confession

With Apologies to Dave Ramsey

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 5.03.01 PM.png

The following is an excerpt from my new book, In the Altogether: Trusting God with All We Hide From the World. This is a story I tell in the chapter on the importance of opening up about what’s going on. You can’t deal with a problem unless you’re willing to talk about it.


It's important to remember that there's not a clear cut list of subjects that everyone is always uncomfortable talking about. Some people are ok with opening up about their love lives while others get really nervous. Some are willing to totally own mistakes from their past, others try to pretend they never happened. Some people have no fear at all talking about financial troubles while others, LIKE ME, chicken out.

I'm terrible with money, and I hate talking about it. Dave Ramsey, if you're reading this, get ready to rip someone else's hair out at this story. I'm so sorry.

Ever since I started traveling and speaking full time, I've had to deal with all of the responsibilities that come with being self-employed. I'm my own boss, which is a problem because I'm a terrible boss. A real pushover. It's so easy to convince my boss to let me have the day off for no reason.

I have to be the one who pushes me to work hard. I'm the one in charge of keeping things organized. I have to stay on top of my finances. Or at least try to.

My primary financial strategy is what I like to call "Out of Sight–Out of Mind." Here's what you do: never check your bank account. Ever. Assume you're completely broke and silently freak out every day as you try to spend as little money as possible. At the end of the month, you're allowed to check your account balance once.

Hopefully, the strategy worked, and you'll actually have a lot more money in there than you thought.

Awesome.

Congratulations.

Reward yourself by taking all that extra cash you didn't know you had and spend it recklessly on any dumb thing you want. You'll probably spend too much, and then you'll be too scared to check your bank account to see what you have left. That's perfect. Now you're ready to start the cycle over for the next month.

Is it a perfect system? Of course not. It's so stupid. It rarely works out in my favor. Sometimes you'll check your bank account and realize you weren't worried enough and you have even less money than you thought. In those moments the best thing to do is, take a second, breathe in, and freak out harder than you ever have before because you're in so much trouble!

Having no money is actually a really great motivation to work harder. Sometimes (I'm about to sound like the biggest idiot so get ready, Mr. Ramsey) I'll feel like I need to kick my butt out of being lazy so I'll go buy some big expensive thing I don't really need for the sole purpose of making me a little poorer.

Let's see you work your way out of this one, Taylor, I think as I spend $200 on a microphone for my camera that doesn't really sound much better than the $70 microphone I've been using.

I know these are all terrible financial strategies. The main reason I haven't tried anything else is that I know it would require having to ask someone for help. That's so embarrassing. I've been my own boss for almost a decade. You'd think I'd have it figured out by now.

But that's just part of the reason I don't want to reach out to someone. The other part is what REALLY paralyzes me.

If I were to get help, there would come a moment where the other person says, "I'd be glad to help. Tell me about how you've been handling money so far." Then I'd have to look them in the eye and describe what I've just told you. And then I'll have to watch their reaction, whatever that may be. They could laugh in my face. They might yell at me and call me an idiot. They could look down on me for acting like a child and never take me seriously as an adult again. Picturing someone's reaction has always been the main reason I've kept it to myself.

That's also true for my taxes. Being self-employed means, I don't have The Man taking taxes out of every paycheck. Not only do I have to be my own boss but I have to be my own The Man. The last few years I've filed my taxes by myself and...I think I'm doing them, right? I have no idea. I'm winging it. Making it up as I go along with some BOLD guesses on the right way to do it.

My catchphrase as I submit my completed tax form to the government is, "Welp. Let's see if I'm going to jail!"

So far, so good.

Maybe I'm so poor I'm not even on the IRS' radar?

Oh no. I just had a thought. 

What if this book becomes a huge hit and I make millions off it? The IRS is going to read this and come after me! I can't have that. I need to make sure this book doesn't become a giant success. I have to do whatever it takes to make sure it isn't a #1 best seller (so if this book comes out and it isn't a smash hit, just know that my plan worked. It was on purpose).

