BOOK REVIEW- Primal: A quest for the lost soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson's Primal

Mark Batterson is an author I recently became acquainted with the author via his blog: http://evotional.com/. I had run across an article I found helpful and reprinted it on the blog: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/helpful-articles-the-best-decision-i-made-this-year-by-mark-batterson/.  As an author he seemed to be tuning into things God has been working and moving in me and as such challenging my growth in my relationship with God.

So given that initial introduction via Facebook and his blog I learned of an opportunity to review is upcoming book: Primal.  The books are read are carefully picked these days and done with the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is plenty of information and thoughts in the world at large but felt a leading to read this book and embraced the opportunity to discuss my impressions of the book on this blog site.  In discussing my impression of the book the discussion will involve examining the overall writing style of the book, the content of the book, and the personal impact of reading the material.  After examining the book I will add in my overall recommendations regarding the book.

The Writing:

As an author Mark Batterson is an excellent communicator.  He does a good job of communicating his points in an accessible manner that can be easily understood and digested.  Mark is able to take you into his perspective and teach what he has to offer.  Mark writes with a clear organization structure and the writing flows from one topic to the next easily.  As an author Mark is able to take you through a process and lead you to the summary conclusion in a seamless and succinct manner. 

The biggest strength Mark Batterson displays as an author is that of being able to use symbols that give fuller meaning and detail to the point he is making.  He is able to use symbolic images that illustrate adeptly the theological points he is making and give what he is teaching greater depth.

Another factor that is evident in the writing of the book is a deep genuineness. Mark writes in a way that is open and shares himself and his relationship with God. When reading the book, there is a feeling of joining in with the journey God brought Mark Batterson through in coming to the thoughts and the conclusions the book examines.

There is one issue though with Mark’s writing. Sometimes in what he shared it seemed he has repeated points he made elsewhere. Some of that may stem from the fact of having recently read his book Wild Goose Chase and have visited his blog several times upon discovery of his writing. So when an example is read that is similar to one read previously it just seems repetitive. Part of that is when you have got a powerful symbol that makes the point it is difficult not to keep using the symbol or try and find another symbol to say the same thing. It however can be frustrating to a reader to come to a point and feel like you had heard that point already.

Overall the writing in the book does excellent job of teaching the information presented in an accessible way that provides both depth and ease of understanding.

The Content:

The content in primal is that of primal importance.  The book content really does a profound job of describing genuine response to God’s revealed reality.  In other words, the book expounds on what it is to worship in truth. The content of the book really builds off of the points made in this article/sermon: https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/worship-in-spirit-and-truth-how-do-we/.

The book Primal in essence expounds upon the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Mark views heart, soul, mind, and strength as being four ways we move in love.  Mark connects heart with compassion, soul with wonder, mind with curiosity, and power with energy.  He then goes on to explain the meaning of those four areas. 

Mark Batterson does a good job at describing each area that gives a solid introduction to the concepts that also leaves the reader challenge to grow, explore and find out more.  The book cannot be read without being challenged to grow in compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy. Even more, it challenges the reader to fully depend on God, as the true move in each dimension comes not from self but dependence on God. 

The content of the book though is not simply about explaining what it means to respond to God in those four areas of love, it is also a call to change and action.  It is call to others to move into loving God which requires action. He sums up the call to action of love in two words derived from Latin: Amo Dei. Meaning: Love God.

Personal Impact:

Personally the book was very complimentary to what God has been teaching and showing me. The connection with the examination of worship is spirit and truth has already been made. Yet I must admit that upon reading Mark’s perspective on the greatest commandment initially there was some struggle.  The first thought in my mind is that those four areas are not just ways we respond in love but the four aspects of self.  God though took those thoughts and through Mark’s writing enlarged them to a deeper understanding with Mark’s perspective added onto what I already had come to an understanding of.  So the book challenged me to move beyond my own understanding and look at the same concepts from a different perspective.  Ultimately Mark’s perspective expanded my understanding of moving in genuine response to God’s revealed reality.

