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My promise to serve the Lord full time took place during my 14th birthday when I read the first few chapters of Jeremiah. Six years later, I found myself joining a Bible study with fellow college students. It was led by Kawayan Camp (KC) graduates, and I was intrigued by how ably they handled God’s Word. Since then, I slowly integrated into the ministry of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship Philippines (IVCFP) by joining camps as a delegate, then as staff. Looking back, I must have attended 70+ camps: Inter-School Christian Fellowship (ISCF), IVCF, Graduates Team (GT)/Graduates conferences and national conferences; both as a volunteer (GT) and staff. During my IVCFP tenure, (1991-2007) I served as College Staff, Regional Director, Fund Development, Human Resource and Field Ministry Coordinator and Officer-In-Charge/National Director. Nice titles (!), but the most meaningful work I did were counseling, late-night talks, campsite hunting, budgeting, clerical jobs, chauffeuring, entertaining, coffee-making and all the seemingly mundane tasks which in fact provided the best opportunities for interpersonal relationship-building and discipleship.

My wife Rose was also an IVCFP staff and served for 11 years. She now works with Compassion International - Philippines. My eldest daughter, Aimee, is a teacher of children with special-needs. My second daughter, Anna, is a freshman Biology student, and my son, Adrian, is finishing his elementary education.

Ikthus Bacolod, Inc.

I serve as the Training and Development Director of our church, Ikthus Bacolod, Inc., focusing on organizational development and equipping leaders. I am also the Chairman of the Management Committee (ManCom) that oversees the day-to-day operations of Ikthus. The ManCom works closely with the Board of Trustees and the Senior Pastor regarding policy-making and implementation. Every year we hold church growth trainings for pastors and churches from the nearby cities of Dumaguete, Iloilo and Cebu and Mindanao churches from Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Ozamiz.

Ikthus has five worship services in its main campus every Sunday with a total attendance of 1,800. Each service has its own pastor and designated volunteer teams who oversee the operations. This ministry alone involves about 30% of our congregation. Likewise, in 2015, Ikthus gave its five satellite services full autonomy. Thus, each satellite service, just like the main campus, has multiple worship services with their own pastors and designated volunteer teams.

Ministry Accomplishments & Challenges in 2015

The Lord’s work entrusted to me focuses on discipleship as I have learned it from IVCFP. On a weekly basis, I meet three youth pastors for nurturing and fellowship. I also oversee our church’s 12-member volunteer production team every Sunday. During Saturdays, I equip 25 rising leaders from our youth ministry. Needless to say, the highlight of all these meetings has been our moments of coffee-drinking while discussing how to conquer the world.

One interesting ministry challenge for me is having to resolve conflicts and issues the “Filipino way”. Filipinos are mostly non-confrontational; we tend to keep difficulties to ourselves to avoid interpersonal strains even though it is unhealthy. In the ministry context, this manifests in having to endure long-standing issues. But unresolved problems remain problems. So when it is  inevitable to confront, I have to remind myself to be sensitive in choosing the right words to say, the timing of when to speak, and pastorally discerning all other factors at play, so that the confrontation and resolution are God-honoring, productive and successful.


Another ministry ‘challenge-opportunity’ for me as an organizational development person is the constant evolution of our church with regards to structure and culture. This requires much energy and creativity. While the Great Commission remains our focus, the way we achieve it requires innovative tools, methodologies and strategies so the congregation continues to grow spiritually. Let me cite some examples: In 2010, our main worship service venue could no longer accommodate the large number of people. Hence the church built a bigger hall that could house 1,200 people. In 2015, that hall became too small with the even greater number of people attending, so we needed to find a solution quickly. At the same time, we were trying various discipleship approaches until we settled on one that effectively integrated our cultural uniqueness. That took some time, flexibility, wisdom and tremendous prayer.  Lastly, we are continually evaluating our organizational structure to get people aligned with our Great Commission ministries. Whenever we sense our members becoming “comfortable” in simply attending church, we would launch a mobilization campaign to evangelize and assimilate new converts into small groups. This way Ikthus does not become “institutionalized.”

Balikatan’s 2015 AIM Grant

The grant was like a cold drink in a dry and thirsty land (Prov. 25:25). It was an answered prayer to a need that as a father, I have been praying for months. The amount was exactly what I needed. Thanks so much, Balikatan.


The Practicality of Intentional Discipleship

Given my ministry experience the past 25-30 years, and being exposed to it in contexts locally, nationally and internationally, I remain convinced that everything still boils down to discipleship and disciple making. The authentic, non-pretentious ‘life-to-life’ encounter remains the most effective investment one can give to missions, outreach, church planting, theology and ministering to emerging generations. Today I can still name my IVCFP mentors - people whom the Lord sent to disciple, teach, rebuke, and set me out to serve others as I serve the Lord.

In my ministry I sometimes get lonely, discouraged and confounded, but the Lord never fails to surprise and uplift me. He continues to inspire me through past and present people in my life as they show me the Lord at work, doing wonders and giving meaning to my life. The dream of Manong Bel Magalit, while realized some time ago, remains alive and enduring: “generations of Christians who love Christ and hate sin … homemakers, engineers, teachers, lawyers …”


Short and Long Term Ministry Goals

The Lord’s call for me to serve Him through Ikthus is still clear in terms of church management and equipping the saints. I will be here as long as I don’t have a new direction from Him. Years from now, I see myself  counseling, mentoring and being immersed in community development in a small barangay if the Lord wills.

Editor’s Note: Gary Celis was one of the three recipients of the 2015 Balikatan Alumni-In-Ministry grants. The two others were Lisa Espineli-Chinn and Elisa Patag-Skinner.


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