After a while, my tax strategy of "Guess Until You Go to Jail" started affecting me. Whenever tax season would approach, my anxiety would intensify. My mom must have noticed because she recommended I visit a financial advisor who handles taxes for small businesses. I put off setting up an appointment for a long time. Again, I was terrified of what her reaction would be when I told her about my taxes. What if she yelled at me? What if I make her so mad she throws up? Is that possible?

I knew there was some hardcore vulnerability waiting for me at that appointment when I finally called and set it up. It was terrifying. I was already preparing myself for the meeting going badly. I thought if her reaction was too much to handle I'd just immediately leave, never file my taxes again, go off the grid, cut up my social security card, hitchhike to Alaska, and probably die by accidentally eating poison berries.

I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE WEAKNESSES!

I want to be perfect and have it all figured out! It's so frustrating that I'm not and I don't. I'm far from that. The IRS is going to find out and eat me alive!

When I sat down in the financial advisor's office, about to open up about my problem, I started by letting her know what I was thinking at that moment. 

"I have no idea how big of a mess my taxes are. I'm scared I've been doing them wrong, but I've also dreaded coming to you because I don't want you to get mad at me. Please don't freak out. Please be gentle."

She agreed and braced herself as she asked me questions.

"Did you do your taxes last year?"

"Yes."

"Did you owe money?"

"Yes."

"Did you pay it?"

"Yes."

"Did you do that the year before?"

"Yes."

"OK. Well, you're actually doing way better than a lot of the people who come into my office. I get people haven't paid their taxes in fourteen years, so don't worry."

I was blown away. Fourteen years?! That's wild.

That meeting lifted a few different burdens off of my shoulders. I found out my situation wasn't the worst this lady had ever seen. It was pretty small when you compare it to what it could have been. After that initial relief, she walked me through some simple next steps I needed to take to keep my taxes on track. I thought it was going to be so much more work. Nope, I left with a list of three things I needed to do. That's it.

She helped me shine a light on the monster that was hiding in the corner of my mind. When I got a good look at it for the first time, I realized I could actually take this thing on. That would have never happened if I didn't walk into that vulnerable moment of admitting why I needed help. Up until that meeting, I was desperately trying to become the man people already thought I was. I put on a good face and made everyone think I had it all together. But I was able to find the hope of change when I laid that aside.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are saved from having to pretend. 

More about the book

Comedian Taylor Johnson has written a hilarious and honest book on one of the most uncomfortable topics for Christians: vulnerability.

This is not like any Christian book you’ve ever read. It’s weird. It’s funny. Some bizarre true stories and illustrations will catch you off guard. Taylor Johnson’s unique approach is all on purpose to help us get comfortable looking at our shame, our secrets, and our fears around opening up. Yes, it’s scary to share, but because of Jesus, it doesn’t have to be.

Available on Amazon

3 Questions About The Comedy Outreach Event

In a previous post I shared 3 questions to ask when planning your next church event. I thought I’d answer them about my 3 night comedy outreach event.

Why this?

It is a totally unique approach to outreach. We’ve never done anything like this before and it’s important to try new things.

We all know people who are closed off when you invite them to a church service but they might be more open to an invitation to a free comedy show.

It’s an event the whole church can get behind, bringing together youth and adults.

It’s be a great way to open conversations within the church about vulnerability and the importance of being open and honest about what’s going on in your life and it’ll train the congregation on how to be there for each other and bear each others burdens.

It’s an event that tackles heavy issues in a way that doesn’t feel scary or intimidating. The laughter makes it all more approachable.

Why here?

If we want to see growth, discipleship, and stronger community in our church we need to start with an emphasis on confession. Community is built when our walls come down and we let people in to our lives and see us for who we are, mess and all.

If we want people to know Jesus can pull them out of the darkness of their struggles, first they need to know it’s ok for them to admit they’re struggling in the first place.

Why now?

This one depends on when you want to schedule the event.

Maybe you’re wanting to relaunch small groups and this could be a great event to get people plugged in. Maybe it’s in the Spring and you want to have a big exciting event to announce to all the new people who show up on Easter Sunday.

