixty-three overseas staff on the field:22 Asia, twenty-four; Europe, twenty-two; Africa, four; Central America, four; Australia, two. In addition, five were on furlough, and two were in transition, and seven were working in our distribution centers.

It is pleasing to see that we also listed men in eight countries who, though not Nav staff, were firmly committed (out of their Nav backgrounds) to training men.

It is attractive, looking back at the OPC, that the participants started by going to the Scriptures to draw out God’s overall objective for the world. Simply stated, they expressed it as:

  • Calling out a people for his name (Acts 15:4)
  • Building them into a habitation for God, for his body the Church (Ephesians 2:21-22)
  • Conforming those called out to the image of Christ (Ephesians 1:12)

The biblical basis for a “fellowship of people outside the organized Church” was set in context:

  • The (organized, local) Church is God’s chief means of accomplishing His objective.23
  • There are scriptural grounds for a fellowship of people called for a specific purpose outside the organized Church.
  • Because there is one Lord and one Spirit, there should be some relationship between these two expressions.

This being so, how does The Navigators fit into God’s overall objective?

  • The contemporary need for mobilizing the laity highlighted the value of our contributions.
  • The historical and providential leading of God in founding The Navigators vindicated our existence.
  • The inner conviction of the Holy Spirit’s leading verified our calling.

This kind of prayerful reflection led us to conclude, after six days in prayer and discussion, that “the purpose of The Navigators is to contribute to fulfilling the Great Commission by producing reproducers in every nation.”24 For the next ten years, we would demonstrate producing reproducers in the countries where we decided to minister.

This objective of producing reproducers was at that time audacious. In fact, the leaders around the table variously said: there are reproducers on the horizon; we have a few potential reproducers; we are in a position to produce reproducers; we may have men who could become reproducers. The tone is one of realism, but with a vital conviction that God had given us this objective.25

Sanny interjected that various people influence the spiritual development of a person, so that we need to recognize that we have men with diverse gifts, just as within the body of Christ. Some men are recruiters (Leroy Eims), others are trainers (Skip Gray, John Crawford). Others have an invaluable contribution toward follow-up and counselor training in crusades; however, if only one or two members of a needed team of four to six men are present in a strategic area they must double and triple their output and often attempt a ministry that is not their specialty. For a time, this is good for their own diversified training, but to go on indefinitely can be a waste of gifts and can and probably has led to frustration and accompanying discouragement.

Until that time, our thinking had been that to have a man or a couple in a country with our particular vision meant that the country was occupied.26 Would it be wiser to concentrate more personnel in key areas? Advantage: “A key area could be more rapidly occupied instead of just keeping a local toehold,” and “We could move out from there to supply other countries.”27

The disadvantages, which reveal how we had changed:

  • It may mean entering fewer countries.
  • It may not sound as good to the public.
  • We haven’t done it this way before.
  • It will involve purchasing property.

Waldron Scott summarized where we were:

Viewing the history of The Navigators and combining it with the opportunities before us, we do not need good public relations—which we have—we do not need opportunities —these we have—we do not need beachheads—these we have. The one thing we want to do and are in a position to do but haven’t done is this thing we have been talking about as an objective—to produce reproducers. You can say we have always had it as our objective to produce, but it may not have been our main thrust in a given area in the past ten years. I view the past ten years and the overseas work as getting into and being established in certain fields. We don’t feel we produced reproducers, but we have been working at it. Now let’s really major on it. . . .28

Why, Warren Myers asked, have we not “produced” during the 1950s? The directors listed:

  • Inadequate concentration of force—as above
  • Constricting invitations from others
  • Too much mobility, changing locations
  • Language and culture
  • Lack of definition of “key areas”

Unprepared or poorly trained missionaries was not mentioned, perhaps subconsciously because much of the field thrusts had been theirs, the directors themselves, heroically in some cases.29

Incidentally, Dr. Taylor’s experience was that during the 1950s the standard of those going out as evangelical missionaries had in general risen steadily. Graduates of Bible schools were less wanted: Now, Christian colleges were preferred. Nationals expected a broader and deeper knowledge of the Scriptures and the world.30

In any case, our men realized that if producing representatives were to become their driving commitment, they had to get it right. So, the testing of this purpose continued. For example:

  • How did it line up with the essential needs of the nations?
  • How did it line up with God’s previous guidance?
  • Should we qualify “by helping to produce reproducers?”
  • Does it include discipling?
  • Should we say that this is the “primary” purpose that we have from God”
  • How should we guard against “the danger of producing just for production?”

