“Our congregations need to be set free…”
Our congregations need to be set free, which is essentially the same as saying that they need to be awakened or revived. ~Georg Sverdrup
Christ had become academic. Pews were filled with unchanged lives. The forgiveness of sins became disconnected from its application to the believer in everyday living. A dead orthodoxy failed to bring the transformative power of the Gospel into everyday life. But the revivals came.
Two young professors were driven to take a fresh look at the New Testament church in Scripture. They studied the old story of freedom in Christ and living Christian faith. They concluded that the local congregation is the right form of God's kingdom on earth, and no power, except for God's Word, may dictate to it, not even a synodical hierarchy. This conviction was not simply a matter of church government, but rather a vision for Spirit-filled churches driven by their freedom in Christ.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. ~2 Corinthians 3:17
Georg Sverdrup and Sven Oftedal crossed the Atlantic with a genuinely radical view of Christian education and founded Augsburg College in 1869. They worked for a new kind of American church that was biblically-grounded and historically-rooted.
Our forefathers sought to plant congregations who would promote a living Lutheran orthodoxy, churches filled with changed lives. They sought shepherds who would serve rather than dominate as overlords, pastors who would encourage lay people to exercise their spiritual gifts in Kingdom service. They prized missions and emphasized evangelism to begin planting Lutheran free churches. They dreamed of a movement for free and living congregations. And so our story began.
“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?”