After submitting my elder examination, my oral exam was last Monday night, the day before my birthday. To put it simply, I blew it. It was so bad that I cried as I drove home. I was examined by three of the seven elders and they were mostly asking me questions involving hypothetical situations concerning identifying sin, counseling, and restoring members. I was presented with what-if-I-see-this scenarios and I had to explain how I would react, what I would say to the person, and how I would help them. The three gentlemen were very gracious and were really trying to get me to answer in a particular way, but I was nervous and I couldn’t get a read on what type of angle they were getting at. In the end, there was absolutely no way I could have studied or prepared for what I had experienced because I don’t think I was trained much in applying the theology that was taught and the oral exam was was more about what I believed in Jesus than anything else, and apparently what I believe in Jesus is incorrect.
After the one hour exam, I walked out dejected because I knew I said something “wrong”. Three days later, I met with Pastor Ro and two other elders and he said that my “gospel-orientation was off” because I have a “too high view of sin”, and because of that, the session was not going to recommend me to the congregation to be elected as an elder. In particular, during my oral examination I was asked about how I would handle a church member if I saw them smoking, what I would think, what I would say, and if I would bring up charges against them. I was sort of taken aback by the last part, but I said it was sin if the person was addicted because they had made an idol out of it and that I would try to help the person repent and stop. I didn’t know what to say about the charges. During my debrief, Pastor Ro said that he occasionally smokes cigars and that I was falsely interpreting scripture because the Bible doesn’t speak about smoking at all, and because we don’t know, we can’t judge and therefore it is permissible. From what I gather, smoking isn’t a sin in of itself, but it can lead to sin such as idolatry. More personally, during my interview I told the session that I believed my habit and hobby of purchasing useless action figures is sin because it’s an idol in my life, but I was countered with that aspect being more of a freedom of choice than sin. Well, I thought that I made it clear that I believed the habitual and idolic nature of smoking and buying unnecessary amounts of toys was sin, but I suppose I wasn’t clear, or perhaps I’m wrong. However, I currently still stand by what I said based on what John Piper says, which is basically the same as I had stated. And it’s not as if I have aligned my views to what I researched after my exam, but I vividly remember reading and connecting with this article when it was published in 2008, and since then I’ve always held the same belief. Moreover, I do admit that I have a very high view of sin, but only because if something does not give glory to God, then it is sin which leads me to believe much of what we do is sin such as watching television and movies, aimlessly surfing the internet, purchasing items that we don’t need or in excess of, etc. However, I know that, as a believer, I am covered by grace and it is not something that I beat myself over, but in the name of repentance, I do think and fight about such things when I am in those situations. Regardless, I didn’t argue or present my case for an appeal in front of Pastor Ro at all, but I simply just took it all in.
To smooth things out, Pastor Ro made it plainly clear that I am entirely accepted and loved by God, that I am not broken goods, that he appreciated me and how God has used me as a diaconate, and that I was an excellent diaconate servant, but because I identify and judge sin so harshly, such was not that of an elder. This was God’s way of saying I’m not called, and that maybe I can become one years from now. I stopped Pastor Ro at that point and said that I didn’t want anyone to think I have that notion or expectation. To a certain degree, I was fine with all of that and understood where the session was coming from, but it caught me off guard because I thought the session would have an issue with my lack of knowledge of scripture which would hinder me from guarding the truth or not being able to counsel effectively, but it wasn’t anything that I can or can’t do, but more about my view and belief in Christ, and because of that the rejection hurt so much more.
I was thankful that the session was very thoughtful in walking me through the end process to avoid any embarrassment as it was relayed to the congregation that I withdrew my nomination, which was true, but it was only because the process prevented the session, under normal circumstances, from stopping me from continuing onto the election part. If I had chosen to continue, the session would have implored the members to not vote for me. So it was true that I voluntarily dropped out, but it was because the session rejected me. And no matter how this went down, it’s still embarrassing to be the first LFCC officer candidate to fail the exam.
I’m actually writing this a month after the fact because I needed time to decompress and I didn’t want this story so prevalently out there on the front page of my blog, but nonetheless, it’s still difficult and painful to process as I think about it everyday. I was upset at a particular elder for pushing me to accept the nomination and go through the process as I felt there was an expectation placed on me and I failed. And with that expectation, I received little support to help me pass the oral exam. Moreover, there was a period two months prior to the examination that I questioned my calling and I spoke with an elder and met with Pastor Ro and they counseled me to continue. I guess I was warning them that I wasn’t ready, but because I listened to them, I experienced rejection and failure. Before all this happened, I told people that I would be fine not becoming an elder, but that was based on the reasons why I thought I wouldn’t get recommended. As it turned out, I was blindsided by the hit on my character. I am perfectly fine not being an elder, but it’s very difficult having loved my church so much and looking up to a group of such Godly men, and then to have them say I’m not good enough. That really hurts. Again, I understand why they did that, but on a personal level, there’s just no way around the pain and disappointment. How can I not question what I believe in and why I do the things I do?
Although my anger was directed at other people, I completely understand that everything is my fault and this is God’s way of not calling me to be an elder. Do I wish I had not gone through the process to save myself from all the pain? Sort of. I learned much during the training, and I’m sure no one else in my life under other circumstances would have said that my gospel-orientation is off, but the tradeoff is that I’ve lost some trust in a few people, and I’m finding myself sometimes feeling that God doesn’t need me because, you know, the gospel will prevail with or without me so I’m less inclined to serve. So yeah, it’s tough when I’m questioning whether I’m really a believer or not.
Part of me is still cynical, but I’m thankful for my wife and a few brothers who have spoken truth into my life and prayed for me and helped bring me around. I’m also looking at this as God allowing me time to spend with my family as we’ll soon have Baby Suhu #2 within a few months. So it is what it is. And I didn’t write this entry to slander others, but it’s my way of documenting, remembering, and learning from what I will probably forget.