You know what God is doing in your church this year. You know the best place for an event like this to fit in.

I really believe in this event. It’s the most effective way I partner with churches for comedy shows. I’d love to be a part of what you’re doing in your community.

To book an event, contact me.

Confession Isn't Enough

 

“It does give you a good feeling to know that there’s something that you can do to help you become the master of the mad that you feel.”

 

My shows end with a message on the importance of confession but that message alone is empty of hope.

“You’re allowed to talk about how messed up you are” isn’t enough.

“What you’re going through right now doesn’t have to be forever. There are real things that you can do that can change your situation.” That’s the stuff right there.

I hope I’m making it clear that healing doesn’t end with confession, it begins. Once you open up you can begin to address and deal with the issue that you’ve been hiding.

It really is a good feeling to know I can be the master of the mad that I feel. You’re right again, Mister Rogers.

3 Night Comedy Event in Little Rock

 
ar promo 1.png
 

I’m speaking in Little Rock tonight through Friday. Crystal Hills Assembly of God is hosting my 3 night outreach events (I need to come up with a good name for this thing).

Tonight I preached on confession.

Tomorrow night I’ll do a very simple training on how to handle conversations on confession.

Friday night is a big fun comedy show that ends with a message. It’s the perfect event to bring friends and family who might not normally attend your church.

I really love getting to do the 3 night event. It gives me the chance to really connect with and invest in the church where I’m performing. Tonight was all about sharing the heart behind the outreach and getting people excited about inviting their friends. Tomorrow night we’ll equip the church to be prepared for the response that could happen, and it’s all leading up to Friday.

It’s the best. I say it a lot but I really think it’s the most effective way to use comedy as a ministry in the local church.

Want to bring this to your church in 2019? Contact me.

Scratching the Surface

 
46902115_1988110747948199_4025324060836626432_o.jpg
 

I have learned so much about confession over the last few years. Some times when I speak at a church I get frustrated because of all the stuff I have to cut out so I don’t talk for 6 hours straight. I barely get to scratch the surface. That’s why I’m excited to create resources that can continue the conversation long after I’m gone and I’ll be able to do that with the help of your support through Patreon.

 
unspecified.jpeg
 

These are the notebooks I’ve been filling with everything I want to share.

At the beginning of last year I started getting lunch with pastors and counselors to ask a million questions (a few months ago I saw a tweet making fun of the fact that white bros love saying “I want to pick your brain” so I’m trying to avoid that term here), and after every lunch I’d immediately write down everything I could remember from the conversation.

It’s been cool to develop my teachings on confession and putting what I’ve learned into my own words. I can’t wait for this to turn into a book. I wish it would do that magically on its own without me having to do any work. I wish.

Patreon isn’t magic but it’ll help make this possible.

Visit my Patreon.

The Trap of Shame

THERE IS NOTHING IN YOUR LIFE THAT WOULD EVER MAKE JESUS CHANGE HIS MIND ABOUT YOU..png

Brene Brown defines shame as "the fear of disconnection.” It’s the fear that asks “is there something about me that if other people know it or see it I won’t be worthy of connection?”

I don’t know if the church talks enough about the power of shame to ruin our relationship with Christ.

Sin separates us from God but shame traps us in hiding.

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit they realized they made a horrible mistake. First they tried to hide themselves from each other by making some clothes. Then they tried to hide from God. Which was…a dumb move. How can you hide from God? But when you’re in a shame panic you’re not thinking.

Here’s the real question: WHY would they try to hide from God? Answer: Because they were afraid of how He would react. That’s why we hide anything from anyone. We don’t want to see them flip out, get angry, break down crying, or start uncontrollably anger vomiting (people do that, right?).

Eventually they come out of hiding and face up to God. They spill the beans on their sin, waiting and wincing at what might come next. He had EVERY RIGHT to turn His back, reject, destroy them, and start over. But the first words out of God were words of love.

“I’m going to fix this.”

