God as Leader: 82 Years of Navigator History

By Jerry White


All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They each have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts. (William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7)

Remember how the Lord your God led you . . . (Deut 8:2)

. . . for such a time as this? (Esther 5:14)

Although Shakespeare is not scripture, this quote by him reflects the truth that we each have a contribution for a period of time. Each period fits within the context of the past and the future. As I reflect on Mike Treneer’s decade of leadership, I see how God has used him to play an important role within the broader history of The Navigators.

By God’s gracious hand, The Navigators are celebrating 82 years of being a primary voice for disciple making in the global body of Christ. And through all this time, God has been the leader of The Navigators. So, as Mike Treneer steps down from his role as International President, we know that God will continue to lead us.

(Watch a three-minute video of Navigator International Vice Presidents sharing about the future of The Navigators: http://vimeo.com/114047549)

Looking at our history, we can see countless ways that God has sustained and guided The Navigators. In the early days, our survival seemed tenuous and fragile. The Navigators was born from God’s work among military men and women during World War II. After the war, as soldiers scattered back to their homes, we had to discover ways to serve people in a new context. Then, our founder, Dawson Trotman, died in 1956. Lorne Sanny and a very small Navigator staff had to decide if The Navigators was still viable without Dawson and his involvement with Billy Graham.

Lorne’s role as President at that time was crucial. He led us into a surge of expansion into the student ministry (1960s) and a seminal first statement of our Aim and Calling. The 60s and 70s was a time of recruiting and sending to the nations—an incredible missionary expansion. The foundations of many national works were established. With this rapid expansion came many relational and structural strains related to the natural consequences of growing from an American and Western movement to a truly international fellowship.

During this time, Mike and Chris Treneer were leading Nigeria and then Africa while living in Kenya. I became the International President as Mike was passing the African leadership to Mutua and Stephanie Mahiaini. It was a time of significant international tension as we began to develop the concept of the Global Society and a restatement of our Calling, Values, and Vision—what we call “The Core.” As Mike joined the International Executive Team, he and Jim Petersen were our first voices from the southern hemisphere.

Mike joined the IET and became our fourth International President. With skill and humility and a clear call, Mike helped Navigators practice and implement our Calling, Values, and Vision statements based on the Scriptures. Mike reinvigorated the study of the Scriptures throughout the Worldwide Partnership. In every leadership gathering, he emphasized and modeled our commitment to the Word as our point of reference.

Mike also sustained and energized our fundamental commitment to evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication (generations). He has wonderfully led us in responding to the Holy Spirit and the Word in all initiatives. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty (Zech 4:6 NIV).

We will continue to be guided by the foundational promises of Isaiah 61 (preaching the good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, becoming oaks of righteousness in a needy world).

These have been fruitful years under Mike’s leadership. Chris has had a huge impact. Mary and I value their friendship and encouragement. The future is bright as we continue to live out the sacred trust and calling which God has given us. He will lead us. May we always be faithful to His call.



Dr. Jerry White is International President Emeritus of The Navigators. He served almost 19 years as International President (until 2005). He retired as a Major General from the US Air Force. He and his wife, Mary, live in Colorado Springs.