It was agreed that “recruit, build, send” was both broader and weaker than this new objective.31 Sanny commented: “I would rather err toward being a little tight rather than too loose.”

The next day, Sanny spoke on Navigator objectives. What he called our “total” objective was to glorify God. This we would pursue by winning the lost and building up the saved. Our motivating force was love.

Clearly, our objective (“purpose”) was not yet set in concrete. Sanny went on in the same presentation to affirm our “unique” purpose as recruiting and building men of maturity. How? This was “not a program but people” and, in order to “multiply” we had to augment man-to-man ministry with “group fellowship.” Here is an early recognition of the need for a committed community which would later be amplified as we took advantage of the diversity of spiritual gifts. It had not been easy in the 1950s, because we had a small mobile staff and lacked means to maintain close contact with one another.

Sanny added that we should not expect every disciple to be a reproducer, nor is it true to say that every Christian is born to reproduce.32 He saw four generations, as can be traced in 2 Timothy 2:2, as placing too much responsibility upon an individual: “There is the interaction of various people on a life, so that no one man may have the entire responsibility.” This led to a debate on whether we should add the word “helping,” as in helping produce reproducers. Sparks and Scott were against this, lest it become an excuse for not producing, and Sparks warned against the danger of a mindset of producing just for the sake of production. Producing for what? That was what we needed to keep before us.33

Investing deeply in individuals to whom we would pass the baton was crucial. The second coming of Christ and the real possibility of World War III are both evident in the OPC discussions. Clearly, the threat of a Communist assault was very present and influenced our choice of countries.34

It is hard for us today to recover the sense of foreboding that ran through our planning—the impression that “the dominoes were falling,” that the religion sweeping the world was Communism, that time was short, that the prospect of WWIII was very real. This would influence our sending choices.

To Expand or Strengthen the Movement?

Jim Downing had prepared an important paper for the OPC on “Objectives and Strategy”35 tracing our history from the forty days of prayer in the “L” canyon at the edge of Lomita, California with Walt Stanton in 1931,36 beseeching God to raise up young men to make Christ known in almost every country on their map. He went on to write that the foundational promise that gripped Daws was found in Isaiah 58:12, which says: “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”

How would the Lord accomplish this? Isaiah 45:14 contained the assurance: “Men of stature shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine.”

Out of this, Jim wrote, the Spirit led Daws and his band to help Christians know the Word, live disciplined and victorious lives, engage in personal evangelism, follow up new Christians.

Then, after World War II, Daws traveled around the world, connecting with quite a few of the forty organizations in which Navigators were serving. He observed how rare it was for missionaries to be training national believers so that they could assume leadership after the missionaries had departed. And so the Lord impressed 2 Timothy 2:2 upon Daws: the need for missionaries to reproduce themselves. Reproduction was becoming the fifth necessity, indeed the capstone.

In simple terms, Daws had lengthened the cords and Sanny was strengthening the stakes (Isaiah 54:2) by “stabilizing, consolidating and formulating a sound organizational structure into which a new forward thrust of The Navigators could be integrated.”

Jim went on to emphasize God’s requirement that “this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matthew 24:14). The charter of The Navigators was the Great Commission. Therefore, Jim concluded, the long-range objective of The Navigators, under God, would be to raise up reproducing Christians for a witness in every nation.

Jim acknowledged the danger of a “messianic complex” but instanced David in his battle with Goliath and Hezekiah facing the Assyrian army. With Christ as our Commander in Chief, “he can use men of stature to accomplish much greater miracles than splitting the atom or putting a man in space.”

Then Jim concluded with some thoughts on strategy:

We must survey the most strategic spots in the world, beginning with the largest culture groups.37 We must first divide these culture groups into countries, languages, ages, sexes, professions, and follow on down to every unit of society. We must ask God to use our present training and recruiting facilities in giving us more laborers. We must set up a system of priorities for assigning personnel and pray that God will provide the men for these priorities…We must distinguish within our staff between those whom God wants to thrust forth into the midst of the battle and those he wants to ‘stay by the stuff.’