 

The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

 

Genesis 3:15 is known as the protoevangelium, the first gospel. It’s the first time Jesus is mentioned in the Bible. God is saying “sin has separated man from me but through a descendant of Eve I will bring reconciliation.”

That’s how God responds.

It makes the hiding seem like a waste of time, right? They were just putting off an encunter with God’s love and grace.

Shame traps us in hiding.

We think there’s something about us that if it were to ever come out, it would be impossible for Jesus to love us. So we hide. And yeah, the thing we're hiding might be terrible and wrong and destructive to our life, but how is hiding going to fix it? It’s not a real solution. We're just putting off the consequences until later. We're making it a problem for Future Us to deal with.

You can’t deal with a problem unless you admit the problem exists. You can’t hear “I’m going to fix this” until you come out of hiding and admit that something’s broken.

I don’t have to be afraid of God’s reaction. There’s nothing in my life that would ever make me unlovable to Him. I can’t surprise Him. He won’t change His mind about me. He said He loves me, He’ll forgive me, He’ll heal me, and He’ll give me new life. There’s nothing I can do that would make Him take it back.

And that’s truly wild. Because I HORRIBLE on my own. He has every right to abandon me. But His grace is more than enough. I don’t deserve it. He just offers it because of who He is.

So why hide? What good is that doing? Step out into the light. Open up.

This is true about Christ and it’s also who He designed the church to be. The church is supposed to represent Christ on Earth. You want to see how Jesus responds to your brokenness and shame? Look to the church. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Find someone who represents Christ that you trust and take that first brave step into the light.

There’s nothing you can bring to the light that is too big and can’t be covered by God’s grace.

No More Altar Calls

IMG_2468.jpg

I don’t do traditional altar calls any more.

If I’m doing comedy at a church and ending with a message on confession, I will close by having leaders line up on the sides of the auditorium.

I’ll say something like this:

 

“We’re about to dismiss. If you’re good, if things are going great in your life and you feel like this message wasn’t for you right now, when I dismiss I just ask that you quietly and respectfully exit. Feel free to leave or hang out in the lobby.

But if you’re in here and you feel like you need to talk to someone, pray, or you’re just not ready to move on, I want you to stay in your seat. You don’t have to get up or move around. When I dismiss, just hang out where you’re at.”

 

When people start to exit, leaders can see who is sticking around, sit down next to them, and ask them how they’re doing.

Let everyone else leave. Let those who need to stick around.

It’s PERFECT! It solves so many problems.

No one feels the weird pressure of having to get up and walk to the front.

You don’t have to worry about everyone who didn’t respond just sitting around waiting for people to stop crying so service can be over.

With the auditorium mostly empty, there’s plenty of space for these conversations to happen privately and people can take as long as they need.

I stole this from Matt Stumpf who is the youth pastor at Creekwood Church in Mansfield, TX. He told me he loves this approach because you get to show students that we’re willing to meet them where they are.

I think that’s beautiful.

So far it has been wildly effective. I’ve done it with youth, young adults, and shows for the whole church.

If you’re going to preach on a sensitive topic and want to give people a chance to connect with someone about what they’re going through, it’s worth trying this out at least once.

If you’re interested in hosting a comedy show outreach, I’m starting to book spring 2019 right now. Feel free to contact me.

Taylor Johnson's Sermon From SAGU Chapel

This last week I got to do an event at Southwestern Assembly of God University. I'm still replaying the whole thing in my mind because it was all just too cool to be true.

I spoke in chapel in the morning and did a free comedy show on campus that night.

Was I nervous to speak in chapel? Yes. Absolutely. I was terrified.

1. I graduated from this school. I sat in chapel for 4 years. I remember what it felt like when there was a great speaker and when there was terrible one. What if I’m one of the bad one?!

2. The way I thought I was supposed to end my sermon felt so risky to me. I kept asking God to confirm that this was His idea and not mine, because if it was mine there was a chance it would crash and burn and be a disaster.

3. I had a comedy show on campus that night. I knew chapel was going to be a bit of an audition. If I bombed in the morning then there was no way anyone would come to the show. I had to bring 100% if I wanted any sort of audience. 

