If Jerry Bridges could be an expert on any topic he would choose humility. But this best-selling author and 50-year Navigator recognizes the problem with that: “People don’t want to present themselves as experts in humility.”
Even so, the Bible’s teaching on humility has fascinated Jerry for several years now. He hopes to write a book on the subject. But in the meantime he is trying to live it out, something he demonstrates as he recounts his long tenure with The Navigators.
Jerry grew up going to church and gave his life to Jesus in 1948. It was just before his sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma, studying engineering on a Navy ROTC scholarship. One night, doing his homework, he reached for a textbook and saw the small Bible his parents had given him in high school. “I thought, Now that you really are a Christian, you need to start reading the Bible,” Jerry says. “I started that night, and I’ve been reading it ever since.”
After college Jerry went on active duty in the Navy. He met a fellow naval officer who invited him to a Navigator Bible study. “From the first night I was hooked,” Jerry recalls.
When new testing equipment revealed a hearing loss in one ear, Jerry received a medical discharge after only two years of service. He accepted that as God’s direction.
Soon after, he settled in southern California and started working with Convair, an airplane manufacturing company. He was assigned the task of writing technical instructions for shop and flight line personnel. “God put me there to teach me how to clearly explain complicated information,” he says.
During those years he lived with a Navigator couple, a common practice in the 1950s. His mentor, Glen Solum, brought Jerry to a Navigator conference in Colorado Springs in 1955. There Jerry met The Navigators’ founder Dawson Trotman, who asked him to come to work at headquarters.
Jerry came to Colorado Springs for work and training and fully expected to be sent overseas for ministry. Instead, he received a home office assignment.
“I was very insecure in those first few years,” Jerry admits. “I wasn’t doing the kind of ministry that everyone else was doing.” Every couple of years Jerry would begin to question if he was in the right place, but he always received confirmation that he was right where God wanted him to be.
“After about 10 years I told God, ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. If you want me out of The Navigators, you’ll have to let me know.’ ”
Jerry spent the next four decades in various administrative posts, including headquarters’ office manager, treasurer, and vice president for corporate affairs—work he found both challenging and fulfilling. Through the years he also spoke on spiritual life topics at Glen Eyrie conferences.
In the mid-1970s, the newly formed NavPress released a series of booklets based on transcriptions of conference sessions taught by various Navigators, including Jerry. When Navigator leader LeRoy Eims read Jerry’s booklet, Willpower, he said, “You ought to try your hand at writing.” So Jerry gave it a try, writing about holiness, a topic he’d spoken on for years. Since its 1978 release, The Pursuit of Holiness has sold more than one million copies.
“I expected that would be the only book I’d ever write,” says Jerry, who went on to pen more than a dozen books with combined sales of 2.5 million.
Today, 79-year-old Jerry is a member of The Navigators Collegiate ministry. He often spends an entire weekend at a campus, meeting with Navigator staff and student leaders. He usually speaks at large group meetings, addressing such topics as shame and brokenness. He also challenges students to follow God’s calling on their lives.
“Everyone should have the conviction that they’re doing what God wants them to do. God is the God of our everyday lives as well as the God of eternity.”
It’s that sense of calling that keeps Jerry humbly serving with The Navigators, faithful every day in the holy pursuit to which he has been called.