QUESTION: (from an email)
I’m sure sure you have a plethora of emails and blog entries and other things to work on . . . but I wondered if you could elaborate on why the Boaz/Ruth/elders story has meant so much to you. I’m not sure that I fully grasp the gravity of his actions. And has there been times you’ve put it into practice? What has it looked like for you?
Thanks so much for the continuing conversation: I greatly appreciate it, especially as I’m feeling drawn in a specific direction of God’s will as of late – comforting, but terrifying all at the same time.
Glad you asked. I will make a blog entry out of it (without your name – but you are welcome to comment and own up if you like). I see the story of Boaz and Ruth reenacted in many cities and countries when new churches in the emerging culture are birthed in the wider community.
Ruth is the outsider, the alternative, the young, the Other, the foreigner, the woman, the vulnerable and one who sticks to her mother-in-law and adopts her heritage. I encourage emerging leaders to stick to their heritage, rather than kiss it goodbye like Orpah, the other daughter in law. There are lots of angry Orpahs, but sticking close allows for great things to happen together.
Boaz is the bridge person. He protects Ruth, guides her, interprets her to the fellow workers and gets them to leave extras for her to pick up in the field. Much of my work is interpreting what the emerging leaders are doing
and why, in ways that their elders can understand. I want freedom and resources for those leaders.
The neighbour women are the storytellers, the media. They are the ones who hear Naomi and register her change of name. They also name the new baby at the end of the story – Obed – who becomes David’s grandfather.
The closer relative did not want to take a risk with Ruth – yes – he wanted her land and resources, but did not want her name, since it would threaten his own inheritance. I have met ministry leaders who love the life and growth and vitality of their emerging leaders and ministries, but don’t want to risk giving them authority or name because of the risk factor. Boaz wanted Ruth, for who she was, not what she had.
The elders watched over the proceedings, the passing of the sandal, making sure everything was done according to law and tradition. They add stability, continuity, accountability and perspective. I send out reports to my elders and organizations to inform them and invite their perspective.
Back in 2000, when the Boaz Project began, we had a storytelling session in the headquarters of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in Dallas. About 25 people participated – some high level leaders (E.B. Brooks) and some alternative young people. I handed out names and characters and we role played the whole story of Boaz and Ruth. It was quite amazing and thought provoking. Every time I go into a new situation, I see the story played out..
Anyway, that’s why I often refer to the story, and that’s why I named our project “Boaz”
Hope that helps