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Discipleship in Uncertain Times: An Interview with Sarah and Micah Greiner

Several years ago, as Gail and I would give updates at PLI learning communities, we would challenge leaders that the church in America needs pioneers. Leaders who are willing to dare and try and risk with no confidence that the outcome will be preferred. Leaders who are willing to experiment for the sake of the Mission and for the sake of maturing people to follow Christ. Sarah and Pastor Micah are among those…probably like you…who know that much of what we have loved in the past will not take us forward into the future.

So, my hope in this final contribution to the series of Leading in Uncertain Times is that you will be encouraged by their authenticity and their love to see people reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have questions about PLI’s fully online 1,000 Young Leaders or Not So Young Leaders to train intentional missionaries in everyday life, or any of PLI’s other programs, Raechel will be happy to assist you.

Catch up on the Leading in Uncertain Times series:

Micah, I’d like to circle back to something you said earlier. “The barn was already on fire when COVID hit St. Peter.” What did you mean?

Micah: We have a great congregation. Great school. I love being here. We have a large school. And a large preschool ministry. Our school enrollment had been slowly declining for a few years but we pretended nothing had changed. We kept postponing any changes. We didn’t adjust our staff accordingly. We were facing a huge deficit.

When COVID hit, it then hit our preschool. Obviously. Add a couple of other variables being launched into COVID…it was not pretty. We had to make staffing changes. No matter how gracious or how generous you are, it always leads to hurt feelings around the community. That’s what it looked like for us when the barn was on fire.

I sometimes have people ask me about which program or curriculum to use for discipleship.

Sarah: For us, discipleship happens in relationship. We use two “vehicles.” We use a “huddle” for discipling. Many times simply asking the question: “What is Jesus nudging me toward as I look to follow him?” We use “community groups” to gather people together. We see Jesus practicing three relationships. Relationship with God. Fellow Christians. Out with the crowds. In the world. Most of us have never had anyone invest in us for the sake of being a better follower of Jesus.

“When we first joined PLI, we discovered a tribe that focused on mission and discipleship.” – Micah Greiner

Let’s do a quick survey. You’ve participated in a lot of what PLI offers. You did Leadership Essentials when it was the original four-year PLI.

Micah: First and foremost, PLI invited us as a ministry couple. I had never seen that anywhere! We were given permission to lead! Lead out of our gifts and strengths. And, we discovered a tribe of people focused on mission. We belonged.

Sarah: It gave me permission to acknowledge that I can lead. I don’t need to fit into some else’s box for me. It also planted the dream and vision that Micah and I could lead something together

You did Senior Leader.

Micah: Sarah and I learned with other leaders wrestling with similar, more complex issues. It was the first time we brought someone else, our executive director, with us. The tools we learned in planning and staffing, etc. were great.

Sarah: In senior leader I sensed that I needed to engage. That God was asking me to step into leading in ways I had not imagined.

You finished Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC) during COVID.

Sarah: D2MC created a discipline to create something new. It gave us the space to imagine what discipling people to follow Jesus and live out His mission could actually be!

Micah: Coming out of Senior Leader we also realized that we needed to make a major pivot. All of the old “tricks” of sustaining and growing a church were not working. We needed to focus our best energies on discipling. Not trying to make St. Peter bigger or better. We want to have every person in our church in relationship with someone else learning the words and ways of Jesus. We want it for our school. Discipling our kids… not just a great school.

“PLI gave me permission to acknowledge that I can lead. I don’t need to fit into someone else’s box for me. It also planted the dream and vision that Micah and I can lead something together.” – Sarah Greiner

Along with the two of you, Gail and I are currently looking at a partnership for training many more of your leaders through PLI.

Micah: 1. We deeply believe in the pioneering space that PLI holds. We were completely transformed by our experience with PLI. We owe where we are today to what PLI invested in us. We know that any leader that brushes up against PLI will be blessed. We believe we need to invest in the future of the church.

Sarah: 2. We know the PLI experience is top notch. We want our folks to be blessed by it too. We want outside voices speaking into the lives of our leaders. There is a validity that comes with it that it’s not just our crazy idea. Other churches are courageously on this journey. A whole organization is doing this. We want to be partners with PLI. It is greatly impacting the church at large. 

A last question for each of you. Micah, why are the old ways that have worked so well for so long no longer working?

Micah: I think we focused primarily on making church members and not making disciples. It’s subtle, but that’s not working. Much of our concern oftentimes is around perpetuating an institution. We believe that if you focus on discipleship you will get the church.

Sarah, what would you like to say that I haven’t asked?

Sarah: The leader always goes first. PLI says it. You don’t know it until you live it yourself. We were able to make some of the changes in this long slow journey at our church because we were already living it. People need a model to see.

I’m learning every day to let the Holy Spirit lead and go first. Things happen in the power of the Spirit. I need to lead with a posture of humility.

Thanks for being open and honest and speaking with clarity. The PLI family is blessed by the two of you and we are encouraged by the courage and vision with which you lead.

A couple of weeks ago I asked you to invite your leaders into this “Leading in Uncertain Times” series of blogs. Now we’re finished. Let me suggest two questions you ask each other and one response:

Question 1: What’s the biggest take away for you personally from “Leading in Uncertain Times”?

Question 2: As congregational leadership, what’s the one thing we need to be alert to and explore for further action?

If you value PLI’s investment in leaders in the U.S. and around the world, would you join in supporting this important work by making a recurring, monthly gift to PLI.

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