Jim ended his central argument with these words: “We have taken the humble attitude that we want the Nav organization to remain small. But, if God wants it to grow large, we must be just as willing to be large as to be small and to take the calculated risk of victory as well as defeat in being willing to open The Navigators to God-given nationals who are his men of stature being sent to us.”

How to Expand Internationally?

The question of whether we should enter countries on our own initiative or after consultation with the leaders in such countries or, indeed, only if invited by such leaders was a vexed one which occasioned considerable debate during the OPC. Should we enter on our own initiative or only by invitation? Our consensus was that we should “closely relate to the church” but entering under our own name. However, this was quickly qualified with the assertion “this does not mean that we work under the church, but rather through the church. We are servants to the church, but it is Navigators who decide whether or not we are serving the church.”38 We will have to return to the implied ambiguities. Where other agencies are already operating, we concluded:

  • Our calling justifies an endeavor to reach men wherever they may be.
  • Christian courtesy obliges us to consult and, as much as possible, to cooperate with the appropriate representatives of the other groups.
  • Thus, some problems may be created. But we expect to do a job for God.

We were still working to identify the best “pools of manpower” and decided that these were three: students, servicemen,39 and young businessmen/professionals.

On the fifth day of the OPC, we began to name the countries which would seem to be most strategic for us to enter. This was a historic moment. We saw our first tentative steps toward what would, during the next decade, blossom into a system for allocating new missionaries. Providentially, Dick Hillis and Dr. Taylor both participated that morning, and the latter divided his analysis of the world into three sectors:

  • Old (Christian) areas that are now pagan.
  • Well-missioned areas where the local churches are little more than copies of the churches that sent them.
  • Areas still unreached.

He instanced some twenty priority countries, advocating most strongly for Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Thailand, and pointed out that it would be essential for us to become fluent in the relevant languages.40

As regards selection, no decisions were taken. However, the countries and areas we settled on are listed in attachment A.

Navigator Engagement with Organized Church

As indicated, the OPC leaders wrestled with a biblical basis for a fellowship of people outside the organized church. One of their conclusions was that “this is a very difficult, involved and complex subject.” Yes, indeed. It was this that would lead us a decade later to the development of our position in the statements which became the Fundamentals of the Navigator Ministry (FOM). All who were present in 1961 agreed that as individuals and as an organization we must maintain a close relationship with the visible, organized, local church. Sanny stated that every Navigator should be actively identified with a local fellowship and that the responsibility for this lay with the representative in the light of his own progress and needs.

We had reached (at the OPC) a consensus that the organized local church is the chief means that God was using to accomplish his objective but that there were scriptural grounds for a fellowship of people to accomplish a specific purpose outside the organized church. In support of this, we offered the example of Philip who went to Gaza under the instruction of the angel of the Lord and witnessed to the Ethiopian. He was not sent by the church but did this under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. There was also the example of Peter and the Centurion (Acts 10); of Paul to the Gentiles, and of Apollos to the disciples (Acts 18).

Deduction: “By extension we can claim that God also can call groups into being without the consent of the church.” However, as a group, we should have “some affinity for and helpfulness to some part of the body of Christ, be it the church or another organization.” It is a principle of the body itself that one part is to help another. Our discussion ended with this observation: “Our history reveals that our philosophy toward the church has changed considerably, and we are now working in closer harmony and cooperation with the various churches than ever before.”41

One sees in the OPC discussion a general stance that we are distinct from the organization of the churches, which is true, but not yet the concept that “we are church.”

Students or Servicemen?

Comity is the practice of not colonizing an area which another expression of the Christian faith has already occupied.42 As we were moving again into student ministries, this became in some places an issue for us. Sparks explained his approach in Europe: First, we are called by God and have in view a wider terrain than university students, namely educated young adults. Secondly, we should let the other agencies know of our presence and work at finding opportunities to cooperate, so as to be a help rather than a hindrance. However, strong reactions sometimes occurred, especially when introducing ourselves to local leaders. InterVarsity, for example, was student-led and so we experienced a range of reactions. Sometimes, it was prudent to ask whether the IVF student leader represented the national view.

Sanny commented that he had spent a full day on this issue with Stacey Woods43 and a half day with the UK leaders of the movement. Similar resistance had occurred with the Officers Christian Fellowship as regards some military bases. As Sanny put it, “The question is whether they open the gates or we have to climb over.” The chaplains “know that we have worked with the military for twenty-eight years: it is simply what we do.” But the question came on some campuses as to why we did not go back to working with servicemen. Yet, as Sanny pointed out, “The problem is that we weren’t called to work with servicemen, but with young men.”44

Nationally, a collegiate breakthrough came when we joined CCC, IVF, and Young Life in 1971 to sign what became known as the Trail West Agreement.45

Need for International Leaders

Scott reminded us that:

We cannot continue to expand into all the countries of the world from Glen Eyrie. Probably World War III will interrupt that program. We will have to produce reproducers in other nations to carry on this job. The cultural aspect is a heavy factor to consider. We have not done it yet. We have agreed to do it. Ten years from now we will have to emphasize nationals; so, this ten years should be to produce reproducers, and we will have to do it where we can do it best now to demonstrate that we have learned to produce reproducers.46

Scott confessed that he had assumed for years that we could judge a country’s potential by looking at the country as a whole. However, Germany had plenty of potential, but we don’t have a Timothy. Japan is a productive place, but we are still looking for a Timothy. Indeed, we would not have picked the Jews in the first century, but Christ did. He added that our reality is that The Navigators isn’t a mass movement: We are picking our men individually. Therefore, he recommended applying the brakes to our habit of judging potential for our work by judging the entire cultural pattern of the nation.47

Because the focus of the OPC was overseas, we explored together how nationals (more properly, non-Americans) would fit into The Navigators. Our focus was on nationalization, rather than the later and more complex phase of internationalization.48

Scott started the discussion with the wise comment that we do not “have to perpetuate The Navigators as an American organization. Instead, we should be an organization of many nationalities, located geographically for expediency. What, he asked, would nationals think about being related to an American outfit? Let’s relate them to a worldwide organization.”49

Robertson added that our vision, from the time we enter a country, is to look forward to the time when a national takes over, and Sparks added that producing reproducers should eventually be carried out by nationals. Sanny observed that we did not give a man a title and then the duties to go along with it, but rather a job to do and then a title if necessary.

What has been called the Retreat of Empire was rapidly getting into its stride.50 Political freedom was in fact the easy part; what lingered was cultural and economic paternalism, which is still a factor today.51

It could well be argued—and we did—that The Navigators did not have a colonial, paternalistic approach. We did not “buy” nationals. We did not consciously try to impose culturally alien methodologies or to exercise detailed control, even in those early days, from our headquarters.52 Examples of this will emerge later.

Which Countries to Enter?

In attempting to select countries to enter, we made several approaches to which might be the most strategic for the 1960s. These may be summarized in sequence:

  • Guided by Dr. Taylor, we discussed the pros and cons of “Protestant Countries,” even where nominalism was rife.53
  • Later, we developed a mix of countries and cities within countries such as Rosario in Uruguay. There was some sentiment that Brazil could be strategic if North America declined. Again, with Dr. Taylor.54
  • Later, we adjusted our list to reflect what would be strategic if we concentrated missionaries in teams of up to four-to-six couples.55
  • Finally, we identified thirty US areas and twenty countries which would be our priorities to occupy during the next five years, usually with two-to-three couples.56

Our last iteration, at the end of the OPC, took us back to our compelling objective for the 1960s of demonstrating producing reproducers. On this basis, after much reflection, we listed the countries that were most important for us during the 1960s. These are reproduced in attachment A. Attachment B records the countries that we had started to minister in before the OPC and indicates those from which we had to withdraw.

Need for Spiritual Maturity and International Leaders

Sanny told his staff how productive the OPC and the interlocking Reps conference had been:

The month of January has been full and exciting. Having our stateside men here with the overseas men was great fellowship. Last week during the Area Representatives Conference all of us met together for the morning sessions, the overseas fellows sharing what had been discussed the previous two weeks. The OPC continued with afternoon sessions to wind up business not covered during the first two weeks. These conferences far exceeded my expectations. The Lord’s presence and guidance were evident to us all. Discussion covered deeper and broader issues than I had anticipated. . . . Repercussions will not be felt in the next week or so, but in the years to come.

By God’s grace we are going to undergird our overseas staff in prayer. Just recently we have started Friday night prayer meetings for the gang here at the Glen. These have been rich times together. We are trusting God to give us victories on our knees as we battle the enemy on behalf of our gang on the front lines.57

Sanny, expressing his feelings to his staff four months after the OPC, struck a poignant note about reaching the nations:

We are but a handful. Our influence is only barely being felt and that in but a handful of places. As I attempt to keep up on events in the world I constantly ask myself, ‘Where should our strokes be placed?’

