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Kansas Communities Ministry History

(In addition to the article below, you may want to click here for an article describing the early Navigator Ministry in Wichita from the January 1974 “Navigator’s Log” magazine.)

“My objective is to know Christ in my own life in ever increasing depth and to make disciples and develop laborers at all times, under any conditions, in every place I go.”

The history of the Kansas Navigators Communities Ministry dates back to 1952 when Jim Morris, a geologist in Wichita, trusted Christ as his Savior. He read through the entire New Testament each month that first year. Four years later in 1956, Jim was given the “Beginning With Christ” verses (“B Rations”) and noted how practical and helpful it was. He wished he had had something like that shortly after he had trusted Christ. Later, Jim heard Lorne Sanny, then President of The Navigators, speak about “The Art of Personal Witnessing” on a Back to the Bible Broadcast.

In October of that year (1956) Jim went to Lincoln, Nebraska for a Back to the Bible Conference. He had heard that some Navigators would also be speaking. He immediately noticed “something different” about The Navigators he met there. What was that “difference”? He felt that The Navigators had the Word of God in their subconscious minds, which in turn gave them a confidence in the Word’s power and authority. Morris discussed this idea with Navigator LeRoy Eims who challenged him to begin regular Scripture memory himself.

Jim saw in The Navigators a dedication and willingness to give extensive help to individuals. He wanted to be a part of that and asked God to change his unwilling attitude. He said, “I was willing to become willing if God did something to work that change in me.”

Ten months later, he attended a conference at The Navigators headquarters in Colorado Springs and was again faced with the challenge of giving his life to an individual. By this time, he noted, “It had become the desire of my heart to do this. God had changed my desire without my being aware of it. It was painless … all from memorizing and meditating on God’s Word.”

He then returned to Wichita and began looking for individuals he could help in their Christian lives. In the early 1960’s he began to find men who were really responsive and started meeting with them. He tried to form a “team,” but one by one the men were transferred, or left for other reasons. He finally gave up trying to put a team together and prayed, “If You want a group here, You’ll have to put them together and show me what to do.”

In 1965 Jim got involved in the Billy Graham film ministry teaching the Christian Life and Witness course to over 400 people in preparation for showing the evangelistic films. This course was a result of Billy Graham asking Daws Trotman to train counselors for his crusades around the world, as he recognized The Navigators were equipped and equipping new converts in becoming disciples of Jesus. The course was developed by Lorne Sanny, and Jim used the same material. After several years of personal training with the faithful from that event, many of the men trained in that course then went on to communities all over Kansas, teaching them this same course in preparation for the film ministry in their community. Jim discovered that these courses were a “fishing pond” for disciples, who could be equipped to be disciple makers in their communities.

Then, in 1967, four of the men he was meeting with asked him to start meeting with them as a group. He asked them to pray about it and to make sure they really wanted to do it. They did. In May 1967, they began a Saturday morning Bible study. The four men who met with Jim Morris were: Dick Grant (geologist), Jim Fisher (branch manager for Northwestern Life Insurance Company), JV Harlan (McConnell Civil Service Chief of Engineering and Construction), and Ray Patterson (head football coach at Wichita East High School),

These same men, along with others who followed, learned (or were “assigned”) to be searching in what Jim often called “fishing ponds” in Wichita and around Kansas in order to find “faithful men” who could teach others also (II Tim.2:2). Before they fully understood Jim’s plans for them, they found others referring to them as “Navigators.” The first team members and others who followed memorized scriptures in small groups and taught others to do the same, using The Navigators Topical Memory System, and/or Memorize The Word (written by Loren Sanny for Moody Press). Faithful men among them were given responsibilities in the planning of Wichita area invitations for Navigators to come to speak or to be part of area wide conferences reflecting principles of investing lives in other individuals as disciple-makers. Men were encouraged to visit and bring friends to Glen Eyrie to see discipleship training in action and hear more from those who were already investing their lives in others. Within years, the Kansas Communities Ministry was presenting three different weeks of conferences at Glen Eyrie to promote disciple-making and one on one investments in the lives of others.

This first team of 5 men grew to 20 people and they were divided up into four “squads,” each squad being led by one of the men on the original team. Other key individuals in those early days included Don Williams (at that time a sales engineer for a heating and air conditioner distributor), Clyde Krug (engineering supervisor in systems design at Cessna), Bill Brunson (co-owner of Brunson-Spines Oil Company), Dick Borchard (lead engineer of the instrumentation testing group at Boeing Aircraft), Harvey Ellis, MD (surgeon and general practitioner), Richard Spann, MD (pulmonary medicine physician), Dick Carpenter (assistant basketball coach), and Larry Stetler (music teacher in Haven, Kansas). All found themselves involved in expanding discipleship ministries! Wives of these men also contributed greatly to all areas of ministry.

The Kansas Navigators Ministry has always focused on the individual, new birth (Rom. 10:17), scripture memory, and the importance of investing in the lives of others. Many generations of new believers and believers who have grown in their faith with the ability to help others have been spawned by the faithfulness of these early disciples. God has used these and many, many others to build into the lives of yet others, to introduce them to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jim Morris and those first Navigator teams had an objective which is still adopted by their spiritual offspring today: “My objective is to know Christ in my own life in ever increasing depth and to make disciples and develop laborers at all times, under any conditions, in every place I go.”