book review: primal

When I was in college, I had the privilege of doing my ministerial internship with Mark Batterson at National Community Church. It was an incredible opportunity. While I was there, Mark told me something that I’ve never forgotten. He saw me reading one of the dozen or so books he assigned for me to read and said that I shouldn’t use a yellow highlighter (which I was using). Instead, he instructed me to use another color like blue or orange. That way, when the color fades over the years, I could still see the highlights. Yellow, he said, just didn’t last.

I would have listened to his advice, but to me, utilizing anything other than a yellow highlighter is an abomination. I’m sure there’s something in Leviticus warning against that….

But this is a review of his new book and not a discussion about highlighters. (For what it’s worth, however, that’s where my problems with him start and end.) I have a great deal of respect for Batterson. His two previous books, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase have both had a profound impact on my life and ministry.

Batterson’s new book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity explores the core elements of what it means to love God according to the Great Commandment. He seeks to pull back the layers of tradition and routine that tend to creep in and crowd out the primal aspects of Christianity.

The book is divided into four parts taken from Mark 12:30. In this passage, Jesus distills the Law down into what we call the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Batterson describes these four aspects of love as follows:

  1. Heart = Compassion
  2. Soul = Wonder
  3. Mind = Curiosity
  4. Strength = Energy

Each of these four aspects make up the sections of the book and Batterson tackles them with passion and clarity. For those who have read his previous books or follow his blog, some of the content here will be familiar. For me, that’s not a complaint. If there’s one thing I appreciate about Batterson’s writing, it’s that I’m constantly left feeling challenged, convicted and spurred on to greater faith. The book is jam-packed with insight, fresh perspective and inspiration.

Which brings me back to my highlighter. Maybe I should have listened to Mark. Halfway through the book the other night, mine died. The bright yellow had faded into a dull indistinguishable pale color. In other circumstances, I probably would have just kept on reading, but I knew I wanted to mark the book up along the way. So I stopped and waited until the next day when I could get my hands on another one at the office. I’m glad I did. As I look back over the book now, almost every page has something highlighted on it. Much of this has to do with the way Batterson describes truth in fresh, insightful and memorable ways:

  • “it’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one”
  • “you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving”
  • “making money is the way you make a living and giving it away is the way you make a life”
  • “Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you.”
  • “overanalysis will always result in spiritual paralysis”
  • “Most of what God accomplishes through our lives isn’t because of us. It’s in spite of us.”

I could go on and on. Maybe I’m a compulsive highlighter, but this book is brimming with great content. For me, it’s a must read. Primal has challenged me to get back to the core aspects of my faith and what it means to love God. I recommend it to anyone who seeks to have an authentic, life-changing experience with Christianity. I’ve already pre-ordered a couple of copies for some of my friends.

Do yourself a favor and make Primal the first book you read in 2010. You won’t be disappointed and I believe it’ll transform your understanding and expression of what it means to love God.

Primal can be pre-orderd on and will be released December 22, 2009.

For disclosure’s sake, I need to add that my copy of Primal was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Author: Erik

Erik lives in Bethalto, IL were he serves as the Executive Pastor at Cornerstone Church. He and his wife, Bethany, have two boys (Parker and Kent). He's an Apple fan and all around techie who loves Angry Birds and Words With Friends.

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