Adva n ci ng God’s K i ngdo m everywhere, on e person at a ti me.
Dear Partners and Friends of Hosanna!,
If we mention the names Joe and Cody, does that bring a smile to your face? Those were the two camels that spent
Christmas Eve with us (along with many of their friends). There were 11,519 people in worship that evening and the
stories are still being told of what it was like to be near the manger in the stable. Yes, the animals will be back next year.
This letter contains critical information as well as two invitations. First of all, on December 13, 2009 the Vision Board
of Hosanna! unanimously adopted a resolution to call a Special Meeting of the congregation for the purposes of
voting upon and adopting the following Congregational Resolution:
Hosanna! Lutheran Church of Lakeville hereby gives notice of its desire and intent
to sever membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Here is what you need to know. Attached is a paper entitled The Way Forward. In it Pastor Bill describes Hosanna’s
unique style of ministry, the future of denominations, frustrations with the ELCA, our differences with the ELCA, and
our reasons for leaving. Clearly, this departure is neither abrupt nor reactionary. It has been “brewing” for a long
time. Many may accuse us of being anti-gay, but our reasons for leaving the denomination have much deeper roots
(see The ELCA on page 2 of The Way Forward). The vote at the Church Wide Assembly in August is only one more
example of the growing disparity between the ELCA and the direction God has been leading Hosanna!
We have established two dates for pastoral conversations: 12:15 p.m. on consecutive Sundays, January 10 and 17.
Both meetings will have the same purpose: To hear briefly from Pastor Bill, to discuss The Way Forward, and to
hear the comments and concerns of Hosanna! partners (members). There is no reason to attend both meetings
and those who attended the Town Hall Meeting on September 27 may feel it is unnecessary to attend these
“conversations.” We simply want to prepare everyone for the Special Congregational Meeting.
The Special Congregational Meeting will be held on Sunday, January 24 at 2:00 p.m. in the Worship Center at
Hosanna! The only item on the agenda will be the resolution in italics above and the meeting is for Hosanna!
members only. If you have any doubt about whether or not you are an official member of Hosanna!, please call the
church at 952-435-3332 to inquire. Adoption of the resolution requires a two-thirds majority of all members present
and voting at the Meeting. If the resolution is adopted, notice will be sent to Bishop Peter Rogness of the Saint Paul
Area Synod and to Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. A 90-day period then follows – a time of prayer and reflection. A
second Special Congregational Meeting would then be held on Sunday, May 16 for a final vote of severance with
the ELCA. Details of that meeting will follow in a later mailing.
We have chosen not to rush through this process. Our desire all along has been to be prayerful, careful, and
respectful. We invite your prayers in and over all these matters. The Pastoral Team and Vision Board are here to
serve you. Please feel free to contact us at any time: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be
assured, God has good plans for Hosanna! Many blessings to you in the New Year.
William R. Bohline
Mary J. Nelson
Vision Board President
The Way Forward
“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,
you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere.” (Acts 1:8)
As Hosanna! approaches 30 years of ministry, there is great reason for celebration as well as for caution. The
celebration is for the goodness of God and the community of faith He has gathered. The caution stems from the fact
that God is doing a new thing and we dare not miss it. I have become fond of the saying “what got us here, won’t get
us there.” We need to fully understand and appreciate who we are – we do have a unique style of ministry. Our core
values and convictions will remain in place as we go forward. We also need to understand that God wants to build
upon this foundation. He has plans and desires beyond what we have experienced or even imagined. He will show us
the path and partnerships which will help us to be obedient and victorious.
Over the years the Lord has brought people and opportunities to stretch us and shape us.
There are eight distinguishing characteristics of our ministry:
• High Commitment. This was a defining thought that I • Power. In our worship and our witness we experience
carried with me as I was knocking on doors in 1980. What the power of the Holy Spirit.
would it take for us to be a church of high commitment, • Transformation. For us, Christianity is not simply a belief
witnessing to others the cost of being a Christ follower? It is system. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means a radical
no coincidence that a church with a membership of 6,400 rebirth which the Lord himself described. A new heart
sees over 6,000 come to worship services and children’s/ beats within, accompanied by new desires to serve and
student ministries each week. a keen awareness of the redeeming power of God at
• Mission Minded. This, too, has been a factor since work in the world.
day one. My supervisor then told me we were a mission • Kingdom Minded. When Hosanna! celebrated 25 years
congregation. We still are. of ministry we prayed for a new vision and mission. We
• Prayer. For Hosanna! prayer is like the sole of a shoe moved from being an attractional church to also being
– it undergirds everything we do. We pray expectantly an incarnational church. In other words, we realized it
and confidently knowing that the Lord listens and leads, wasn’t simply a matter of bringing people to church, but
counsels and guides. also bringing church to people.
