What Pastors can learn from Brian Williams

The whole Brian Williams fib-telling fiasco is really, really sad to me. He seemed human, even a likeable guy, and it was tough to hear the whole story play out. Williams claimed that he misremembered traumatic events while on assignment, and the one most discussed is the one that got him suspended: his claim that he was on a helicopter that was shot at and forced down. Well, we all now know that he was not in the helicopter that was shot down, but instead was in another helicopter far 14236788114686_700behind- like 45 minutes behind. In other words, he was literally barely on the radar. No doubt, Brian Williams was caught and called out on a lie, and in the process, became an instant celebrity in some very funny internet memes.

Williams was at the top of his game: he had the coveted anchor chair, the role of managing editor, and nationwide fame as one of the most trusted in the country. Now, his endless retelling of a false story over a period of several years has caused him to sink to the 835th position, according to a recent poll by the NY Times. Actually, I am surprised that he didn’t fall even further down the list.

All in all, I hate this for Brian Williams and I hope that he is indeed repentant as some have reported. Even more, I’m not sure of his spiritual condition, but I hope that the gospel of Christ is eminent in his life.  Yet there is always something that we can learn from these sort of events. Specifically, what can pastors learn from this? Let me give a few thoughts:

  • Credibility matters. Communicators of a message must be credible. For pastors, the communication of the true Truth of God’s Word is horribly tainted when exaggerations and even lies spew from the pulpit. This means that the preaching of truth mixed with the telling of fake stories or personal exaggerations does a severe disservice to the advancement of the gospel. Preachers who use unverifiable illustrations found on the internet or in books need to stop. 
  • Humanity matters. I believe that personal stories that make you seem almost superhuman to your church hurts your message too. Please don’t read this wrong: absolutely be the example of how others should walk, yet have a healthy realization that you are not a “Super Christian.” Hopefully your church knows that, and appreciates even more the grace that is displayed when God uses an imperfect messenger such as yourself. In other words, be human.
  • Humility matters. This relates to the first two thoughts above. The issue with lying is that it is always about the self. A person usually lies to puff themselves up before others. Apparently, it was almost a joke in the NBC Newsroom that William’s continued his lie-telling to beef up his bio. This Hemmingwayesque attempt to look tough seemed ridiculous, but this is what an egotistical narrative does: it lifts up the self and pride runs rampant. Pastors especially have to watch for this issue, and pride unchecked is a disastrous thing.
  • Repentance matters. One of the worst parts of the Williams saga is his non-apology apology. He took out time to make an apology that to many didn’t seem to own up to that fact that he lied. Not misremembered, but lied. Okay, we have all lied, yet, nothing changes the course of things like repentance. True repentance from the heart to a God who forgives all sins begins the process of healing. Pastors who blow it (whether it’s a lie or anything else) need to quickly repent, apologize, and move on to restoration.
  • Christ matters. The truth of the gospel is not about you. The truth of the gospel is about Jesus. As John the Baptist famously said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When Christ is elevated and you are lowered, He is presented as who He should be: the Savior of the world, who is coming again to redeem His creation in glory. Remember that as you conduct yourself.

There’s some of my thoughts. Are there any other principles that you might add?

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