At our conference in January we set the US as #1 priority for the next ten years. But I wonder, should we pour men into Southeast Asia while there is time? Right now our largest overseas concentration is in Europe. What about Latin America, the fastest growing population in the world?

We feel we will need a minimum of seventy more people overseas in the next ten years. Most of these should have Glen and area experience in the States before going over. Where are they going to come from? Sometimes I feel like a coach trying to field a football team with only eight men and wondering whether to suit up the cheerleaders or go to six-man football.

Why are there so few we feel we can readily use? Is it our recruiting? Our training? Or are we afraid to take risks? Is it the devil? Or is it simply the application of Deuteronomy 7:22?

Personally, I feel it is a little of each as well as other things. But the one place we lack men is in top leadership. This is almost heartbreaking.58

One way of gauging maturity, which is no longer in our sights, is the distinction between a Timothy and a key man. Scott asked during the OPC whether a key man is more important than a Timothy, adding that the twelve disciples were His Timothies, whereas the apostle Paul was a key man. He added that, “A Timothy may be something less than a key man, although we have included the idea of producing reproducers, key men will perpetuate the ministry. They may be more important than Timothies in our objectives.” For Scott, Timothies were key men with whom he had a personal relationship.

Sanny asked why Daws called him his Timothy and why did he say he had only one? It was a father and son situation, a heart and mind that tied us together. The ensuing discussion of key men versus Timothies was lengthy and complex. Robertson, for example, used the progression convert, disciple, key man, Timothy. Sanny commented that he saw a Timothy as one picked out for a special task, whereas an apostle was called to share the Lord’s life and ministry. He added that a man going overseas should not take his Timothy with him, although he used to think that he should. The lengthy discussion ended with a general view that key men represent mainly a geographical tie, whereas Timothies embody a sonship.59

In those days, all Reps were appointed by the US Board of Directors, and all international (multi-country) staff were responsible to Sanny.

We faced a difficult choice, because we knew that we were laying down ground rules for a future influx of non-Americans. We had to get it right. Sparks saw the categories as office staff, Nav staff, Representatives. Sanny confirmed that he considered all Representatives as representing him personally. However, he added his concern that we should try to avoid a hierarchy developing: “We want as few Reps of The Navigators International as possible.”60

Several men (Downing, Farah, Scott) felt that we had recently run into difficulties by being inflexible, but Boardman objected that, if we don’t tie in our leading nationals organizationally, it will very probably be that they will be recruited by another agency.61

We agreed that a country leader, such as Bob Wilbraham in Denmark, has the right to appoint his own staff and to send them to various cities to work for The Navigators. However, they should not be called Representatives because that prerogative resides with the US Board. Wilbraham, as an example, can and should raise up staff to produce reproducers but not to represent The Navigators. We should note that, in the early 1960s, we had no local board in countries such as Denmark, and so the appointment of a Representative defaulted to the US Board.

Training International Leaders in the US?

Should we bring non-Americans to the Glen for extended training? Had those few who had served time at the Glen ministered more effectively upon their return home? Dr. Taylor, somewhat graphically, argued that bringing them to the USA “had a tendency to ruin them. They were planning to do grassroots work and returned home wanting only a teaching ministry or a church. It spoils them at the economic level.” In our case, he felt that the Glen would spoil them spiritually, commenting that sometimes you can undo psychologically what you are gaining spiritually.62 One problem with the Glen is that men did not experience our basic vision operating in the sheltered and specialized environment of the Glen.

To further our progress, it was agreed63 that:

  • Overseas personnel working with nationals were required to gain language proficiency.
  • Nationals should not raise money in the US for ministries conducted in their own countries.
  • It is generally necessary to have a continuing Nav-type organization in a country to propagate the Nav vision and ministry.
  • Improvements are needed in our orientation procedures for those going overseas.

The debate explored the need for training centers in overseas locations. These would need to be preceded by strong local ministries of producing reproducers.64

What about Navigator homes? Robertson advanced six advantages of a Nav home overseas:

  1. More concentrated training
  2. Helps break cultural barriers
  3. Aid to language learning
  4. Helps produce affinity and personal relationships
  5. Reveals weak points in the lives of men staying there
  6. Demonstrates for other nationals how to use their homes for ministry

He spoke with the experience that, at the end of his time in Shanghai, he could trace his influence in forty-six cities and thirty provinces, yet he had not left Shanghai. However, he had seven key men in whom he invested.

