A Story of Christian Parents During the Columbine Shooting

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I wanted to share a quick passage from Dave Cullen’s incredible book about the Columbine shooting. I've been reading it this week and I've been absolutely blown away.

While the shooting was still happening, parents gathered at the public library to wait for their kids to be transported after being rescued or escaping from the high school. Some students returned unharmed and the parents rejoiced. Other parents waited all day just to discover their child had died.

A Red Cross volunteer at the library witnessed a difference in the way a lot of Christian parents were handling the tragedy.

 

“The way that those families reacted was markedly different. It was like a hundred and eighty degrees from where everybody else was. They were signing; they were praying; they were comforting other parents, especially the parents of Isaiah Shoels [the only African American killed]. They were thinking a lot about the other parents, the other families, and responding a lot to other people’s needs. They were definitely in pain, and you could see it in their eyes, but they were very confident of where their kids were. They were at peace with it. It was like they were a living example of their faith.”

 

This is what being different from the rest of the world is supposed to look like.

I think we cheapen the ways we’re supposed to stand out as Christians. We applaud ourselves for not listening to “that type of music,” seeing “those movies,” saying “bad words.”

But how do we handle our anger? What do we do with our jealousy, regrets, or doubts? What do we do when tragedy strikes? How do we apologize? Are our responses no different from someone who doesn’t know Christ?

I’m not saying we’re not allowed to hurt, grieve, or feel lost. We will all experience dark times. I’m not sharing this passage to shame us for not doing enough.

For me it was so encouraging to read. Look at these parents! When your life is centered around Christ it is possible to share hope and compassion with others while you’re going through the same tragedy.

I want to be like them.

3 Reasons to Evaluate Church Events

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Earlier I asked if your church evaluates big events. Here are 3 reasons why an evaluation meeting can be so important.

 

WE GAIN PERSPECTIVE 

It might not be until you’re in a meeting with your team, hearing everyone’s experience at the event, that you realize not a single person noticed the little mistakes you’ve been kicking yourself over all week. You’ve been so zoomed in you didn’t notice how successful the big picture was!

 

WE CAN CELEBRATE EACH OTHER 

So often in ministry, the moment an event is over we’re focused on what’s next. It’s important to take a moment, pause, share our wins, our stories, and encouragement with each other.

 

WE CAN MAKE OUR NEXT EVENT EVEN BETTER 

What did we learn? What did we try this time that we want to change for next time? If we don’t look at it now, we’re dooming ourselves to repeating it next time.

 

How do you evaluate big events?

If you’re looking for something easy to use I have a simple EVENT EVALUATION GUIDE that can help give some direction as you take notes and unpack your latest event.

Hey Pastors, How Was Easter?

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When I think about planning big events for the church, two quotes come to mind:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

It’s so important to unpack and evaluate an event in the weeks after it’s all over.

There’s so much we can learn from every event we do. It can shape and influence the next outreach or conference on the calendar. It can completely change how you approach the same event next year.

For most of us the dust just settled from Easter.

How’d it go?

The whole thing is still fresh in our minds so it’s the perfect time to sit down with our team and evaluate the whole thing.

I’ve been working on resources for churches who bring me in for big events and one of the things I wanted to create was super simple EVALUATION GUIDE that can help give some direction as you walk through the details of your last event.

It's simple and barebones on purpose. I just wanted to make an easy guide for when you meet with leaders to talk through how things went.

What is a real apology?

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Up until a few years ago most people thought Domino’s pizza was garbage. The company was losing business, closing stores, and failing fast.

Then they did something risky. They admitted how much they sucked. They ran an ad campaign that basically said “Hey, we know everyone hates our pizza! We know you think the crust tastes like cardboard! We hear you and we’re fixing it. We’ve entirely changed how we make our pizza because we don’t want to suck anymore.”

It worked. Two days after the commercial started airing their sales were already growing. By week three they were running out of pepperoni. IT WAS A HUGE HIT.

Why did this work so well?

Domino’s CEO, J. Patrick Doyle, put it this way:

 
If somebody is going to convince you they’re going to change it has to start with them absolutely owning the problem in the first place.
 

Shout out to the CHANGE AGENT podcast for telling this story about Domino's.

True repentance starts with owning the thing you’re needing to change.

Over the last several months we’ve seen a LOT of men in Hollywood giving some pretty bogus “apologies” for sexual misconduct. They deny, they downplay, they blame the culture, they point fingers. It always feels like their main goal in responding to accusations is to save their own neck.

