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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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Scary Truth

While some will certainly disagree, I like the notion that there are times when white Christian folk need to have a conversation among themselves, and black Christian folk need to have a conversation among themselves. This is of course true for other ethnicities, as well. In the horror film genre, one of the scariest and most notorious lines comes from a realization that the bone chilling phone call is actually coming from “within” the house, not from outside of the house. While it’s a hair on fire revelatory moment, it’s still invaluable information!

Like others, there have been scores of times when I’ve been compelled to do some "in-house" phone calling (so to speak) to strongly annunciate some inconvenient ugly truths I believe the black church community NEEDS to face. Likewise, it’s my view that the white “dominant culture” church community needs to talk among itself about some things, recognize some things, repent from some things and change some things.

The example of Jesus is interesting because He was not only speaking into a new dispensation by way of recognizing the progressive program of God that was unfolding in real time for humankind, He was also pushing against the much beloved cultural biases of His own native culture that needed to re-envision Gentiles as God saw them

Jesus understood that it was necessary to loosen the death grip of perspectives and practices that His beloved fellow Jews held dear. I like the definition of racism offered by Dr. Brian Bales, lead Pastor of Christian Fellowship Church, Ashburn, VA. He says, “Racism is addressing people through their non-given identity by God.”  By calling (so to speak) over and over again from within the house, Jesus held Jew-to-Jew, tense “come to Jesus” meetings, and He did it with holy boldness and without regard to the names He would be called, the prospect of being misunderstood and at risks to His own personal safety. Those in-house conversations had notable impact on the lives of many who chose to swallow the bittersweet pill of those biblical dialogues that expanded their thinking and transformed their lives. Arguably, there are at least a few things we need to talk about, perhaps not exclusively in-house, but nevertheless, in-house.

Whether you agree or disagree, can we still talk? Don’t miss the Dec. 6th NorthStar workshop fellowship on Racism. Registration closes December 3, or when we reach max capacity. Click here for more information or to register.

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The Miseducation of a Black Boy

If not for the early demonstrable love of the white Kindstedt family who grafted me into their family in the 1960s, I would have been more vulnerable to becoming a miseducated black boy. If not for the unapologetic presence of the white community activist who lived in my neighborhood, Father Neil Hastings, who ran outreach programs for inner city black kids, I would have likely become deeply suspicious of any white person I spotted in “the Hood.” If not for a few close friendships I developed in the white evangelical Bible college I started attending in the late 1970s, I would have likely been unable to comfortably minister to and receive ministry from those outside the black church experience. If I had not personally witnessed certain white evangelical leaders nurture the bond of true friendship with my dad who was an inner city pastor, I may have well opted out of multi-ethnic and cross-cultural ministry preaching, teaching and music.
 
If not for the warm inclusive reception I received at a “racially woke white church” during the early 2000s when I desperately needed a sabbatical respite, I might have convinced myself the less than celebrative worship atmosphere, simply could not be digested. If not for a white pastor from NorthStar who intentionally extended the warm hand of friendship to me shortly after I newly arrived to Virginia, I may have chosen to not put in the necessary effort to connect beyond my budding friendships with black pastors in the area. If not for the clearly expressed interest in me by the past and current Executive Director, and their apparent openness to endorse racial equality as one of the Association's priorities, I would have perhaps concluded that NorthStar knew better, but wasn't willing to do better around the race and inclusion issue.
 
Don’t get me wrong; over the many years of my ministry journey there have been plenty of sour, racially tinged troublesome experiences with white Christians, but as signaled above, the just-mentioned experiences helped to keep me from being yet another black man who's convinced that even in the church of Christ, there can never be demonstrable and real movement toward the equality of all of God’s children.
 
If you’re a white person, try NOT to be a contributor to the miseducation of an African American, and if you’re an African American, try NOT to be a contributor to the miseducation of a white person.

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