Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers (The GProCongress) held in Bangkok on June 16 to 22 was attended by more than 3000 local pastors and ministers from 112 countries all over the world.
The history of The GProCongress dates back to 1997 when the leaders from 99 Western pastoral training organizations gathered by RREACH discussed the global pastoral training in a meeting hosted at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. Later, it was inspired by the historic 2010 Lausanne Congress and the resulting document, The Cape Town Pastoral Trainers Declaration that states that the parts of the body of Christ prepares maturing shepherds for the proclamation of God's word. The GProCongress receives the support of the following ministries: World Evangelical Alliances(WEA), The Lausanne Movement, Cru(formally known as "Campus Crusade for Christ"), Langham Partnership, World Reformed Fellowship, International Council for Evangelical Theological Education and Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau.
On this basis, the Congress hopes to connect, unite and strengthen pastoral leaders, focusing on the long-term trend of pastoral trainers and their training. It also states that trainers of pastors are the human core of pastoral preparation and effectiveness, the means by which local church health better fulfills God's Great Commission.
The international meeting this year is convened by Ramesh Richard Evangelism and Church Health(RREACH), founded by Dr. Ramesh Richard.
Born in the south of India, Dr. Ramesh Richard confirmed the calling of service and began to preach the gospel in India. Later he founded RREACH, aiming to serve and train pastoral leaders, especially from Asia, Africa and Latin America. He also spoke to an audience of 200 ambassadors and world leaders as the keynote speaker for the 23rd Annual International Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations in New York City.
On the opening ceremony of the congress held on the evening of June 15, Dr. Ramesh Richard welcomed the participants and said that the world needs pastoral leaders. "You're one part of history. You're so important to the 21st century."
During the week, they had six morning plenary sessions to discuss various topics respectively: "Unhealthy pastors", "unhealthy churches", "unhealthy societies", "healthier societies and the influence of healthier churches", "healthier churches and the influence of healthier pastors" and "healthier pastors and the influence of pastoral training". There are also eight workshops with different themes held during the afternoons covering Biblical, theological, spiritual, missional, cultural and educational engagement; coupled with opportunities and obstacles in pastoral training.
Four evening plenary sessions on "the Lord Jesus Christ", "the Bible", "the Spirit" and "Churches" were also held, following the topic "God, The Heavenly Father " as it is noted in the opening ceremony.
Moreover, the attendants spend about half an hour to an hour to hold discussions after each morning session and worship.
It's worth mentioning that the participants sit on the roundtables instead of square tables. "This is the first time that the local church, with pastoral leaders, are sitting at the roundtable of architecture." Dr. Richard said with gratitude.
During the worship and prayer part on the second evening, Bishop Efraim Tendero, General Secretary of WEA, blesses the congress and the ministry of training pastors, praying to God to build His church.
A critical idea has been repeated several times during the congress, stressing that pastoral health affects church health and church health affects societal health.
"You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth. You are the health of our societies." Delanyo Adadevoh of the Campus Crusade's Vice President for Area Team Leaders said in a morning plenary.
Several representatives of the Chinese church gave speeches in an evening plenary on June 21. Rev. Zhang Heng from Beijing spoke first, saying that the number of Chinese Christians has grown to a hundreds million or more from seven hundred thousand number in the past 60 years. Meanwhile, he said China is facing a lot of challenges like churches going public, mission training and called for the international prayer for the church in China.
He also mentions that the church in China is determined to join the global mission as seen in "Mission China 2030", which envisions to send out 20,000 missionaries overseas, turning China from a mission-receiving country into a mission-sending country.
At the same time, the delegates of Chinese pastors shared that they feel the importance of training pastors and hopes that more participated in the initiative and result into the growth of more healthy pastors from better training.
The congress reached the first peak in the Sunday service on June 19. Around 3000 pastors from about 200 countries took the bread and wine together in the communion service co-presided by the representatives from different continents.
The first peak was followed by the second climax when Dr. Richard invites all the pastors to stand up and recite the Declaration. They declared, "Since the formal and non-formal sectors of pastors training have knowingly and unknowingly allowed ourselves to be divided in heart and efforts, we declare together that we shall endeavor to build trust, involve each other, and leverage the strengths of each sector to prepare maturing shepherds for the proclamation of God's Word and the building up of Christ's Church in all the nations of the world."
In the last evening, a magnificent dinner was held for the participants. Dr. Richard lead all the pastors in the calling of pastoral trainers again and restated that the conference may have ended, but it does not really end from here as the changes is now truly beginning. He encouraged the participants to apply the principle and methods they have learnt into their future four-year practices in order to train more healthy pastors.
Except a few attendants from the Europe and US, most of this year's participants come from Asia, Africa and Latin America, including over 100 pastors and co-workers from mainland China.