Get To Know Doug and Geneve Utley

Doug and Geneve Utley are lifelong labourers from our Melbourne community. Doug has served previously as National Director, and he and Geneve have worked with many students and graduates, couples and emerging leaders over the years. He has produced resources such as the Enriching Your Marriage course and the People of Passion series. 

How did you come to know Jesus?

I didn’t grow up in a family that attended church but being sent to Sunday School I learned about Jesus. We moved house to be close to Freshwater beach in my teenage years and they were filled with rugby, surfing, school and athletics. No time for God- until I was swept out to sea while body surfing one morning. Then I called out to a God I didn’t believe in for help and was rescued by a surfboard rider. I didn’t rush off to church but started thinking; I wasn’t a criminal but if I did have to give account to a just God one day it wouldn’t go well. I really tried hard to change but without success. I admired some Christians at school but it was through the message of a visiting local minister that prompted me to respond to Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. I asked him to come in to take over my whole life. And he did.

How did you first get involved with Navigators?

I started attending a local church and reading my bible. Sometime later the minister advised me to go to a Navigator Seminar in town and, because I trusted him, I went. There were three men speaking: a businessman, a carpenter and an ex-marine. They explained what Jesus did in his brief years of teaching and training and the commission he left for his followers, including us. These men told us their stories of life-changing conversions over generations, and what ‘making disciples’ meant. A lot of things were falling into place for me and it made sense. When given the opportunity I seized it. I was so excited that I went back with my minister on Monday for more.

picture of Doug and Geneve

Doug and Geneve Utley, lifelong labourers, Melbourne Community. Photo: supplied

I tried to implement all this as leader in my local church fellowship but realised that, though it was simple, it wasn’t easy. So, nothing much happened until after graduation and marriage. Then, at a missionary meeting, a doctor recognised me as a fellow doctor and asked my wife, Geneve, and me to come to a Navigator conference. So we went. Jack the businessman and Joe the carpenter were there at this conference and they remembered me! Joe asked me what I wanted to accomplish if I went overseas. (We had a strong desire to go to Asia.) When I answered ‘making disciples’, he asked how I was going to do that. There was an embarrassed silence. I knew I needed help. Miraculously I was able to get a teaching job at the university (in Sydney) where there was a Navigator group. I joined straight away.

The leader of this group, Ray, told me I could join a group of brand-new believers. The Navigators did not give any credit for my years of Christian experience! And it meant giving up a night of study for my very difficult post grad exams, but God seemed to be saying, ‘Trust me’. The things I learned that year I am still using today.

What did your work with Australian Navigators involve?

I passed my exams but instead of returning to a hospital job to continue my surgery training I stayed at the university and was given four students who were growing as disciples of Christ. We had a great year, and by the end nearly all of us had helped someone else become a follower of Jesus. I was leading a disciple-making team. We had a training program over summer, and the following year Ray asked me to lead all the commuter students. By then we were seeing a lot of Chinese from Hong Kong and Malaysia coming to Christ. Geneve and I were living close to the university, and we had a couple of students living with us for training. Ray then moved to begin a ministry in Adelaide and I was responsible for the whole campus group: Two College Student teams, a nurses’ team, an Asian team and the Commuters.

We started the following year with training in evangelism and surveyed students in enrolment week before orientation. Soon nearly everyone was flat out having bible-based discussions with the students they had met, and gradually the Holy Spirit brought students to Jesus. First a few, then about ten, and by the middle of the year more than twenty new believers swelled our ranks.

The Australian Navigators then asked Geneve and me to move to Monash University in Melbourne to start a group there. I asked God about being a surgeon and he seemed to say, ‘I don’t need you as a surgeon, but I am short on disciple-makers.’ So, we went for four years, ‘certain’ we would be in Asia somewhere after that. They were very fruitful years both in terms of students coming to Christ and maturity in emerging leaders. A vision for the world was on our hearts, and we asked God for ten people over the years to be moved to serve overseas, claiming Isaiah 54:2-3. God took our prayers very seriously and we looked back to see ten people located in different countries from The Philippines to Kyrgyzstan. We were thinking the four years were up; it is time we and our young son headed off ‘to Asia.’ However, the Navigator staff team was sending a couple to India, a couple back to the USA, a single man to Sydney and another family was returning home due to illness. Which left Geneve and me. I was appointed ‘Acting Melbourne Director.’ We talked to God about our serving Him in Asia. He seemed to say, ‘Rather than you going to Asia, how about if I bring Asia to you?’ And so He did. We had always had Chinese with us but now as well as having groups among students at Latrobe University, RMIT, Melbourne and Monash Universities and the Graduate Community, we asked Alan Ch’ng to lead a fledgling group of Chinese in the city. They lived together, ate together, played sport together and shared Christ together. Their lifestyle was very attractive and there was a flow of students God had touched coming to Christ. Scores were coming to Christ and new apartments for training were found. The discipleship taught was hard core as we knew many would fall away due to the pressures they would face when they returned home. They needed to become disciplined disciples and be committed to each other after graduation. And so they did. Geneve and I had the privilege of visiting many groups of these graduates in Singapore, East and West Malaysia and Kong Kong. They were exciting days!

Can you tell us a bit about your work on resources like “Enriching Your Marriage” and “People of Passion”?

Study Cover page: Enriching Your Marriage

Cover of “Enriching Your Marriage” study by Doug Utley.

Along the way, students came to be choosing life partners and getting married. We had seen firsthand the devastation of leaders we had trained getting into bad marriage habits ending in divorce and many people in their group badly hurt. We decided to get some training in helping people prepare for a sound marriage using the ‘Prepare-Enrich’ material. We spent weeks with more than twenty couples trying to ensure they would get off to a good start and develop patterns of relating, making decisions and resolving conflicts, and much more, in their marriages. Now we are praying for their grown-up children to find godly marriage partners and get off to a solid start. We no longer prepare 20-year-olds for marriage but have written a program, Enriching your Marriage, which can be accessed right here.

Organisations have their time cycles, and after a few years there was a need for new national leadership. So, almost as the ‘last man standing’, I was appointed to be National Director, a role I had for about eight years. Then it was back to the grassroots of Monash University and some community work until retiring from our Staff role. Since then, we have worked as Navigator ‘Alongsiders’ with individuals and groups to help them become fruitful labourers where they are.

cover of a group study called "People of Passion".

“People of Passion” is a valuable resource to help you and others grow deeper in relationship with God.

A significant way of doing this has been to use the discipleship tool called People of Passion. This is a program for 3-6 people designed to help people mature and be able to reproduce generations of followers. Individuals commit to listening to God through short scripture readings for five days in the week, then reflect on what God has been saying to them and then come together live or meet online to share their stories. Each one will share how their last week has been and then put forward confidential requests for prayer. Some groups send their requests in ahead of time for efficiency. The meeting finishes with prayer and then into the next week of themed readings. Australian Navigators provides the People of Passion material free of charge and it can be accessed here.

Geneve and I look back on the wonders of God and supportive friends whom we have known for decades.

This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
Psalm 18:30 (NRSV)


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