We've dreamed about Large Group serving as an on-ramp for Small Groups. For those of you unfamiliar with our ministry model, Large Group is a one-a-week gathering that is open to the whole campus, advertised, and that includes the entire GCF community. We sing songs to praise God, pray and hear some teaching from God's word.
The easiest thing to do with Large Group is to treat it as something like a church service for college students. And that's a really valuable thing to do. But in GCF, we are all about Small Groups. We believe that changes lives through Small Group communities. We believe that our best hope for a renewed campus comes from an expanding network of transformative Small Groups. We believe that the best environment in which to develop the sort of people who can change the world is a Small Group environment.
So, we want Large Group to serve as an on-ramp to Small Groups. We want people who come to our weekly Large Group gatherings to have a desire to connect with a Small Group, maybe because they want to grow some deep and meaningful friendships, hopefully because they want to experience a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God.
But we have a problem. Crystal identified it, sees it and knows what to do about it. The problem is that many of our Small Group Leaders have a hard time making it out to Large Group consistently. If they aren't at Large Group, the whole on-ramp thing won't work. People will come to Large Group but never make the relational connections they need to make the Large Group to Small Group jump.
Showing up at Large Group is something that's expected of all of our Small Group Leaders. It's an opportunity for them to grow their Small Groups. It's a responsibility. From another angle, it's a duty.
How do you get someone to do something that they're supposed to do?
This is the question that hangs over Ruth chapter 3. Boaz has shown that he's a good man, generous and law-abiding. But he's holding back in his obedience (and he's not the only one).
Jewish law required the closest male relative from Elimelech's family to step in and help the widows (Naomi and Ruth). This relative would purchase any land that Elimelech owned when he died and would marry the widow (Ruth in this case, since Naomi was too old to have any more children). This way, Elimelech's family line would continue.
This practice seems odd to us (or at least to me). When I think of marriage, I think of love and romance. But there's more to marriage than that. Marriage serves to provide stability and structure to families and social units. The person who married Ruth and provided her with a son would, in her eyes, be giving her a huge blessing.
Before we jump too quickly to condemn this practice, let's remember that we as a culture put our elderly parents in nursing homes and visit them only occassionally. The folks we would consider odd would also consider us odd. How could we show so little honor to our parents? While we criticize them for their lack of sophistication, they have us dead to rights in the arenas of honor and courage. Every generation lacks some virtues. God's law provides a hedge against the areas where our generation lacks virtue. To the generation that ignores the elderly, God tells us to "Honor your parents." To the generation that disenfranchises women, won't let them own property or survive without patriarchical coverage, God provides this legal structure to prevent abuse.
So, God's law called for someone to marry Ruth and help the widows. Someone was supposed to do this. Naomi thinks Boaz should be the man. He's already demonstrated kindness and gentleness and generosity and he is a relative. So she puts a plan into action.
This chapter is structured (as are the other chapters) as a chiasm: ABCDDCBA.
A: Naomi decides that Boaz should serve as Ruth's kinsman-redeemer
B: Naomi's plan: Ruth, secretly snuggle up next to Boaz' feet (ie. send a signal)
C: Ruth carries out the plan and asks Boaz to do what he's supposed to do
D: Boaz praises her for her kindness in asking him
D: Boaz praises her as a woman of noble character (P31-W)
C: Boaz agrees to the plan, although there is someone in line ahead of him
B: Boaz asks Ruth to keep their meeting on the down-low
A: Naomi is convinced that Boaz will act swiftly to serve as the kindman-redeemer
One of the things that's so striking about this chapter is the D element of the chiasmus. Boaz praises Ruth for her kindness and acknowledges her as a woman of noble character. Why?
Well, for one, she approached him privately and asked him to do what he was supposed to do. She didn't go around him or use guilt or shame to manipulate him. She didn't make a public scene or confront him harshly. She was gentle and kind and he recognized it. Maybe the reason he hadn't acted already had to do with the fact that he was an older man and he didn't think Ruth would value his stepping forward.
Often, the reason people don't do what they're supposed to do has more to do with the fact that they think no one cares than it does to any real unwillingness. If no one cares if I show up to Large Group or not, even though I'm a Small Group Leader, why should I show up?
I can think of several examples in my life when, as soon as I realized someone cared, I started doing something I'd been putting off.
Other reasons people resist doing what they should do are as follows:
- They don't understand why they're supposed to do the thing they're supposed to do
- They're pushing back against manipulation (guilt, shame, threats)
- They don't know how to do what they're supposed to do
- They don't see anyone else doing it
- They don't see some key influencer doing it
What would happen if we showed this kind of boldness and kindness? How can we better call people to step up?