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The Value of Intergenerational Mentoring

Today I was watching “Animal Planet” and they had a special about a wildlife preserve where the young bull elephants started brutally killing the rhinos. The solution was to bring in an older, more mature herd of elephants to model appropriate behavior for the younger ones and hopefully provide some sort of behavioral infratructure that would help tame the younger animals.

It worked.

In the church, we need to have a similar principle; but we must be careful with the way we put it into practice. My pastor tells a story about when he was first saved. He met with the elders of his church and passionately shared his testimony and some of his ideas. The elders looked at him blankly and one said, “Don’t worry. In a little while you’ll calm down and be just like us.”

“God forbid!” he replied (though he admits it was more in pride and disdain than in love).

In contrast, take a look at Esther 4:10-16. King Xerxes ordered that all the Jews be annihilated. Esther was a young Jewish woman who had been taken to be his queen. The following story comes in where Esther’s elder cousin Mordecai (who had raised her) has suggested that she appear before King Xerxes. Esther then sends one of the king’s eunuchs named Hathach to her cousin Mordecai:

Esther 4:10–16 – Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions (NIV).

Esther, here, is the younger generation, and Mordecai is the older. Do you see the magnitude of what took place in this story? Rather than Mordecai telling Esther to “calm down and wait this out,” he called forth exploits. Not only that, but Esther relied on him for spiritual support by asking him to fast for her and gather others to do the same. And Mordecai agreed!

Here we see generational unity. Like the elephants in my opening example, it’s not so much a matter of the older generation “calming down” the younger as it is the older generation providing a scaffolding for the younger to flourish within! Mordecai suggested that Esther risk her life for the sake of God’s people, and he stood by her with prayer and fasting.

There is a strong Biblical precedent in both the Old and New Testaments for generational unity, mentoring, and spiritual fathering/mothering. If you’re young and you do not have a mature spiritual mentor who challenges you to acts of faith, then I would recommend you get looking for one! Otherwise, you might end up like those young bull elephants being destructive rather than productive (I’ve been there, and it truly does take spiritual mentoring to help us gain focus and direction for our lives).

And if you would consider yourself one of the older generation, then I call for you to take us youngsters under your wing and call forth great exploits for the kingdom of God! We don’t need you to calm us down or tell us how to “play it safe.” We need you to fast and pray for us so that we can fulfill the purpose for which we were born and help reveal our Father’s Kingdom in the earth! We need you to be our “Mordecai” and speak identity into our lives. We need you to challenge us in faith–not fear–and call forth exploits!

In the name of Jesus, I challenge each reader to bridge the generational gap and demonstrate unity in the Church no matter your age. The Lord has promised that in the last days He would send forth the spirit of Elijah to call the hearts of the fathers to their sons and the hearts of the sons to their fathers. Now is the time–more than ever–that we need unity among the generations!

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