Book Review: Primal – A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity
Before I get into the meat of my review, I have to confess that Primal started off rather slowly for me. I’m accustomed to the writing style of Mark Batterson and pretty familiar with his speaking and teaching style. I’ve listened to his sermons from NCC and followed his blog for several years in addition to reading his books. It is/was probably me, but it just seemed that this book seemed a little sluggish in getting moving with the storyline, but I might be getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little about the premise of the book; the following is from the back cover:
“Our generation needs a reformation. But a single person won’t lead it. A single event won’t define it. Our reformation will be a movement of reformers living creatively, compassionately, courageously for the cause of Christ. This reformation will not be born of a new discovery. It will be the rediscovery of something old, something ancient. Something primal. What would your Christianity look like if it was stripped down to the simplest, rawest, purest faith possible? You would have more, not less. You would have the beginning of a new reformation—in your generation, your church, your own soul. You would have primal Christianity.”
—Mark Batterson, Primal
Mark takes the heart of his premise, primal, from the great commandment; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength” -Jesus (Mark 12:28-30). He then breaks this down in the book into four parts, deliberately and methodically unpacking these primal elements:
- The heart of Christianity is primal compassion…
- The soul of Christianity is primal wonder…
- The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity…
- And the strength of Christianity is primal energy…
So, while (and this speaking according to my personal preferences) I thought the book started a little slow, the cadence picked up rather quickly and by the time I reached part two (The Soul of Christianity) momentum was “full-on” and I found it difficult to read more than a page or two before I was having “Oh wow, I gotta write this down” moments.
I’m still debating this, but I think the Seventy Faces chapter (chapter five) may be my favorite. There were a number of great quotes in it that I’ll be “borrowing” (Don’t worry Mr. Batterson; I’ll be giving credit where it is due). This chapter is about reading, study, and becoming the word. I especially loved the following thoughts on the need to meditate on Scripture:
“Meditating on it (the Word) turns one-dimensional knowledge into two-dimensional understanding. Living I out turns two-dimensional understanding into three-dimensional obedience… Meditation is the way we metabolize Scripture. That’s how it gets into our soul.”
—Mark Batterson, Primal
I mentioned following Mark’s ministry at NCC and his Evotional.com blogsite. One of the endearing qualities for me with Primal is my noticing some of the teaching illustrations and metaphors that have evolved and become crystal clear in this work. Several years ago I remember a teaching series at the NCC I listened to many times on my iPod (still have this one saved actually) called The Neurology of Faith. I recognized quite a few points from the Neurology series as well as a number of illustrations from various blogging posts. I particularly enjoy seeing things that have developed from the “now and raw” into cohesive and fully formed teaching. I believe that Mark Batterson is a very gifted teacher and speaker; his latest book as well as those that have preceded Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity are proving him to be an equally gifted writer as well. You can get a sneak peak from the publisher, Multnomah, here.
This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.
Summary from the Publisher:
Be Astonished Again
We have a tendency to complicate Christianity. Jesus simplified it: Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we are to live out the essence of Christianity, we must commit to being great at this Great Commandment.
In Primal, Mark Batterson explores the four elements of Great Commandment Christianity: compassion, wonder, curiosity, and power. Along the way, he calls you to be a part of God’s reformation, starting in your own life.
As Mark writes, “Is there a place in your past where you met God and God met you? A place where your heart broke for the things that break the heart of God? Maybe it was a sermon that became more than a sermon. Maybe it was a mission trip or retreat. Maybe it was a vow you made at an altar. In that moment, God birthed something supernatural in your spirit. You knew you’d never be the same again. My prayer is that this book would take you back to that burning bush—and reignite a primal faith.”
Primal will help you live in light of what matters most and discover what it means to love God. It will help you become great at the Great Commandment.
The author of Wild Goose Chase and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. One church with nine services in five locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations and meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the D.C. area. Mark has two Masters degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. He and his wife, Lora, live on Capitol Hill with their three children. www.markbatterson.com