KNOXVILLE – Day two of Homecoming week began early with a breakfast seminar. Mark Nelson delivered the message with the subject of “How to Have Zero Impact.”
This early morning seminar took place in Private Dinning Room 3 of the Gally Commons.
To begin the message, Nelson provided the audience with two important theological foundations. The first foundation, Nelson believes, is that the story of God begins in Genesis 1.
“I believe that at creation, all was good,” Nelson said.
Nelson also believes that in Genesis 3 the “intended” world was busted.
“Based upon that, I believe that the rest of the story of God in the scriptures is this attempt by God to put the family back together,” he said.
Nelson said that people as humans get to play a part in putting things back together.
“I need to participate in the restoring of all things,” Nelson said.
The second foundation is the word “calling,” or vocation. Along with this second foundation, Nelson shared a quote by Frederick Buechner:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“I believe we have all been gifted, that we all have things that bring us great joy, and we know when we do this we are pleasing God,” Nelson said to illustrate Buechner’s quote.
“The place God calls you to is the place where somewhere on the line of deep gladness and somewhere on the line of the world’s deep need crosses. [God] calls you to live in that intersection,” Nelson explained.
Nelson then moved into dissecting the scripture of Isaiah 58.
Feigning religiosity is one of the main points Nelson brought up. Feigning is pretending to be affected by something. Nelson used the example that people are pretending that something deep is happening within them.
Religiosity, Nelson defined, is our set of beliefs.
“Feigning religiosity, then, is pretending to be affected by our beliefs,” Nelson said.
Nelson believes this is what the prophet Isaiah was getting at in Isaiah 58.
The good news though, is that “God is looking to restore that which is broken,” said Nelson.
The image in Isaiah 58 gives people a glimpse of what a restored world would look like.
“Isaiah gives us this picture of feigning religiosity verses authentic familiaration,” said Nelson. “Authentic familiaration is to make things better, to do something that puts the world back together, and to answer this call that is upon us.”
“It takes a paradigm shift to answer the call placed before us,” Nelson said. “A shift in how we think, and how we look, and how we posture ourselves, figuratively.”
This shift is imperative if people desire to move into authentic familiarization, he explained. The first move to be made is a move beyond morality.
“God has been reduced to the series of guidelines that we follow, rather than a general orientation of the soul,”Nelson pointed out.
Nelson asked, “Could we, instead of being some kind of moral police, be the people that go into a broken world with a different posture?” If people are able to move beyond morality, people will next have to find a way to live intentionally.
“When we are authentic with people and they are authentic with us, it is going to be unbelievably messy,” Nelson said. However, it is necessary to be authentic and live in community if individuals wish to play their part in putting the world back together.
“If we want to put the world back together, there has to be a creative order, there has to be a calling re-imagined,” said Nelson.
Nelson’s final point in how to put the world back together was figuring our what success means.
“We have established a culture that measures success in the church by the wrong standards,” Nelson said.
The way Christians need to measure success is with a decreasing metric. Instead of a graph with a line that increases, use one with a decreasing line.
“What if a measurement of success for the church, was less lowliness, less divorce, less illiteracy, less human trafficking, and less, and less?” Nelson suggested. “What if actually, the goal of putting the world back together is zero? What if what we are trying to do as churches, as followers of Jesus, is to have zero impact in our communities?”
This is what Mark Nelson thinks it will take to put the world back together.
Michaela Begley, a freshman who attended the breakfast seminar, said, “I really liked how [Nelson] talked about moving beyond morality. In measuring success, it’s not about the increasing numbers, but more decreasing the divorce rates and stuff like that.”
Begley said the passage of Isaiah 58 really hit home with her, to tie the topic all together.
Dave Woods, ’68 , commented on Nelson’s unique style, “He is a very thorough scholar.”
Woods furthered, “I thought his development on Isaiah 58 was a very good application for what the culture and the church is experiencing. It reflected very well the weakness of the church in terms of doing so many things in an outward basis, that we don’t practice the internal structures of self-discipline and discipleship that really does change people’s lives.”
Woods liked how Nelson made everyone think about how they actually affect more people’s lives by measuring on a “less” basis.
Nelson took the meaning of having zero impact and flipped it around to mean something that made “less, more.”
To hear more from Mark Nelson, one can visit Crossings Church, located in downtown Knoxville on Market Square.