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She Thought I Was God

From the privileged, precarious and sometime prickly seat of the Pastorate, you experience and witness all kinds of unusual things. One of my many unusual experiences both warmed my heart and gave me spiritual indigestion. Unknown to me or her mother, a daughter (about 4-5 years old) of one of the most faithful and conscientious servants in the church went for a period of time stubbornly convinced that I was God.
 
Initially it struck me as really cute and adorable because the little girl was cute and adorable, but the implications of it quickly settled into my restless soul. For the period she was convinced I was God, what did her little eyes see me doing? What did her little ears hear me say, and was there an imprint based upon how I said it? How did it all settle into her little tender instinct and judgment of what she could conclude about God?
 
Likewise, on the issue of race, diversity, inclusion and reconciliation, I’m asking myself, ”What is our younger generation learning from us as they quietly observe, absorb and interpret our actions and non-action, conversations, attitudes, values and our spoken and unspoken priorities? 
 
You can revisit them for yourself, but be reminded that Jesus issued bone-chilling, dire advisories regarding hurt and harm of children. Perhaps a really revealing and simple question I can ask myself is this: “When I’m standing in the brilliant, revealing light of “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; And secondly, love your neighbor (who is everybody I encounter) as yourself (Luke 10:27),” can I credibly claim the first commandment if I’m failing the second commandment? Can we talk?

Randy Haynes is a consultant on staff with NorthStar Church Network, focusing on issues of racism, diversity, and reconciliation. Email him at to join in the conversation.

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No Kissing!

In 1967, Richard and Mildred Loving of Caroline County, VA had cause to celebrate.  Their interracial marriage had previously triggered  a court judgment against them, but their later suit (Loving v. U.S.) resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that outlawed all state statutes that forbade interracial marriage.
 
While laws that forbid discriminatory practices are needed and helpful in a myriad of situations and circumstances, a stubborn ugly truth refuses to bow, and that truth is this: You can’t legislate the human heart nor issue court orders for biases that crawl into the crevices of our broken humanity. So, how are we (the church) doing in the domains of spoken and unspoken thought, values and attitudes about interracial couplings that periodically pop up in and around our holy huddles?  Do we still shoot shady glances of disapproval to interracial couples as they sit in worship? Do we publicly glad-hand them to their faces and then hiss about them behind their backs? Outside of the hearing of parental units, do we utter inappropriate comments to biracial children who may be too young to even discern an inappropriate jab? Do we understand that in some instances in some of our churches, interracial couples feel like ships without a port?
 
Do we proactively teach about the barrier-busting Jesus as a way to help our local church communities be safe places? Do we pensively tolerate racist individuals in the church and use talk of “grace” as an excuse for not addressing their sinful intentionality or poisonous ignorance? Have we consciously thought about seed-planting behavior that influences children for their right now behavior, and how it also (likely) forges the trajectory of their future convictions about diversity, race, inclusion and reconciliation?
 
When man’s bent laws and polluted proclivities contravene God’s laws and expectations, look for the signal and certainty of spiritual warfare.  The question that ricochets around the hurting chamber of my heart is, “Are we truly in the fight, or have we made an unspoken decision to sit this one (issue) out?"

PLEASE (don't) SHUT UP

In my view, one of the problems with our Euro-American church model is that we have too many sleepy heads nodding in the affirmative on a Sunday morning! Most of us have probably experienced what almost amounted to a Sunday morning sleep-in that seemingly only got interrupted by the sound of someone who suddenly had a sneezing fit. Rarely does the preacher upset the place with thinking that triggers spirited conversations among members, and I think in the end, that’s probably not a good thing. Jesus routinely upset both religious and non-religious folk with propositions that required conversation. Most of us know the Word well enough to immediately think of instances when folk got down right upset over something Jesus said.
 
On a recent cool December day, NorthStar’s Annandale site filled up with preachers and lay leaders who were there for a symposium on Race, and not long after it started, the temperature started rising because beautiful members of the body of Christ started verbalizing differing perspectives. In summary, the issue was this: one perspective was that Racism is actually a social and secular construct and the church ought not buy into how the world defines racism because racism is actually only a symptom of SIN (and ultimately, sin is the real issue that needs to be addressed). The other perspective was that we should not quickly bottom line sin, but instead people need to be called out for their racist behavior even though they may not see or understand the sin angle. Furthermore, a conversation needs to specifically address the hurt, pain and injustices that accompany racists' behavior and attitudes that frankly also raise their gnarly, ugly heads in churches just as they do in other venues in life.
 
I completely loved the spirited conversation, first because we so seldom allow ourselves to have spirited debate because we often don’t understand that unity doesn’t need to insist on total agreement. Secondly, I loved the spirited conversation that ricocheted around the four walls of NorthStar’s conference space because those who were in the minority by way of their perspective, felt they were free to express it and they were heard. While there were moments I felt the perspectives could fit an ocean between them, at other moments I felt we just might be closer to a point of fundamental agreement than we may have realized.
 
Some years ago when God summoned me to plant a church, one of our leaders came up with the idea of doing a post service debrief (to start 5 minutes after service ended) with everybody who wanted to comment on the sermon (pro or con) and/or desired to ask me questions about it. I did it for a couple of Sundays, but then it petered out. The reason I felt bad that it quickly petered out was because (in my view) it either signified that my sermons were not kicking up quite enough dust to warrant further analysis and conversation, or perhaps people were not yet at the level where they felt comfortable challenging or asking the pastor to further explain a sermonic comment or thought.
 
Sometime talking takes courage, but it also encourages a needed exchange of listening and contemplation. Let’s not be afraid of tough conversations, because when we’re afraid, it necessarily means we perpetuate “rug sweeping,” and stuff that gets swept under the rug rarely gets to see the light of day and the possibility of revelation. So we should ask, “Are we a people who have chicken hearts that are afraid to have earnest conversations where there may be differing perspectives? Do we care enough about the BIG issues to invest exploration that could possibly lead us to enough of a unified front to actually do something? Will we sit in the spoiled diaper of inaction and DO NOTHING to address the very important issue of how minorities and other disenfranchised people are treated in the world and in our churches? Will we look away, and stubbornly accept the status quo of Sunday morning being the most segregated hour of the week? Can---- We---- Talk?" Email me at  to join me in the conversation.

Randy Haynes is a consultant on staff with NorthStar Church Network, focusing on issues of racism, diversity, and reconciliation.

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