Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams Deception was a Big Deal

My wife and I decided last Friday night do something we rarely do, watch NBC news! We wanted to see if a big deal would be made of Brian Williams' controversial retraction of his Iraq experiences. We watched the entire broadcast, expecting him or NBC to make a statement; yet nothing was said. I wondered if anyone thought Brian Williams' deception was a big deal.

As a church leader, I have personally experienced the results when a pastor chose to act in a similar manner. The response to his lies divided a congregation. It was not pretty as the pages of mistruths, "misrememberings," and outright lies were exposed:
  • On his resume, he omitted every other church he had served to make his tenure appear longer in the ones he listed.
  • He lied about where he attended college.
  • He lied about graduating from semimary.
  • He lied about where he went to high school.
  • He even lied about his middle name. (Not sure why?!)
  • He used his false resume of experiences to encourage the church to raise the salary package before he would come as pastor.
Sadly, there were some people in the congregation who supported this pastor, explaining away his actions by stating, "It shouldn't be a big deal; we know everyone lies on their resume." Still others demanded that he pay back the money he defrauded from the church during his pastorate.

While this might be an extreme example, the issues of lying, exaggerating, and"misremembering" seem to have escalated, even for church leaders. While we can point our fingers and blame the culture or our past, the root cause is and always will be pride.  As church leaders, we must always seek to keep pride in check. Here are just a few ways we can avoid the pitfalls of pride.
  • Don't over-inflate your accomplishments on a resume, in publications, or in stories you tell. Let your accomplishments stand on their own merit.
  • Don't be a name dropper in conversations or stories. Personally, when someone starts dropping names, I quit listening.
  • Don't embellish stories in order to lead people to think that your leadership on church staff was or is greater and grander than reality.
  • Don't sacrifice integrity for the sake of a great story-line.
  • Most of all, we should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6)
An area in which we must be extra careful is in the world of blogs. Once I mentioned to someone my concern that someone in our organization was pretending to be an expert on a church leadership subject in which he had virtually zero success and minimal experience. Yet, this person was speaking on the subject as an expert based on past experiences. Knowing this person's background, I felt the information was misleading. The response to my concern was, "It's not about this person's experience or accomplishments; it is about how many people follow this person's blog. We need his followers."

Should this be a big deal? I believe so. If we proclaim the Truth of Scriptures and wave the banner of integrity to the world, then we must check our own facts and our hearts. If we don't tell the truth, why should anyone desire to embrace The Truth? If we concentrate on making a name for ourselves, why should we expect anyone to embrace the name of Christ?

So, the next time you are updating your resume, telling a story from the pulpit, writing for a publication, or preparing a blog post, make sure you check your facts, your heart, and your memory. Our integrity should be higher than the norm. We should be found blameless and above reproach (see Titus 1:7-9).

Want to learn more from Brian Williams' mistakes? Check out these articles: