December 28, 2009

Book Review: "Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity" by Mark Batterson

Recently I received a book for free in exchange for a book review on my blog. The book is called Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson. And I have to say, I’m really glad I had the chance to read this particular book. I’ve had friends who told me to read some of Mark Batterson’s books, but this was the first one I had the pleasure to read. After reading Primal, I fully plan on reading his other books. But let me explain why I loved this book so much.

Primal is all about returning to the very beginning, the essence, of what Christianity is supposed to be about: the Great Commandment in Mark 12:30. To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, is the truly the foundation of our faith. It sounds like a very simple idea, because it is! But Batterson insists that the problem within our churches is that we’re not great at the Great Commandment. Because of this, he writes about the four elements of the Great Commandment. He writes on page 7:

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.
Batterson notes, “But one thing is sure: loving God in one way isn’t enough. It’s not enough to love God with just your heart or soul or mind or strength.”

Along with the idea of returning to the primal form of Christianity, Batterson urges the reader to return to the first time and place where God spoke to you or did something powerful in your life.

So before going forward, let me encourage you to go backward. Go back to that place where God opened your eyes and broke your heart with compassion for others. Go back to that place where the glory of God flooded your heart with wonder. Go back to that place where thoughts about God filled your mind with holy curiosity. Go back to that place where a God-given dream caused a rush of adrenaline that filled you with supernatural energy.

Basically, the book is not an exegetical commentary on the Great Commandment found in the Gospels; rather, it is a “reimagination” of the four primal elements. Each element (heart, soul, mind, and strength) has two chapters dedicated to it, and Batterson creatively presents a new perspective on each.

That’s the book in summary, but let me add some of my personal thoughts and comments. I particularly enjoyed this book because I’ve taught/preached on the Great Commandment and the importance of understanding each element as distinct from one another. I’ve tried to stress what Batterson very creatively articulates in this great book. I know for a fact I’ll probably adopt some of his ideas into my next lesson or sermon on the Great Commandment.

I especially enjoyed the sections on loving God with our heart (compassion) and loving God with our strength (energy). In the section on the heart, one of the things that Batterson challenges the reader about is how we as Christians use our money. He constantly asks, how much is enough? When it comes to income, do we know how much we really need to live and how much we can give away? I felt convicted and excited at the same time about how I can use my money to love God. On page 44 Batterson writes:

What if, instead of sound quality or lyrical creativity, our litmus test for worship was a heart that breaks for the things that break the heart of God? What if we saw compassion as a form of worship? Worship without words. Worship beyond words.
In his section on loving God with all our strength, I couldn’t help but imagine what God was teaching me through his words. He kept talking about the “God-ideas” that the Father instills in us to pursue. At some point we have to stop thinking and second-guessing where God is leading us and finally go for it. That’s what it means to love God with our strength. On page 138 he says:

Are there any God ideas you’ve given up on? Any God-ordained passions that
you have stopped fighting for? Any God-sized dreams gathering the dust of
Through powerful illustrations and stories from his own experience, Batterson communicates timeless truths about the Great Commandment. Using Scripture as his guide, he takes us down a familiar path while pointing out the creative and re-imagined elements we may have missed along the way. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a little encouragement or new perspectives on how they live their Christian faith. But one thing I can guarantee: you won’t ever look at the Great Commandment with the same eyes. You will be rejuvenated and excited about your faith and about what God wants to do with your life.

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