by Jilmer Cariaga
“I pastored Dampalit (AG Church) for 17 years. It was never easy and I cried before I left. I think that’s what life is, there are unexpected moments.”
Rev. Cipriano Mortel Jr., or simply Pastor Jun, poignantly recalls his sad farewell from the church he pastored for 17 years in order to shepherd a church pressed with many challenges. Transitioning to Caloocan Bethel Assembly of God (CBAG) maybe considered a very challenging assignment but it yields all-things-work-for-good outcomes which he willfully accepted.
Since 2003, when he started as visiting pastor to CBAG, Pastor Jun receives a consistently overwhelming trust of the church members. In the latest and third-time vote of confidence for a 5-year pastoral term, he received 97% affirmative vote reflective of the congregation’s very high confidence on him.
Caloocan Bethel was established in 1954 through the ground-breaking ministry of the couple Pastors Eliseo and Virgie Cruz in the house of Caes Family formerly named as Caloocan Revival Center. The name was changed to Caloocan Bethel Temple after affiliating with the Assemblies of God in 1960. Later, the church followed its SEC-registered name Caloocan Bethel Assembly of God, Inc.
Despite several leadership transitions, religious strongholds, transient populace, urban poverty and local corruption, the church thrives at the heart of the city. With some church members penetrating the local government units, they would act as catalyst for effecting subtle transformation.
The church’s education ministry, Caloocan Bethel Christian School, established in 1986, serves as bridge in bringing the gospel to the parents of the students. Its Christian educators, mostly homegrown, are vital ministry partners in facilitating a faith-based, government-approved curriculum to cater to the formative years of the children. Thus, when Pastor Jun assumed the pastorate, he also assumed the chaplaincy- providing spiritual guidance to the faculty, staff and students of Caloocan Bethel Christian School.
The leadership structure of CBAG is composed of two separate boards: Board of Trustees (BOT) and Board of Deacons (BOD). The two distinct boards constitute the Church Board established “to ensure stability and to maintain a check and balance in the operations of the church” . The BOT serves as custodian of the church properties such as real estates, monetary, materials and other tangible assets. While the BOD’s primary role is in “advisory capacity with the pastor” and in the administration of the church polity.
“The overseers for ministries are composed primarily of the members of the church board. The Church Board is formed by the two boards: the board of trustees and the board of deacons. In the By-laws, the spiritual qualifications for board of deacons are also in the board of trustees with additional criteria related to being trustees and property management. That only means the two boards have the capacity to handle ministries or deal with spiritual matters,” Pastor Jun explains.
The setup works well with Pastor Jun who also sits as the Chairman of the Church Board. Every member of the Church Board is also at the forefront of ministries, providing oversight to department or fellowship assigned to them besides what is required of them by church By-laws.
“How do you maintain a healthy relationship with the church board?”
It is important for Pastor Jun to show respect to strengthen his relationship with the person. It is also what he’s trying to communicate by paying attention through listening when someone
This also encourages participation from members of the board during meetings. There might be disagreements but everyone understands that at the end of the meeting they would have to make a decision. Church leadership is about teamwork and it is important to hear different opinions from members of the team.
However, it is a golden rule that members of the board must support and promote whatever decision is made even it is contrary to their opinion.
The board affirms this rule as they tell, “Pastor Jun reminded us that when majority of the board decided on something against our position, we are still part of the decision when we left the boardroom.”
Another way of showing respect is by delegation of tasks. This is his way of recognizing the person’s gifts and also a way of knowing whether the person can function under minimal supervision.
“When I delegate, I do not meddle. I don’t have to monitor his work on a daily basis.”
He clarifies that he gives job to the person who he knew has talent and skills to accomplish the task but also allows the person to take the full responsibility
“Does the current structure promote or build healthy local church?”
Someone may always find a fault in the structure and may use it to his advantage so when asked if the current structure creates or builds healthy local church, he answers:
“There is no perfect structure. There is no perfect system. Any organizational structure only works for a particular organization. The truth is, it all depends on the leader and his character. Structure and system are important but the person utilizing the structure is an important factor as well in making the structure works for the good of the assembly.”
“Considering that you have the confidence of the congregation and the support of the Church Board, we can say that the Church looks after of the welfare of your family. Does Caloocan Bethel have provision for financial security when a pastor loses the vote of confidence of the members?”
The CBAG By-laws requires a vote of confidence for the pastor every five years. The process, if unfavorable, may create a financial drawback to the pastor and his family after losing the vote of confidence of the members. He can only wish not to have undergone the process knowing it is what the By-laws require. Here’s what he had to say about the financial plan, if any, of the church for him if he lost the trust of the people.
“We have started that with the workers. The church has a trust fund allocated for their retirement. But there is no black and white document to support it for the pastors. I want to propose it but that would be self-serving. But I also sense that the church is moving toward it.”
He wants to preserve his testimony and the relationship he established with the leaders and the church through years. He trusts, if that happens, the LORD will provide.
Rev. Cipriano Mortel, Jr. is married to his wife Leonila and they are blessed with four (4) children: Jerejob-Junel, registered nurse; Angeleen Jenn, office administrator; and Jasper June and Jarvis Ivan, currently studying, 4th year High School and Grade 6 students, respectively. They all serve in CBAG in their own capacity.