Primal by Mark Batterson
I stumbled onto the Batterson Blog a few months ago thanks to the recommendation of Randy Bohlender of Stuff I Think fame. As I’ve read the posts I’ve come to enjoy Mark Batterson’s unique perspective on life and ministry which is both transparent and biblical all at the same time. In true Web 2.0 form I became aware of Mark’s new book through his blog and I was intrigued because the theme of Mark’s book, restoring the lost soul of Christianity, and signed up to join the blog tour.
Mark’s book reads like an extended version of his blog, which in my opinion is a compliment. It’s personal, a good mix of experience and biblical thought, and well-written. Mark contends that we must return to what made Christianity great in the first few centuries and in order to do that, we must return to what made our Christianity great in the first days after we came to know Christ. This is the primal place, the place, according to Mark, “where loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all that matters…[where] the place for the lost soul of Christianity begins…”
I have to stop here and say that while I believe that loving God with all of our being is essential to restoring the lost soul of Christianity, I do not believe that you can just start there. I believe that loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is the result of a revelation of Jesus to the human heart, both initially and continually over the life of a believer.
The way forward in each of these areas (heart, soul, mind, and strength) seems somewhat like a maintenance prescription for a car that neglects filling the tank with gasoline. And while I’m sure that Mark believes in the necessity of encountering Jesus regularly, the book seems to convey the idea that simply attempting to grow in love in these four areas will cause Christianity to be revitalized. So, yes, these are essential, but they have to flow out of a revelation of God to the human heart. And when they do, we will see the recovery Mark is talking about.
That said, if you are encountering Jesus in a continual and regular basis and are looking to be pushed in some practical ways, this a good book and will be helpful for you. Mark splits it up into four sections focusing in on how we can grow in our heart, soul, mind, and spirit. I’ve never seen someone take quite the same amount of time on each of these sections individually. Each one would be great to focus on devotionally for a season of time and I think the book can be read that way. For the purpose of brevity, lets look at each of these sections and sum up Mark’s take on them.
The first section of the book is about loving with our heart and Mark does a good job of showing us how we’ve stopped living (and loving) from our hearts. He then points to the fact that much of our Christianity is detached from feeling what God feels and he calls the reader back to the place of feeling the things that God feels very deeply.
Mark’s description of what happens when we touch God’s heart focuses primarily on how it affects our pocket book. People who feel what God feels are compelled to lives of extravagant giving and generosity toward the lost and the poor. I whole-heartedly agree. My only complaint is we don’t see much on how loving with our whole heart affects other areas of our lives, such as prayer, how we spend our time, or live out our testimony before unbelievers.
The next section focuses on loving God with our soul. This was probably the section that challenged me the most. Mark links the growth of our soul in love to our ability to wonder at things around us. God, he says, wondered at His creation and we stunt our spiritual growth into His image if we loose our capacity to wonder at the things around us. I know for me, it’s easy to get caught in routine and lose a wonder for God and the things He has created.
The primary place of wonder Mark spends time calling us to rediscover is our wonder over the record of God found in the Bible. I found myself whole-heartedly agreeing with him about our tendency to expect to be fed by a local church leader and not feeding ourselves on the truth in the Bible. Mark shines in this section as both a teacher and a confronter.
After looking at our ability to love God with our soul, Mark spends time exploring what it means to love God with our mind. One thing I’ve learned by reading Mark’s blog and the book is that Mark has never been fond of boundaries and it shines through in this chapter. Because of that, Mark believes that there are new, God-inspired thoughts that can change the world and change lives, and it’s the believer’s duty to tap into them.
The challenge then is to receive these thoughts and act on them. The only way to put these thoughts into action is to change our approach to risk and failure, because a fear of failure will cause us only to replicate already existing patterns. Again this was solid food for thought and prayer and I would recommend it to those who haven’t thought about what it means to love God with their mind.
I have to be honest, I haven’t read this section yet, which saddens me. But the blog tour must take place and I can’t leave a book unfinished, so at some point stop back and I’ll give you my thoughts. I do have to say, however, that I think this is shaping up to be the strongest part of the book. Just by way of looking at the chapter titles, this is the part of the book I was most excited about and I believe most tangibly relates to movements. I’ll be interested also to see how Mark ties all four sections together into the “Primal Movement” he’s been describing since the beginning of the book.
In summary, Mark offers us a good book on returning to an all-encompassing relationship with Jesus. Because (at least in my estimation) Mark seems to be a boundary pusher, anyone who needs a jolt in their walk with Jesus or just a different perspective on loving God would benefit from the book. Again, I believe it would have been helpful to explore more of the vertical aspects of this love that Mark calls us to pursue. Things like encountering Jesus in prayer, fasting, and meditation might have been helpful. But to the person who is, this book will definitely push your boundaries in each of these four areas and bring us closer to the primal movement we all long to see.
*In the interest of full disclosure, Multinomah offered a free copy of this book in exchange for a review posted here as well as on a merchant site.