Sanny added his perspective that a Nav home could provide three advantages: a base of operation from which you minister, a training center for those in it, a retreat for others to get their batteries recharged and their perspectives reset.65

The concepts of a Nav home and a training center were not yet fully distinguished. Sanny’s view was that the maximum number of Reps we would have overseas would be three hundred. Projecting how many of these can be produced during the next ten years would influence where we send them. He added, enthusiastically, that the 1960s “ought to be the greatest ten years of our lives. We should make our maximum impact by way of men . . . looking forward to the day of liberation (of China) and perhaps we should not rule out Formosa. What should be in our hearts is people ready for the day when China will open in God’s grace and timing.”66

Additional OPC Issues

Other major issues with which the OPC wrestled included:

  • Categories of fruit, ranging from a convert to a Timothy67
  • Orientation for missionaries
  • Design and advantages of materials and publications
  • The place of prayer
  • Policies for overseas budgets
  • Raising finances and personnel assignments
  • Applying administration charges
  • Selecting countries that are most strategic for the 1960s
  • Studying cultures and languages
  • Establishing formal organizations overseas
  • Fraternal relationships with other works
  • The girls work overseas
  • Financing non-Americans
  • Training patterns
Need for Materials and Translations

The summary notes on materials are of particular interest because they eventually issued in the early 1970s in the formation of NavPress. The OPC believed that:

  • Materials are needed for an overseas man to carry out his objective
  • Our materials need to be revised, improved and supplemented with new courses
  • One man should be charged at headquarters with spearheading the revision of existing and the development of new materials

Materials help our contacts get to know what the Bible says, get him to apply it to his life, teach him how to do this for himself, teach him to repeat the process.68

The OPC (at last) recognized the importance of language study and recommended that methods of doing this should be individually tailored to the context in which our missionaries would be working.

As Sanny explained in later years, he had been attracted to adopting “Getting Christians into the Word of God” as a secondary objective of The Navigators. The OPC’s conclusion was that this was basic to accomplishing our objective but should not be formally stated as such.

Lest it be thought that our materials ministry was of little consequence, it should be noted that our printing unit at the Glen (in the basement of the power plant) was producing 3.8 million items annually from a staff of twelve men. The largest components were:

  • Bible Studies 1.6m
  • Nav Log 1.2m
  • TMS 0.5m

However, as Daws had warned at a 1954 conference, materials must not replace relationships—the individual care that is crucial. “This mistake,” he said, “is causing missionaries to beat their brains against the wall.”69 Don’t be satisfied to give out stuff until you see those to whom you give it passing it on to others.

In subsequent articles, we will trace the extent to which the Lord led us in activating what we had prayerfully projected during this first Overseas Policy Conference.

Since our objectives are merely sub-objectives of His big objective in the world, they are dynamic, not static, and sometimes need to be broadened, narrowed, or tested.
Lorne Sanny, October 1963

By Donald McGilchrist

Word count: 9794

See also articles on:

Our Contributions: 1960s
Fundamentals of the Navigator Ministry
Communications and Materials

Attachments (click here)

A. Most Strategic Countries
B. Launching and Withdrawing until 1961
C. Participants in the OPC
D. Conclusions of the OPC
E. Reflections on the OPC


