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Who Are You Talking To, Greg?
A Review of
The Genius of One:
God’s Answer for Our Fractured World
Paperback: NavPress, 2017
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Reviewed by Fred Redekop
Greg Holder is the pastor of the Crossing, a large multi-site church in St.Louis, Missouri. He was first on the Elder team there and has now been the pastor for 20 years. He preaches in jeans and seems to be a very engaging speaker at the church. The church website says:
Greg challenges us to consider pertinent historical and linguistic details in Scripture, without missing an opportunity to weave in humor and personal stories. He brings ancient truths of Scripture to light in fresh ways, while calling those from an unlikely mix of spiritual backgrounds to love as they have been loved.
Holder has written some children’s Bible story books, a book (along with Chris Seay and Rick McKinley) on bringing simplicity back to Christmas called the Advent Conspiracy, and most recently a book titled The Genius of One: God’s Answer for Our Fractured World, which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Holder’s style is concise and readable. As the title says, the book is about bringing the church together, to work with Christ as a unified body of believers. Holder writes, “Loving those who in these uncertain times, we must — and here’s the point of the book — love one another too”(x). So, the premise of Holder’s book is quite simple.
The book’s strength lies in its questions at the end of every chapter. I have been a pastor in the Mennonite church for over 30 years, and have heard his biblical reflections before, so there was nothing new for me. He interprets Paul and Jesus well.
Most of the questions include doing something in your life in response to your own faith and Holder provides commentary on his own faith and practice in each other chapters. After Chapter One, he asks the following question, “How has prayer helped you in time of trial?”. I think this kind of question invites you to think about prayer. As a pastor I often pray for people in their times of trial, when there are no words for their pain. For me, God has not always answered my prayers of healing. My mom, dad, and best friend all died in the space of 15 months. Holder’s question is intense for all of us, if we want to answer it for ourselves.
In Chapter Five he asks, “What habits can you adopt to be a better listener?” We are often listening to form our own next comment in the discussion. There are many books and sermons on this topic, and yet we seem to have difficulty with is skill in the Church.
In Chapter Ten he asks, “How is Jesus calling you to be an agent of peace?” I love this question. What is your answer? I must be a peacemaker in family, neighborhood, church and the world. It is, I believe, a life-long journey for any Christian. We mess up often, as Holder explains, but it must be our highest calling.
On pages 175-178, he talks about winning and how we are on the same team in terms of churches. But he pastors a successful church that, I assume, has brought people from other churches. I wonder how those other churches would feel when reading these sentences.
I really struggled to know who Holder’s intended audience is for his good words of the Gospel. I tried to look for feedback on his book, and most of it was from people within the Crossing church. They really like the book and this tells me that it was not really for them. Holder’s premise is that we love one another, so there must be some conflict within the broader Christian church. We know this. Is Holder trying to engage the conservatives or the liberals or both? Is this book directed at the churches of St.Louis or all of the USA? Is it because I am Canadian that I found it a challenge to know who the writer was speaking to? Included in the people who profess faith are those young adults call millennials. It looks like the Crossing has many of these people in the church and they understand the language. But they must be convinced again. They are looking for a faith that makes be a sense to them. They do not want the same faith of their parents or the churches where they grew up.
Is the book to engage people of other faiths? He does not mention any other faith, and the language he uses is for people on the inside. I do think it is for Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists.
Or, is the book to engage people of no faith? In Canada, this is now the largest group to engage in talk about faith and questions of meaning. In Bruxy Cavey’s new book, Re-union, he asks the reader to give it to someone. Who would I give Holder’s book to read? Who is his audience? A good question, I think, to end my review of The Genius of One. Thanks, Greg.
Fred Redekop writes a weekly blog called Ponder Anew on WordPress. To relax, he takes pictures of flowers, the sky, and his grandsons.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com