Our history begins with a man, Hans Nielsen Hauge, who as a layman preached a message of repentance and personal salvation. He was branded by the government and the state church a trouble maker. They put him in prison for ten years.While in prison the fire that the Lord lit in him would not be stifled.
Hauge's message and ministry reflected the spirit of Lutheran Pietism, a powerful movement of awakening that began among the German Lutherans in the late 17th century , led by Phillip Spener and August Francke. The pietistic emphasis of personal faith, godly living, and the study of Scripture caught fire among the common people, igniting a spiritual and social revolution whose impact is still evident today.
The spirit of revival also burned brightly in Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, under the godly leadership of such men as Carl Olof Rosenius, Paavo Ruotsalainen, and Wilhelm Beck. These evangelical movements shaped the convictions of many of the Lutherans who planted churches in America.
The 19th century saw thousands of Scandinavian believers emigrate into the United States in an effort to find a better life. They brought with them great faith and a love for education. Therefore they wanted to make sure that their children were provided with schools where they could be trained in God's Word along with the standards of education. It was during this time that many Lutheran Schools and Colleges and Seminaries were founded, some still exist today.
Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN is one example , that in those days consisted of a preparatory school, an academy and a seminary. In the 1870's two prominent scholars from prominent Haugean families in Norway came to teach at Augsburg. They brought with them a radical view of Christian Education, centered around Scripture and the simple doctrines of Christianity. Their names were Georg Sverdrup and Sven Oftedal.
These two young professors, bore firsthand witness the opposition to church hierarchy toward any revival movement, this drove them to study closely the New Testament Church. Through their efforts in study , they came to a stunning conclusion;
"...in the New Testament there is no talk about any bishopric...nor any church council , or synod...There is a congregation in each place that there are Christians, and this congregation has its elders or bishops; but there is no 'church ruler-ship' of any sort..." (Georg Sverdrup)
In other words the local congregation is the right form of God's Kingdom on earth, no power but God's Word and Spirit may dictates to it.
This was not just a matter of church government, but was a vision of 'living' Christianity. They planted churches with the thought of promoting a living Lutheran orthodoxy, whose people were served by shepherds who lead rather than overlords who dominate, with an emphasis on evangelism that would change lives and encourage the laity to to exercise their spiritual gifts.