  1. Paradoxically, this general trend runs alongside a more positive decision by Navigators to engage with and serve local congregations, at least in the USA.
  2. Note that the International Review of Missions dropped the “s” from April 1969, a further indicator of the trend in ecumenical circles.
  3. Ralph Winter, The Twenty-Five Unbelievable Years: 1945-1969 (Wm. Carey, 1970), page 69.
  4. I recall asking a prominent American pastor for his views on the scope of ministry that was biblically permitted to women. His response? Because The Navigators is not a legitimate part of the Church, you can appoint women to any position that you wish!
  5. Edition 1 of the FOM began to be taught in 1976 and appeared in 1978 (edition 2 in 1982).
  6. Introduced by Ralph Winter, the terms modality and sodality are two different organizational modes needed to accomplish the mission of the Body of Christ. While a modality is designed for long-term stability, like a local church, a sodality is organized for missions and entrepreneurial activity. Both are needed, and both prove useful. The Navigator FOM teases out three roots of difference between the Nav work and local congregations: intent, function, and form. The differences in these three areas can be found by looking at the organizational aspects of each, giving each their place as a modality or sodality.
  7. OPC 1 Session 7. Chuck and Jo Ann Farah had been an excellent resource to all on the Glen, especially theologically. Chuck was in fact our cook though he had a 1956 Ph. D. from the University of Edinburgh on “The Theological Thought of John Howe (1630-1705).” He and Jo Ann left in August 1961 to take responsibility for our work in Los Angeles.
  8. Sanny to Staff Conference, July 25, 1958.
  9. Dear Gang Letter of January 12, 1961.
  10. Dear Gang letter of August 7, 1958.
  11. Dear Gang letter of July 3, 1959, used at OPC in Downing’s reflections on Objectives and Strategy…discussed at OPC Session 12 on January 12, 1961.
  12. DG October 29, 1959.
  13. DG November 15, 1959.
  14. Source: DG March 30, 1959.
  15. OPC session 12 on January 12, 1961.
  16. Sanny, in DG May 28, 1957, “Some have asked why we don’t define the mission or vision of The Navigators. The answer is, because it is a vision. A vision is something seen or comprehended by other than ordinary sight. It is what makes our work hard to communicate. . . .A man of vision sees before others see; he sees more than others see; he sees more clearly than others see.”
  17. Sanny to area leaders at SC July 24, 1958.
  18. OPC Session 12.
  19. Extracts from Sanny letter of August 31, 1960. He also mentioned that administration would be handled by Roy Robertson, assisted by Bob Howarth, and that Art Glasser of CIM and Clyde Taylor of NAE would be present for consultation in certain sessions. He ended by claiming Isaiah 11:2-3.
  20. TEAM = The Evangelical Alliance Mission…CIM = China Inland Mission (now was Overseas Ministry Fellowship in 1964; changed in 1993 to OMF International). Dave Morken of Youth for Christ; Dick Hillis was the Founder of Orient Crusades; Bob Evans led the Greater Europe Mission. Dr. Clyde Taylor was an evangelical statesman who was President of the National Association of Evangelicals and who graciously sat in as a contributor to some of our OPC sessions.
  21. Roy Robertson, Bob Boardman, George Sanchez, Doug Sparks, Waldron Scott, Warren Myers.
  22. Source: Report to Area Reps Conference, January 24, 1960.
  23. Farah asserted that we are a gap organization called by God into being to satisfy a deficiency in His Church. If the Church were doing its job, ideally, there would be no need for our existence. Sanny agreed. Source: OPC Session 7.
  24. Later, our overall objective was extended by adding “and assisting others to produce reproducers.” It is fascinating to see the parallel with the recent IET decision to take our motto “To know Christ and to make Him known” and to add to the motto the commitment “and to help others do the same.”
  25. Sanny wrote to his staff during the OPC that “One of the biggest problems in warfare is maintaining the objective—sticking with the main job….” Sanny, Dear Gang, January 12, 1961.
  26. OPC Session 17.
  27. This becomes dominant in A Strategy for the Seventies. Example: build up Australia in order to prepare missionaries for India. However, we long continued to have many countries in the earliest or Initiating Stage, partly because of lack of concentration of force. It was true, of course, that we had earlier entered the more receptive Countries.
  28. OPC Session 18, January 16, 1961.
  29. OPC Session 17. See also Daws’s use of R. E. Thompson’s 1954 article on “The Preparation of Accepted Candidates for the Mission Field.” This became a crucial issue in the late 1970s.
  30. OPC Session 16. Incidentally, Jim Downing mentioned in his OPC Paper that we had publicized the fact that Navigator men are serving more than forty missionary organizations.
  31. DG August 7, 1958. Sanny had then written that “The distinctive vision the Lord has given to us has to do with the recruiting, building and sending of men to reach the world for Jesus Christ.”
  32. OPC Session 24, January 18, 1961.
  33. OPC 1, S17.
  34. OPC Session 20, January 16, 1961.