But the students in chapel wiped all those fears away. They were on board for everything. They bravely responded to the end of the message. And we had around 500 people at the show that night!

It was awesome.

I'm so happy I was able to take the type of event I do for churches and adapt it for Christian colleges. It would be so cool if this opened more doors at more schools. I love speaking to college students.

What Are We Allowed to Joke About?

I’ve really been dreading social media the last couple of days. There’s A LOT going on in our culture and everyone has a strong opinion about everything. 

But it’s not the opinions I’m trying to avoid on Facebook, it’s the jokes.

Last year I created a video series called HOW TO LEAD A CULTURE OF CONFESSION. I believe we are all constantly auditioning to be the type of person someone feels comfortable opening up to. How we handle certain situations will let others know if they can trust us with what’s really going on in their life.

We have to be careful with what we joke about.

This isn’t me trying to police every word out of people’s mouths. I don’t want to make blanket statements that you can NEVER make a joke or laugh about anything close to this subject or that one.

I just want us all to be careful.

I think the most important question you can ask yourself is: “why do I feel comfortable making this joke?”

A flippant joke about killing yourself, eating disorders, assault, or spousal abuse (all things I’ve heard joked about at church events) might be the thing that pushes someone away from opening up to you.

They might be suffering in silence with something from their past and the joke you made let them know you believe that no one around you is struggling with that, so it was ok to make the joke. If no one else is dealing with it, they must be the only one. And if they’re the only one, no one will understand. So it’s better to keep it locked up inside.

Be careful.

Paul was willing to give up meat that he had absolutely no problem eating if it might cause weaker Christians to stumble. Are you willing to sacrifice a joke?

WANT MORE?

If you’re interested in the rest of my series, HOW TO LEAD A CULTURE OF CONFESSION, check out all 4 parts.

Video # 1 | Everyone Has a Story

Video #2 | What We Joke About

Video #3 | Dealing with Gossip

Video #4 | Sharing Your Story

Why Struggles Never Get Addressed

brokencarengine.jpg

You can’t fix a problem unless you’re willing to admit the problem exists.

Imagine you’re at your car mechanic waiting for them to finish your oil change when this old, ugly, busted down car pulls into the parking lot. There’s smoke coming from the engine, one of the tires is flat, and there are weird smells and weird noises everywhere.

The manager goes out to talk to the driver and asks “What can we do for you?”

“Nah. I’m good.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. Everything is great.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the car?”

“Nope.”

Meanwhile the car sounds like a sick donkey trying to clear its throat.

The car will not get the help and attention it needs until the owner is willing to say “I think there’s something wrong. Can you fix it?”

If you go to the doctor and never tell them you’ve had pain in your stomach for 2 months and you cry blood, you will never get a diagnosis, and you’ll never get the help you need.

Confession is so important because it is where all meaningful growth and change begins. It’s the first step. Once the issue is in the open you begin to deal with it.

The Mister Rogers quote I use all the time is “if it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” If you can talk about it, you can deal with it.

A lot of times we’re willing to admit the problem is exists (to ourselves) but we’re not willing to accept how big the problem is. We think we can handle it on our own. ‘There’s no need to bother anyone else about this. I’ll fix it myself.” If we think we can handle these issues on our own, we should have to set a deadline for ourselves. How long are you going to try to deal with something on your own before you’re willing to say “I guess this isn’t working.”

In their book Recovering Redemption Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer talk about why it is foolish to look to ourselves for salvation from our problems.

 

The truth is (and come on now, you know this) you would be hard-pressed to find anyone—AN-Y-ONE—over the course of your lifetime who has lied to you, and fought you, and failed you, and disgusted you more than you have. Right? And that’s the person you’re counting on to come to your rescue? That’s the one who’s going to figure it all out and turn things around for you? Serious? An improved version of you?

 

There’s no problem too big or too small for Christ. There’s no way to deal with the problem until you admit it exists. And God has given us the church, his body, our family to help carry us through redemption and healing. We should never try to go through it alone.