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New minister aims to turn church focus outward

Pastor Mike Hanson has been called to Zion Lutheran Church, Cottage Grove, to lead a transformation, he said.

"My goal is to spend 50 percent of my time in evangelism, bringing others into a relationship with Jesus Christ in more of a community sense," Hanson said. And, he plans to bring the congregation at Zion along with him.

"In the past, Lutheran churches have taken care of their own families and faith family," Hanson said. "With transformation, we will focus more on the outside community.

"Most Americans have a claim to faith but not necessarily in a faith community," he said. "I want to see Zion strong in reaching out to local residents."

"This church is already well along that road," he said. "The men's group is very outgoing with its breakfasts and participation in community events such as the five-church pig roast to benefit area charities."

Hanson, who was installed Nov. 23, wants to reach even farther. "I'm thinking multimedia," he said. In the past, he has conversed by cell phone with a congregation and pastor somewhere else in the world. Now he is looking at online, real time conversations by video with other congregations, maybe in Tanzania.

He is naturally drawn to Africa after spending 12 years as a teaching missionary in Cameroon from 1982 to 1994.

"The worship services there are very lively and animated," Hanson said. "If my sermon was less than an hour long, I got complaints."

He said there was always lots of interaction during a sermon along with music, singing, dancing and clapping. During sermons, Hanson said he would routinely ask the children questions. "They were always interesting," he said. "I never knew what they would say."

His immediate goal is searching for ways to include new kinds of music into worship at Zion. "It all depends on what we find," he said. "We will be looking for songwriters and musicians, maybe even some who work with ancient music from the early centuries of Christianity."

Hanson has a doctorate in practical ministry. "Practical ministry focuses on how you accomplish building a ministry, how to equip people for what needs to be done," he said.

"Rather than just talking, we put together a team, determine the church's vision, and discover where we're going and how to get there."