  35. “Objectives and Strategy” (eleven pages) plus “Background on Objectives” (three pages) plus “Background on Geographical Priorities” (three pages), OPC Session 12.
  36. Source: Daws, pages 61-62.
  37. It is significant that languages and cultures were in Jim’s mind as early as 1961.
  38. About 15 percent of our US Gift Income was coming from churches. OPC Session 15b.
  39. In 1956, 80 percent of our men had been recruited from the servicemen’s work. By 1960, this had fallen to 50 percent. OPC Session 6. Sanny later (1963) told his US staff that in 1957 six of the US areas majored on servicemen, but at least eight majored on collegians.
  40. This comment hints at how much Christian work, in the dying years of colonialism, was still being carried out by evangelicals in English, and often from their mission compounds!
  41. Most of these conclusions are dated February 6, 1961. In some cases, at least, Roy Robertson drafted them. They were then repeated in a lengthy letter to our overseas co-laborers dated May 1, 1961.
  42. OPC Session 13. Dr. Taylor: “Our mission requires a comity statement. Comity in the realm of Christian courtesy, in the field of publicity. No one can occupy a field another is in if the full Gospel is being preached.”
  43. Founder of InterVarsity.
  44. From the 1930s, we sought to reach a certain age group rather than a particular social group. Our Minute Men witnessed in Junior Colleges and Churches and High Schools in Southern California. In 1938, “We were giving at least equal attention to student work as to servicemen.” By 1971, as our decade of “producing reproducers” ended, we find that we were working on 188 college and university campuses in twenty-one countries. Source: Information supplied to Dr. J. Edwin Orr on the entrance of the Navs into collegiate work, for his Ph. D. thesis. This will be further explored in articles titled “Military Ministries” and “Collegiate Ministries.”
  45. This was updated and amplified by the Chicago Agreement in 2010 which was signed by seventeen campus founding ministries. Trail West is a Young Life facility in the Rocky Mountains.
  46. OPC, S18. The advance of Communism was a vivid threat in the minds of the men.
  47. OPC, S18. A significant comment, given that a decade later Scott built a Global Strategy on our ability to identify those countries which would have the strongest likelihood of becoming sending bases for us in the 1980s! Farah added a curious plea for small countries by instancing Israel, Greece, and Scotland as having had great influence.
  48. In the former, we were concerned with whether and how we might have non-American staff. In the latter, the focus progressed towards how such staff might become full partners and share leadership even beyond their own countries. See articles on “Nationalizing” and “Internationalizing.”
  49. OPC, S33. In this quote, I’ve changed Scott’s term “international” because he was not speaking of an interdependent partnership.
  50. Empires, incidentally, can be judged on whether they hindered or helped the people of God: biblically and up to the present day, the record is mixed. See Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective by Peter Leithart, Wipf & Stock, 2012.
  51. Winter, loc cit, page 29.
  52. In S33, Boardman pointed out that, “If we don’t tie the nationals in, then someone else will. We should hang on to them and tie them in organizationally rather than have some idealistic relationship that simply won’t remain that way unless they are tied in.” This, incidentally, became most relevant when the countries of Central Europe freed themselves from the USSR at the end of the 1980s.
  53. OPC Session 10, after Downing’s paper.
  54. OPC Session 13.
  55. OPC Session 17.
  56. OPC Session 34.
  57. Sanny Dear Gang, January 30, 1961.
  58. Sanny, DG May 9, 1961.
  59. OPC 1, Session 23, first six pages.
  60. OPC, S33.
  61. The classic example of such recruitment came around 1990, as Eastern Europe opened up to open evangelism by Western agencies. Partly because we had not identified our nationals in these countries as “staff” and because we were not paying them a salary, quite a few were recruited by other agencies or denominations, for the extension of the kingdom, but at the cost of slippage and some turbulence in our ministries.
  62. For Taylor’s comments, see OPC S16c.
  63. OPC conclusions, February 6, 1961, Paras 27, 29, 30, 31
  64. OPC summary, January 18, 1961.
  65. OPC session 26.
  66. OPC, S34. This vision moved into reality at the end of the 1960s, with the formation of the China Task Force.
  67. Later, these categories became the basis for our set of profiles and requisites.
  68. At that time, we were actively using our Studies in Esperanto, mainly in the Gothenburg campaign. Eivor Niklasson wrote of, “The thrill of knowing Esperanto enough to begin correcting Bible Studies, reading some of the letters from Russia, Romania and Czechoslovakia where people want to know about the John studies. . . . This language opens doors for the Gospel in countries that are otherwise closed” (DG May 23, 1958).
  69. As recounted by Sanny to the 1963 Staff Conference July 26, 1963.
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