United States

"I've Got Your Back"

By IET Communications

Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

In the fray of daily life and work, Karl and Michelle Wang come alongside their friends to listen, to share burdens, to study the Bible, and to point them to Christ. They don’t have seminary degrees or counseling training, but they are true pastors, people who lay down their lives for a few friends.

Karl, a graphic designer, and Michelle, an elementary school teacher, were discipled by Ken Chi in a Navigator ministry among Asians in southern California. They realized that they couldn’t just sit on the treasure they had received, so they began to pray about how they could serve. Karl realized that within his church there were many people who needed personal attention. He invited some of them to study the Bible and pray together. Since then, Karl and Michelle have personally helped many of their friends work through the substrata of doubts, pain, and sin that so easily stifle spiritual growth and personal joy.

Karl says his heart is drawn to people who attend church, but who aren’t too involved. Based on his experience, these people often don’t get the personal attention they need.

“There aren’t many people today who have the Navigator mentality,” Karl said, referring to the life-on-life personal attention that is so central to our Navigator Calling. “Many Christians today don’t really know how to care for people.”

The need for individual soul care in American culture is acute. Some research shows that 40 percent of Americans feel chronically lonely. Friendship is reduced to virtual realms like Facebook. Many have no one to talk to, nowhere to turn, no direction, no love.

What people need is not just warm-and-fuzzy emotion; they need someone to show them “I’ve-got-your-back love.” They need someone to stand with them through the trials.

The lack of “I-got-your-back love” is not new. As Jesus went through towns and villages to teach and heal, He felt deep compassion for the crowds. He compared the people to “sheep without a shepherd.” They, like many people today, lacked someone who would come alongside them to share their burdens and give them truth. Perhaps, like many people today, they were surrounded by superficial friendships while needing guidance and loving friendship.

The word “shepherd,” in languages like Spanish and Portuguese, is “pastor.” This fits with the biblical idea of a pastor—someone who cares for his or her “sheep.” Jesus said in John 10 that good pastors (shepherds) love people so much that they lay down their lives for them. In other words, the good pastor says “I’ve got your back” and then proves it with sacrificial action. Jesus was, of course, the consummate pastor, having laid down His life for us.

Local leaders in our Navigator movement, people like Karl and Michelle, play a crucial role in sustaining the advance of the Gospel. They stand firm with those God gives them to shepherd. They keep “feeding their sheep” from the Word, encouraging them through life’s hardships. They lay down their lives.

“I don’t think there is an end to this,” Karl said about his and Michelle’s ongoing involvement with people. “All we can do is walk with them. Walking together is the point, so that we can encourage each other to keep going, to keep walking, to not give up, to finish the race."