Except for Dan Harmon, creator of Community and Rick & Morty. Everyone needs to learn from Domino’s and Dan Harmon (this is a weird sentence I never thought I’d write).

In January Harmon was accused of sexual harassing one of his employees while working on Community. He addressed it on his own podcast that week and spent 7 minutes OWNING THE PROBLEM.

Here’s an excerpt:

 
And I lied to myself the entire time about it. And I lost my job. I ruined my show. I betrayed the audience. I destroyed everything and I damaged her internal compass. And I moved on. I’ve never done it before and I will never do it again, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had any respect for women. On a fundamental level, I was thinking about them as different creatures. I was thinking about the ones that I liked as having some special role in my life and I did it all by not thinking about it. So, I just want to say, in addition to obviously being sorry, but that’s really not the important thing, I want to say I did it by not thinking about it and I got away with it by not thinking about it. And if she hadn’t mentioned something on Twitter, I would have continued to not have to not think about it, although I did walk around with my stomach in knots about it, but I wouldn’t have had to talk about it.
 

Read the whole thing here

It was a real apology. It wasn’t a PR move. And it was effective. After listening to the episode, woman who accused him tweeted.

His apology brought healing and change because of Dan Harmon chose to be vulnerable.

Andy Savage is a pastor in Tennessee who addressed his own past sexual misconduct during a Sunday morning service. The New York Times did a HEARTBREAKING video with the woman Savage took advantage of back when she was just a teenager and he was her pastor. They get her reaction to his apology and it makes you realize how weak it really is. 

WATCH THE VIDEO (I’ll warn you that there’s one line in the video that is pretty graphic)

At first I just wanted to write about the church in general. I wanted to write "we need to be better at this" over and over and over. I wanted to question if we were setting a culture where people respond in church with quick PR statements to make themselves feel better or if true repentance was the norm. I wanted to write stuff like "if we understand the gospel and how crazy grace really is" and so on and so on.

But then I realized I wanted to focus on that because I didn’t want to have to examine myself. I’ve hurt people with my words and the stuff I’ve done. I’ve been selfish and stupid. I’ve sinned. BIG sins. How do I talk about them with myself, my closest friends, with God, or with the people I’ve hurt?

Have I made real apologies? Am I owning the problem so I can make a real change? Am I willing to be messy and seek forgiveness?

Do I need to be better at this? Do I need to be better at this?

Is a pizza company better at seeking forgiveness than a Christian?

Van Life Memories

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Quick recap of where I’m at in life:

3 years ago I bought a minivan to live in while I performed across the country

Last week I found out the engine was ruined and I needed to get a new vehicle

I took this as a little push from God to enter a new “season of ministry” so I opened a Patreon to raise monthly financial support for my ministry

So far people have been more than generous and it’s all blown me away

I spent all day yesterday at a car dealership. I got a new vehicle and got rid of the van.

My time as “Taylor Johnson, comedian who lives in his van” is over. It feels strange to say goodbye. I spent so much of the last three years in that van.

For most people “living in a van” sounds so strange and sad and horrible but it wasn’t bad at all. I got used to it real fast and it became my new normal.

 

ANSWERING QUESTIONS

Honestly the worst part of living in my van was telling people I lived in my van. I got the same questions over and over. “Why?” “Where do you shower?” “Where do you sleep?” “You live in a van….DOWN BY THE RIVER?!” I got these questions so often I started to make videos to answer them for everyone.

Here’s a playlist of all those videos

 

SELF DEFENSE

People also asked me if I had a gun in my van but no one ever really bothered me when I was parked at night. Once a cop wanted to see if I was dead or doing something horrible but when he found out I was just sleeping, he left me alone. Another time a security guard told me I couldn’t park where I was and told me to go to the bank across the street to sleep.

Besides that, I was totally left alone. But if I did need to fight for myself, I guess I did have one line of defense: a cup.

 

NEW EXPERIENCES

Living in my van came with all these new experiences I would have never had otherwise. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and into some weird places. 

I have a membership to Planet Fitness and that’s where I’d shower every morning while living in my van. My most popular video on youtube came from a new experience I thought I’d try while stopping at a Planet Fitness on the road.

I decided to try a tanning bed. It was weird.

 

My new car is a Nissan Rogue. It’s not big enough to sleep in. The more I think about it, the more I know I’m going to miss the van life. It was simple. It was fun. I could go anywhere without worrying about where I could take a nap.

I know God has a plan. I know nothing lasts forever. I know that change will always come. Goodbye, van. I pooped my pants at least 3 times while living in you. No one can ever take those memories away.

Amen.

Leap of Faith

I really loved this short documentary from the New York Times where they just filmed people about to jump off a 10 meter diving board. It’s so simple but it’s FASCINATING and funny and heart warming.

Some people overcame their fears, some chickened out, and one guy kept telling his girlfriend that he wasn’t listening to a word she was saying because he was so scared.

I don’t know if I’d be able to do it.

I’m so scared of heights.

The moment I got up there I'd have to immediately jump off. No pausing, no looking over the edge first, and no hesitating. If I were to hesitate even for just a moment, I’d be stuck up there forever. End of story.

You even see this happen to a few people in the video. They’re ready to do it until that brief flash of doubt, and then it takes them a long time to work up the courage again.

A few years ago I made a video about this VERY SUBJECT.

I used it as an illustration. I was talking about how the moment you decide you need to do something, do it right then and there. Don’t hesitate. You’ll get nervous and talk yourself out of it.  Like the moment you know you need to end a relationship, confront that friend, ask for help, apply for that job, have that tough conversation, etc etc etc. I couldn’t think of anymore examples.

I hope it's obvious I'm not saying "DON'T EVER THINK ABOUT STUFF! MAKE EVERY DECISION IMMEDIATELY! FOLLOW YOUR FIRST INSTINCT NO MATTER WHAT! SET STUFF ON FIRE IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT!" I'm talking about those moments where you've already made up your mind, you've thought about it, and you're confident you know what the right thing to do is BUT it still feels scary to actually step out and do it.

My goal in life is to close the gap between when God tells me to do something and when I actually do it. I get nervous. I try to talk myself out of big steps of faith. I hesitate and then it takes a while to get that courage back and actually jump.

This week I “jumped” into a new season of ministry. I set up a Patreon to raise monthly support so I can continue performing in churches and school assemblies without having to be a huge financial burden on the churches wanting to bring me in. I’ve been standing at the edge, hesitating on this for several months now. I wasn’t going to jump but God gave me a push. I found out the van I had been traveling had a busted engine, and the whole vehicle was ruined.

That made me jump.

I’m still in the air. Don’t know where I’m landing.

But I’m glad I jumped.

A Big Scary Change for Me

Well folks, things sure have changed in my life lately.

I think God ruined my van to force me to trust Him in this next season of ministry.

This week I opened a Patreon as a way for people to support me and my ministry. I’d love to get to a place where I can speak in as many churches and schools as possible without having to be a huge financial burden.

Patreon is almost like an ongoing Kickstarter.

You can pledge at different amounts ($2, $5, $10, $15, $25, $50) and at each level there are different rewards.

With monthly support I’ll be able to reach more audiences, make more free resources, and increase the quality of all my projects.

Please pray for me, check out the video, look over my Patreon page, and reach out to me if you have any questions.

Thank you.

In Person vs. Through a Screen: A HUGE Problem Facing our Culture

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It’s not the same when it’s through a screen.

No one who watched the Super Bowl in their living room would claim they had the same experience as the people who were in the arena.

I still don’t understand why people at concerts record a million videos to post on instagram. Who is that for? You can’t tell what’s happening and the audio is so blown out and terrible. I’m not getting anything out of this. Why? Because it’s not the same when it’s through a screen.

Ever seen a video of a soldier coming home and surprising their loved ones? The family goes nuts. They’re so emotional and excited and overwhelmed. But why, though? The majority of these soldiers have had internet access while overseas. They’ve been able to text, e-mail, and FaceTime. They’ve been able to stay connected. 

But it’s not the same when it’s through a screen.

Nothing beats the live the experience. It’s true for the Super Bowl and it’s true for relationships.

This is becoming a serious issue in America. Back in November the Washington Post shared an article from Jean Twenge called “Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use.”

Here’s what she says:

Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: Teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

This is not just a youth problem. They’re not the only ones with their heads down, staring at phones all day. They’re not the only ones living out relationships through a screen.

It’s hurting us. We’re missing out on genuine connection.

The greatest way to love someone and give them what they need today is to look them in the eye.

Call someone up, make plans, sit across from them, and look them in the eye.