Free & living congregations to wake a sleeping church.
Lutheranism in northern Europe suffered from what could be called dead orthodoxy: theology became an academic matter without any truly transformative impact on the lives of those in the congregation. The objective work of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, became disconnected from its application to the believer in everyday living. Simultaneously, the hierarchical synodical church governance was feared to be a corrupting influence in a landscape dominated by state churches. Many of these Lutherans emigrated to the United States to find a better life during the 19th Century.
GEORG SVERDRUP and SVEN OFTEDAL came from Norway to the US teach in the 1870's, bringing with them a genuinely radical view of Christian education. They founded AUGSBURG COLLEGE in 1869 in Minneapolis as a prep academy, college, and seminary.
These two young professors, having witnessed firsthand the opposition of the church hierarchy to the revival movements, had been driven in their frustration to take a fresh look at the New Testament church. Through their study of Scripture, they had come to a stunning conclusion: the local congregation is the right form of God's kingdom on earth, and no power but God's Word and Spirit may dictate to it. This conviction was not only a matter of church government, but a vision of living Christianity.
The church they sought to plant in the New World would promote a living Lutheran orthodoxy, served by shepherds who lead rather than overlords who dominate, emphasizing an evangelism that would result in changed lives and encourage lay people to exercise their spiritual gifts. They sought a new Lutheran free church with free and living congregations.
"Our congregations need to be set free, which is essentially the same as saying that they need to be awakened or revived... When God's Spirit comes upon a congregation, the first and most pronounced effect will be a living zeal for the salvation of souls... When those who have themselves been set free from the bonds of death, arise in the power through which Christ arose from the dead, and begin to labor for the awakening of others, then freedom has dawned in truth. Then bonds are broken, other considerations are brushed aside, and only one thing matters:
How can we get those who sleep awakened?
How can we get those who are dying saved?
How can we get those who are bound set free?
How can we get someone along with us on the way to eternal life?"
- Georg Sverdrup