October 19-23, Mike and Molly Tilley and Joel and Katie Pollard attended the International Christian Community (ICC) Pastors' Retreat in Teisendorf, Germany. Our pastor, Mike Tilley, serves on the board of ICC, and the Pollards were invited to lead worship for this year's retreat.
This post, written by Katie, originally appeared on Joel and Katie's personal blog on October 23.
The ICC Pastors’ Retreat drew to a close [on October 22], and I’m struggling to wrap words around the experience we’ve had. If you’ve been following along on Facebook or Instagram, you can see that we’ve heartily enjoyed our travels in Munich, Teisendorf, and Salzburg. I’m sorry our posts have not included more substantive information about the retreat, but it seems that it takes more than a handful of characters in an expedient social media post to capture the powerful ways that God is working here.
There were pastors in attendance from Aix en Provence, Leon, Marseille, Toulouse, St. Paul, and Nice, France; Munich, Germany; Istanbul, Turkey; Iasi, Romania; Tblisi, Georgia; Toronto, Canada; and of course, Orlando, Florida. The keynote speaker was Tim Challies, a former pastor, writer, and blogger from Toronto. He preached from 2 Timothy, James, 1 Thessalonians, and Titus, and he covered a wide range of topics applicable to pastors, including the supremacy of Scripture, the dangers of envy, and the catastrophic effects of pornography and distorted sexuality in our culture. Although Joel and I didn’t participate in every session, we greatly appreciated Tim’s insight and his commitment to teaching the gospel candidly and clearly.
There were also a variety of breakout sessions which included presentations about the vision and future of ICC, doctrinal teaching, practical advice for assimilating into foreign culture, a panel discussion about the refugee crisis, and a special session on counseling techniques by Elizabeth Matthias.
Perhaps our favorite part of the retreat was the time set aside for “field updates” at the beginning of each session. All the pastors had the opportunity to give a 10-15 minute presentation about their particular churches and ministries. It was informative to learn about their common struggles and very uplifting to hear testimony of all the unique ways God is working to transform individuals, impact major European cities, and equip people as they travel to the far corners of the Earth with the good news of the gospel.
During one or two sessions each day, Joel and I led the pastors in a brief worship service. Joel designed these services to include several songs in addition to corporate prayer, confession, and readings from various catechisms and historic confessions. The meeting space was beautiful, with high ceilings and pine rafters, and the acoustics were perfect for voices and guitar. Joel’s worship sets were rich in gospel content and—as is often the case, thanks to the work of the Spirit—the themes aligned beautifully with the teaching each day. We were greatly encouraged by the feedback we received, and I do believe that God used us to edify these pastors as they rested and filled themselves with the Word.
We held a Communion service [Thursday] night, and it was a particularly poignant and moving time of worship. Because our group was small in number, we could face each other at a long table and share the elements in a uniquely intimate and communal way. The unhurried reverence was powerful, and I personally experienced very sweet personal worship. This is often a challenge as a musician and leader—and, I suspect, as a pastor—when the demands of facilitating a church service so easily distract us from the holy experience that is the Lord’s Supper.
We came here hoping to encourage the ICC pastors, but I think we have benefitted from this experience at least as much as they have. It has been so exciting to meet these leaders and hear stories of what God is doing all over Europe through the vibrant churches He has planted here.
I had a vague understanding prior to this trip that for many years Europe has been in a state of spiritual decline—that despite a wealth of rich religious heritage, the old traditions and monuments have become mere icons, and spiritual darkness is prevalent. But now, when I picture a map of Europe, I can see pinpricks of light piercing that darkness, scattered across the continent. I’ve had conversations with at least a dozen real people who are here on the front lines, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel is alive and active, and lives are being changed through the work of these men and their families. Thanks be to God!
I’m also very excited that in the coming months I’ll be able to participate in the ICC movement by helping redesign and invigorate their web presence. I’m thrilled to be able to use my writing skills and [a humble amount of] content marketing experience to help tell the story of what God is doing through this organization.
Update on October 30: It was a joy to lead at Bavarian International Christian Fellowship —one of the two ICC churches in Munich—on October 18th. On October 25th, our last day overseas, we also had the privilege of leading alongside the worship team at Munich International Community Church. Attending these two church services was a powerful experience, and we are thrilled that we were able to partner with the people of BICF and MICC by assisting with their worship services during our visit.
Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. We’re pleased to report that we raised 100% of our financial support shortly before we departed the U.S! We are humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and I’m very excited to see how God will continue to use the seeds he has planted in our hearts.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
– Ephesians 3:20–21
Katie Pollard is the administrator and communications director for Lake Baldwin Church in Orlando, FL. She is also a writer, musician, avid reader, craft guru, wife, and mother. Katie loves intelligent novels, a good cup of tea, and those complicated board games that only your nerdy friends like.