Last week, I was part of a small gathering of leaders whom the Murdock Trust invited to reflect upon David Kinnaman’s work You Lost Me with David (President of the Barna Group) and Steven Garber (Director of the Washington Institute). In You Lost Me, David talks about how many young people no longer sense their connection to the church and about the need for investing in person to person mentoring relationships; such mentoring relationships will entail emphasizing young people’s divine calling and vocation and accounting for the discernment necessary to engage this very diverse culture as faithful witnesses for Christ in our various spheres of service in the public square. In the midst of the discussion, we turned to such biblical books as Esther. I was struck by the character of Mordecai and reflected out loud on his significance in the growth and development of Esther. Where is Mordecai today?
Before answering this question, I need to answer the following question: Who is Mordecai? The Book of Esther reveals Mordecai to us. He was Esther’s cousin, who cared for her growing up after her parents’ death (Esther 2:7-8) and who shepherded her through major rites of passage from becoming queen of the Persian empire (Esther 2:10-11; 19-20) to taking a stand on behalf of her own people, the Jews, as queen when they were threatened with genocide (Esther 3:1-15). Mordecai supported his beautiful young cousin in the beauty pageant that led to her becoming queen; he actually forbade her from making known that she was a Jew (Esther 2:10-11) until the time came for her to take her stand on behalf of her people (Esther 4:1-17; Esther 7:3-4).
Mordecai was a prophetic leader: he had the vision to help young Esther grow and flourish in a pagan culture under a foreign empire; likewise, he also had the discernment and courage necessary to challenge that empire when it would entail dishonoring God by honoring another or when it entailed the ultimate destruction of his and Esther’s people (Esther 3:1-2; Esther 4:1-17). As with Daniel of old, Mordecai was a prophetic leader, who knew well how to mentor a young person like Esther into becoming a great leader as queen of the empire. Like her cousin/adopted father, Esther knew how to flourish in a foreign land in a pagan empire as queen while also taking her stand on behalf of her people at great potential cost to herself—even her life.
Where is Mordecai today? Where are those mentors and shepherds in the mold of Mordecai? They will mentor a new generation of Christian leaders to flourish in a pagan empire with great conviction and courage and a profound sense of God’s calling on their lives to lead in various spheres and careers as reflecting their divine vocation. Like Mordecai, such mentors and shepherds will be people who are themselves flexible, though not fickle. How so? Mordecai had learned how to transition well from his homeland to Babylon to which he was taken in exile. Flexible he was, but not fickle. Mordecai was decisive and did not budge, when the king elevated one of the officials, Haman, and commanded that everyone bow to him. Mordecai did not flinch; he did not bow or prostrate himself (Esther 3:1-2). Esther’s story of flexibility to be queen in a pagan empire and unflinching courage to advocate on behalf of her people in the face of great risk is Mordecai her mentor’s story, too.
So, where is Mordecai? Where are this generation’s Mordecai mentors? You may not see them, but you will know where to find them: they will be standing behind and in support of their spiritual progeny—leaders like Esther. In a church age that is increasingly losing a generation of youth, who feel that they are not wanted or needed to lead in society as agents of the church in their respective spheres of service as bound up with their God-inspired vocation, we need to find mentors like Mordecai. Such leaders will be used by God to infuse these young people with a renewed sense of divine calling to be flexible and unflinching leaders who make up the priesthood of prophetic believers in the various empires of our day.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths (which can be found wherever fine books are sold), and is a charter member of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.