• Gifts. We have always been open to the gifts and • Leadership. For years our emphasis was on developing
manifestations of the Holy Spirit. These are not seen as strong programs. Over ten years ago we started to
spiritual badges of maturity, but rather the expressions and develop people as well. Now we have a strong desire to
blessings which the Spirit bestows upon the believers. equip and empower leaders for a wide variety of service
throughout God’s Kingdom.
“Build it and they will come” was never the commission given to the Church. GO MAKE DISCIPLES was and is the
commission for all followers of Jesus Christ. Because of God’s anointing and provision, Hosanna! is prepared and eager
to carry out that commission and to embrace the next things, the new things the Lord has planned.
The Death of Denominations
We are rapidly moving into a new era where denominations will be viewed as dinosaurs. The high walls of
theological division are coming down. The days of centralized power and standardized anything are drawing to a
close. Denominations have required too much in terms of people and financial resources, moving them away from
the front lines of ministry. Anointed apostolic leadership is taking the place of elected denominational officials. The
heavy burden of supporting the superstructure has diminished the capacity of these officials to respond to the needs
and views of the culture.
That is not to say the future is all about mega churches. They are at risk because of their very success and because
of the dangers of arrogance and complacency. They, like any congregation, can remain vital as long as three
things are in place: 1) anointed, entrepreneurial leadership; 2) an eye toward and openness to the next generation
of leaders; and, 3) a radical, fervent determination to be missional.
The best tools for ministry no longer come from church publishing houses, but rather from local congregations. While
there is an important role for the seminaries to play, it must be in conjunction with teaching congregations where fruit
is expected, not just intellectual ability. Collegiality and collaboration across old denominational lines will become the
norm. All who are Christ-centered, Kingdom-minded, Spirit-filled will want to work together.
Hosanna! came into existence under the LCA (Lutheran Church in America), a predecessor body of the ELCA,
which was formed in 1988. We owe a debt of gratitude for the support and counsel given in the early years
and we will remain a Lutheran congregation. However, the reality is this: “Flight ELCA” has been hijacked
and is losing altitude rapidly. This happened long before the Church Wide Assembly in August 2009. Bishop
Mark Hanson stated, “The ELCA has had a drop of 465,990 members since I became Presiding Bishop in 2001”
(Report of Presiding Bishop, August 2009). There are no signs whatsoever that this trend will be reversed or even
slowed down. In our daylong discussion on November 23, 2009, Bishop Hanson said that 21 years is a tender
age for a denomination and more time would be needed to develop a culture of trust. It seems to me 21
years was plenty of time to adopt a vision, mission, and strategy for ministry which would unite and mobilize
congregations for serving in the army of God. And trust would not have been an issue.
I have great admiration and appreciation for many in the ELCA, but my frustration has been growing for
some time. When I say “Flight ELCA” has been hijacked what I mean is this: I believe there are a few leaders,
with good hearts and good intentions, who have taken control of the direction of the denomination. The “E”
in ELCA has been ignored. The denomination has failed to train up and deploy entrepreneurial, Spirit-filled
leaders with a new vision for the church. While remaining confessional, we have failed to become missional.
When the church begins to function like a social service organization or a political action committee, it has lost
both its voice and its bearings.
The denomination cannot reorganize itself into health. It must reinvent itself and, in doing so, must address five
key areas. These are critical areas of distress and disagreement between congregations like Hosanna! and the
• Scripture. The ELCA began to lose altitude when it veered away from its original strong stance on the
Bible: “This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word
of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.” (ELCA Constitution
2.03) “We teach that the Holy Bible is God’s Word, without error in the original manuscripts, and our final
authority in matters of faith and life.” (Hosanna! Teaching Statement). We stand with all those who hold
these views of Scripture.
• Polity. The voting cards should be banned or burned, never again to be used at church gatherings.
It would be good if someone could simply say a prayer and not read a prayer at Synod functions. If
the church cannot be led by the Holy Spirit to worship, pray, discern, and decide, then we are not the
• Structure. Power has to be decentralized. Control has to be relinquished. The primary expression of the
church has to be the local congregation, organized for mission and expanding the Kingdom.
• Leadership. New ways for training, equipping, and deploying leaders must be recognized and
celebrated. The church can no longer be clergy-centric with the pastor being the high priest of word
• Holy Spirit. The church was birthed with the unleashing of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 were baptized. The
power and work of the Holy Spirit must still hold a central place in the life of the church.
Denominations can be described with such words as preserving, protecting, defending, and withholding. All
of these foster discouragement and division. The missional church must at all times be advancing, engaging,
defeating, empowering, and releasing. This assures victory for the Church and glory to God.
The Way Forward
Can mainline congregations be transformed into missional communities advancing the Kingdom of God?
Absolutely! Most have the heart for this, but don’t know the way. Pastors haven’t been trained for it and live in
fear of retribution if they “color outside of company lines.” Most members haven’t even seen it and believe that
God loves to hang out at church with them. God is on a mission and the churches that “want in” will survive and
thrive, but it will take them into uncharted waters. Fear has to give way to faith and signing up has to lead to
being sent out. How then should we proceed?
1. We must find new ways to connect. We will not form a new denomination (they’re dying, remember?). Call it
free association, apostolic networking, whatever. The idea is to refocus on God’s mission and allow structure to
emerge as necessary – not superstructure, but simple structure. The structure always serves the ministry, never
the other way around.
2. We must define and declare who we are. This includes an uncompromising commitment to allowing the Bible
to shape our life together, especially with regard to wealth, human sexuality, power, and the congregation’s
public witness. We also recognize the need to be particularly vigilant in maintaining our witness to heterosexual
marriage as God’s design for human sexual expression. When asked, “are you leaving or are you staying?”
leaders and members should simply reply WE ARE STANDING on the authority of Scripture.
3. We need to allocate all of our stewardship resources in terms of mission. We will not abandon Lutheran ministries
which are being effective, accountable, and biblically faithful.
4. We must find a way to revitalize the smaller congregations. Mega churches will carry on, but a critical part of
their ministry must be as centers of encouragement, prayer, and training for pastors of the smaller churches.
Here, too, new relationships will be developed and best practices, technologies, and resources will be shared.
5. We should hold regular events/conferences on a regionalized basis. Focus would be on (a) becoming kingdom-
minded, (b) growing missional congregations, (c) training missional leaders, and (d) deployment by all into the
Lord’s army. The Spirit will be invited to all of these gatherings and worship, prayer, and anointing will flow freely.
I have tried to describe Hosanna!, the ELCA, and the future. Certain things seem quite clear to me. The future is
here. While interest in spirituality, and even in Jesus, is at an all-time high, interest and trust in the mainline churches
are at an all-time low. Business as usual is certain death for the church. Simple technologies (Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube) afford the church amazing avenues for communication and virtual communities. People are hungry,
almost desperate, for Something reliable that works, gives hope, and calls them to their very best, even beyond.
We have that Something – the Word of God, written and incarnate. We can keep playing organ music and
dressing in robes OR we can get out there and take some risks, try new things, get shot at, bleed a little and be
right next to Him.
I believe that Lutherans (and others) wear the reformer’s mantle. The church is in constant need of reforming and
renewal. Again, when this stops, we die. Luther didn’t want to leave his denomination, so they kicked him out. I
don’t want us to leave the ELCA, but we can’t wait for them to kick us out. The train is leaving the station and we
will be on it.
I would love for Hosanna! to be a bridge to the future, a center for renewal, a lighthouse in the fog. For me, the
debate has been whether these hopes could best be realized within the denomination or outside. We have
stayed in the ELCA, perhaps too long. No one seems to be listening. It’s time to move on.
There still is an orderly process to be followed. We will bathe all of this in prayer and fasting. Let us not lose sight
of the fact that we are having the strongest season ever. We are experiencing momentum and miracles, His
presence and power. We will continue to advance God’s Kingdom everywhere, one person at a time. The Army
of 10,000 has begun to march and the best is just ahead. All are welcome to join us, but the invitation is not to join
a church. It’s an invitation to go on a mission which involves rebirth, risk, reconciliation, and eternal reward. Thanks
be to God.