This is an article from the January-February 2011 issue: Discipleship Revolution

A Passionate Call for Maturity that Reproduces

A Passionate Call for Maturity that Reproduces

A distillation of Trotman's message "Born to Reproduce"

Navigator founder Dawson Trotman (Daws, 1906-1956) trained a young Navy Christian to win others. That sailor discipled another, and God used these two sailors plus three others under Daws' influence to bring Jim Downing to Himself. (See Jim's interview on p. 17.) At one point Navigators were ministering on 1,000 U.S. naval ships and stations. Billy Graham said, "I think Daws has personally touched more lives than anybody I have ever known."

In 1956, shortly before he drowned saving someone else, Daws gave a powerful message detailing his discipleship insights. This message influenced discipleship strategy around the world, and epitomizes the Navigator ministry in particular. Jim Downing reordered Daws' original message into a written form, which is condensed below. Daws' full audio presentation and Jim's written restructuring of it are both worthy of review and reflection by any serious follower of Christ.1

God Desires Multiplication

God told Adam and Eve, our first parents: “Multiply. I want more just like you, more in my own image.” A person is born again when he receives Jesus Christ. It is God’s plan that these new babes in Christ grow. All provision is made for their growth into maturity, and then they are to multiply—not only the rich or the educated, but all alike. Every person born into God’s family is to multiply.

Soul winners are not soul winners because of what they know, but because of the Person they know, how well they know Him, and how much they long for others to know Him.

Infants Need Parents

After leading someone to Christ, I used to leave him with Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Then I came across one such fellow a year later and found no evidence of the new birth. I began to go find some of my “converts” and became sick at heart.

This led to fewer converts but more time with the converts. Soon I could say with Paul,

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now (Phil. 1:3–5).

Biblical Emphasis on Follow-Up

Paul was a busy evangelist, but the New Testament is largely made up of his follow-up letters to the converts. All the writings of Peter, Paul, James and most of John’s are food for the new Christian.

Nothing under heaven can keep one newly born-again from going on with the Lord if he has a spiritual parent to care for him and give him the spiritual food God has provided for his normal growth. When things are right between you and the Lord, regardless of how much or how little you may know intellectually from the standpoint of the world, you can be a spiritual parent, even when you are very young in the Lord.

The Potential and Pitfall of Multiplication

Suppose someone desires to be a spiritual father. He asks God to give him a man to teach. As he teaches this first man, they each start praying for another man. By the end of six months, each starts teaching another. At the end of the year, they are just four. Each may also teach a Bible class or help in a street meeting, but their main concern is their man and how he is doing. They encourage one another “let’s not let anything sidetrack us. Let’s give the Gospel out to a lot of people, but let’s see at least one man through.”

At the end of two years there are 16 men. At the end of five there are 1,024. After fifteen and a half years there are more than two billion, the present world population of over three years old.

But wait! Suppose the first man trained gets sidetracked, washes out and does not produce his first man. Fifteen and one-half years later you can cut your two billion down to one billion because the devil caused B to be sterile.

How Spiritual Parenting Works

Twenty-three years ago we taught a born-again sailor how to reproduce spiritually. We spent time together and took care of his problems. We taught him not only to hear God’s Word and read it, but how to study it. We taught him how to fill the quiver of his heart with the arrows of God’s Word, so the Spirit of God could lift God’s word to the bow of his lips and pierce a heart for Christ.

He approached a number of boys on his ship, but none would go all out for the Lord. They would go to church, but when it came to doing something, they were “also rans.” He came to me after a month and said, “Dawson, I can’t get any of these guys on the ship to get down to business.”

I told him, “Ask God to give you one. You can’t have two until you have one. Ask God to give you a man after your own heart.” He began to pray.
Soon he said to me, “I think I’ve found him.” Those two began to grow and spiritually reproduce. On that ship 125 men found the Saviour before it was sunk at Pearl Harbor. Men off that first battleship are in four continents of the world as missionaries today.

The devil’s great trick is to stop anything like this if he can before it gets started.

The Importance of a Victorious Spiritual Life

When interviewing missionary candidates I ask “How is your devotional life? Do you feel it is what the Lord would have it to be?”

In one group of 29 only one person said, “I believe my devotional life is what it ought to be.” The others excused their devotional life on the basis of temporary busyness, but as we looked back they had never had consistent victory.

Then I asked “How many have you won to Christ who are living for Him today?” The majority had to admit that they were ready to cross an ocean and learn a foreign language, but they had not won their first soul who was going on with Jesus Christ.

One reason for sterility is lack of communion with Christ.

These questions do not apply to missionaries and prospective missionaries only. They apply to all of God’s people. Every one of His children ought to be a reproducer.

Scripture Memory is Essential

Load your heart with this precious Seed. God will then direct you to those whom you can lead to Christ. There are many hearts ready for the Gospel now.
In the early days, whenever sailors were with us for supper, I would say  Quote a verse you have learned in the last 48 hours if you have one. Otherwise just give us a verse.

Five Reasons Christians Do Not Reproduce

  1. Unconfessed Sin
    Impairment to some essential organ can prevent physical reproduction. In the spiritual realm sin is the disease that can keep one from winning the lost.
  2. Fear of Man
    “Oh, but I am afraid” someone says. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
  3. Lack of Spiritual Purpose
    Some Christians desire to be spiritual parents, but their lives run in circles:I have to buy a house or pay the rent so I will have a place to rest up, so I will be fit to work and earn some more money.
  4. Busyness in Religious Activity
    Satan puts his efforts into getting the Christian busy, but not producing. I am not talking about earning money, but being busy doing Christian things. We have spiritual activity with little productivity.
  5. Faithfulness in Church but not in Reproducing
    We have a lot of pew-sitters—people think that if they are faithful in church attendance, put good-sized gifts into the offering plate, get people to come, and serve in some way they have done their part. All this is incidental to the supreme task of winning a man or woman to Jesus Christ and then helping him or her to go on.
  1. The original audio is featured at Jim Downing's reorganizating of it, complete with a suggested format for a half-day training seminar, is available at

  2. See also (2 min) for a discription of how Dawson counseled John Crawford to focus his life on being a discipler.


Thank you for your timely article on “Maturity That Reproduces”.  Your article reminded me of the topic of leadership.  As a student of leadership, I tend to measure most things against this “plump-line”.

The highest level in measuring a leader’s influence is that of duplication.  There are leaders, and then there are exceptional leaders.  These folks seek to take their influence to the next and highest level; that of reproducing themselves.  In discipleship, this bearing is no different, because when we train others in discipleship, the obvious course would be to move to the next level; that of duplicating and influencing new believers for the purpose of making more disciples for the Kingdom.

In reading this edition of MF, I sensed a commonality shared by the writers.  One is the context in how we serve and worship.  In Dave Datema’s article, his assessment of the “ministry system” is a good evaluation of how we do business.  I think many of us feel this same “mechanism of ministry”, but feel either inadequate or unqualified to change it.

This unequivocally translates back to the leadership of “the system”.  Using John Maxwell’s famous quote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”, leads me to yet another writing:  Dr. Ralph Winter’s article, “Needed, A Revolution in Pastoral Training.”  He wrote, “This revolution deals with three drastic drawbacks pervasively embodied in pastoral training both at home and abroad. These are so serious that it is sad yet fair to say that the seminaries and Bible schools of the world are a surprisingly weak and often negative contributor to the growth of Christianity around the world.”

If the leadership changes at the forefront of ministry, via the Bible schools and seminaries, then the laborious work of discipleship might not have to encounter recreation of the processes.  It could be made a “staple” of ministry from the pulpit, to be influenced on down through the channels of mature believers and into the community of new believers.

I believe though, that discipling others does not have to be taxing or tedious.  Yes, it does involve a measure of time and work on our part, but the description I read from the article on Real Life Ministries church, is that they incorporate a very common-sensible method that may come easy for some.  It is the “doing life” part of discipling.  And maybe, it is the only part of discipling.

Doing life with those new to the fold can be a natural form of ministry.  Personally through observation, I had a front-row seat to the making of a disciple.  A family friend was lost and needed Christ as his Savior.  My husband’s bold evangelizing preempts did little to persuade his friend and eventually their paths parted… for awhile.  Later, when our friend needed help or got ill, my husband was there to assist, sometimes for several hours at a time. A medical condition required our friend’s surgery.  We pray, our church prayed.  Our friend was touched.  Finally, he and his lovely wife began attending church.  Their gratefulness to those who cared lured them into the fold, and they are growing in faith because someone “did life” with them. 

I know this sounds more like doing-life-evangelizing vice doing-life-discipling, but what made the process approachable was their common interest in shared hobbies.  As expected, helping with projects, along with long talks and assurance of prayer through a faith-family, was more a joy of living out an example than it was in doing a ministry task.

Perhaps a lesson here is that whether we are seeking to share the Good News with unbelievers or training newcomers to be disciples, the methods are not so different. A training tactic to incorporate could be to place ourselves with those of like interests: their hobbies, careers or families.  Through discipleship prayer, ask the Lord for a “divine assignment”.  He will follow through.

CULTURE.  Lastly, I’ve wondered if perhaps culture plays a significant part in how we disciple.  I am probably considered bi-cultural since my mother’s ethnic background is Filipino.  Having been born and raised in the U.S., but at the same time, living in part, with two wonderful cultures (American/Asian), I’ve come to notice the inter-relations of how one culture may need to use a different means of communicating and training, in comparison to another cultural means of discipling.  Do some cultures do-life more naturally than others?  Or is their economic and social stratum a factor in how they harness time and tactic for sustaining close relationships?  Afterall, discipling from Jesus’ standpoint is all about relationships.  In the end, we will invariably know how to disciple; the concern is deciding to take on the balancing-act of time and effort, which is probably quite different amongst the cultures.  Surely, an interesting topic to be approached for another time!

For His glory,
Ms. Terry Harris
Doctoral student, WCIU

                          Praise the lord
Ms.Terry Harris,
Doctoral student,WCIU

      I Prasad Babu.Kodamanchili from India. I am so very glad to communicate with you at this very movement. I finished theologically course of M.Div at the state of Kerala in India. Now am doing God’s work among Hindu people. Please pray for my ministry, because they are Hindus still they are practicing ritually their god and goddess. I married now my wife pregnent, sixth month running. Please pray for my family also. Ans i also praying for you and our ministry and those who are working with you in this organization.If you will any chance to me i would like to share my testimony to you. Till onwards am waiting for your swift response. God bless us for His ministry.

                                            In His Service,
                                        Prasad Babu.Kodamanchili
                                        Raghudevapuram (Mandal)
                                        Sithanagaram (Mandal)
                                        East Godavari District
                                        S-INDIA 533 333

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