The second impact was that the book challenged me to self-examination and growth.  The material in the book pushes the reader to really take a good look at the level in each dimension where operating in loving God, or settling for matters of gratifying self.  A personal reflective look results in knowing that there is a lot more growth needed in loving God and loving God well.  There is still a lot of self that dominates and gets in the way.  My heart, soul, mind, and strength are not as fully engulfed in loving God as they should.  Yet, it also leaves with knowledge that when I genuinely respond to God’s revealed reality and the initiative God takes in my live, the more I grow in ability to love not only God but others as well.

One other reaction to the book was that in each area of description it seemed that Mark only scratch the surface of meaning. It felt like taking a walk in the shallow end of the four dimensions examined by Mark.  There was a distinct desire to delve more deeply in understanding of each level. 

The true personal impact of the words written by Mark Batterson as God uses them in my life remains yet to be seen.  The book serves a good introduction at loving God completely and growing in genuine response to God with compassion, wonder, curiosity and strength that transcends self.  The book ends with a call to “Reformation” that brings the result of living Amo Dei. Living in such a way that loving God is greater than loving life. 

Recommendation:

If you want to start off the New Year with a book that will challenge you to change and growth, start off with reading Primal.  Of course it helps that the book is scheduled to be released on January 1st, 2010. The book is definitely worth adding to your library.

The book is well written and does a good job of teaching the importance and essence of following the greatest commandment, loving God totally.  The reader will not be unchanged in examining the content as God speaks in the words Mark uses to examine all aspects of loving God. The book will leave you with a call to action to move in greater measure of loving God.   

It is a book that can certainly be used in any church congregation or small group as well. The book can serves as a good discipleship tool in teaching others what it is to live out loving God.  For Pastors who like to use books in conjunction with sermon series, the material in this book provides rich ground for even further exposition.   The book is written in such a way that the material can be used in a small group format along with questions and interactions that could result in a powerful small group learning experience.   It will be interesting to see how God uses the book to touch the lives of others and people reconnect with the primal meaning of loving God fully.

My final recommendation is regardless of whether or not you read the book or use it as part of a small group community or church ministry you should take time to learn how to love God deeply.  I support strongly the call to live Amo Dei. You do not need to read Primal in order to grow in your genuine response to God’s love, you can do so simply responding genuinely to what God has done, but the book will give you a good foundation and framework that can facilitate growth in loving God.

Places you can purchase Primal: Amazon, Random House, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distrubutors.

Christian Creativity: Mikeschair- Let the waters rise

Christianity Today recently posted an article about a newer Christian Band publishing with Curb Records that is going by the name of Mikeschair.  Strange name and have not found an explanation for it. The band just released their first music video Let the Water’s Rise.  The video images in combination with the lyrics to the song are powerful. It really points toward remember God and his faithfulness regardless of what is going on around you. 

They have a MySpace page which can be found at www.mikeschair.com. Mike Grayson, the lead singer, possible owner of the chair, and general band front man his a blog at the My Space page. He posted a comment about the song:

Let the Waters Rise is by far one of our favorite songs on the record.  I am so excited about this song being a single because I feel like its one of the most honest song we have written.  There are going to be times in all of our lives where we don’t understand the situation that God has us in, or we feel like He is no where to be found when we need Him most.  These are the times when our faith is truly tested.  Jesus never promised that our lives down here were going to be perfect, in fact, in John 16 Jesus says “In this world you will have troubles…” In this life we are going to experience death, we are going to experience loneliness, disappointment, and heartache, but Jesus doesn’t leave us there!!  That same verse in John is finished by Jesus saying “but take heart! For I have overcome the world”.  One of the hardest things we are going to have to do as believers is choose to follow even with a raging sea is right in front of us.  Our prayer is that this song encourages you in those times of struggle to “take heart!” and follow God no matter what the situation.

Here is the video he is taking about and drew my attention to this young band and how God may be using them:

Please pray that God continues to work out in their life what it means to worship in spirit and truth and keeps them on the narrow way. At the concerts they apparently have a table letting people donate food or money to various ministries and organizations helping those in need in this world, displaying God’s love in action.  The heart of their actions and desire definitely comes across as displaying genuine response to God’s revealed reality.  Mike Grayson also has a video explaining their commitment to Mike’s table: