Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson

I recently received a pre-release copy of Mark Batterson’s new book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.  Can I be honest? I was a little skeptical. I mean, I enjoyed his first book: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. But a lot of “Christian living” books are all the same. They have good points. But they have the same points. And they’re about 200 pages too long.

But with Primal, I was impressed. It was a quick, interesting, and challenging read. Batterson has the ability to weave interesting examples around real truths, and it’s all built around a framework of application.

I really believe that as the “Church” today most of us are educated beyond our level of obedience. We need more books like this. It’s filled with simple truths you’ve probably heard before. But there’s also more than likely a few new perspectives in here, as well as fresh ways to apply that wisdom you already “know.”

Primal is wrapped around a desire to return to a basic, primal Christianity – to look at what it means to love the Lord with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Mark unpacks each section in detail, looking at “heart” through the lens of compassion, the “soul” through wonder, the “mind” through curiosity, and “strength” through our energy.

I was personally challenged by Mark’s thoughts about money. In his section on loving God with all of your heart, Mark tells the story of Stanley Tam, a man who transferred all of his successful business to God more than 50 years ago. For him, that meant he worked off of a salary. All of his profits above that went to kingdom work. He’s given away more than $100 million.

“A man can eat only one meal at a time, wear only one suit of clothes at a time, drive only one car at a time. All this I have. Isn’t that enough?” Batterson quotes Stanley as asking.

I’m at a point in life where I’m concerned about money and the future. How will I provide for my family? How can I bring security? There’s a real battle there between comfort and security and much of God’s call. I love Mark’s idea of setting an income ceiling – determining how much you need, tithing along the way, but once you hit that cap, giving everything else away.

“I stopped setting income goals and started setting giving goals,” Mark writes. “I finally come to terms with the fact that making money is the way you make a living and giving it away is the way you make a life.”

Primal is filled with more challenging, thought-provoking ways to apply Jesus’ simple message.

Mark’s publicist encouraged the advance copy readers to challenge our readers to make this their first book of 2010. That may sound a little PRish, but I actually think it’s a useful idea. I know Grete and I are going to be reading through and thinking through some of the concepts together in the coming weeks.

So overall, I’m excited. Sometimes the small steps we take are the most significant. And most of us have a list of things we know we should do that we just don’t get around to doing. Primal‘s like a list of basics attached to motivation and ideas of how to put them into practice. If you can unpack what it says and apply it to your life, I know it can be tranformational. That’s what I’m going to try to do.

(Disclosure: The links to the book in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click that way and buy, I get 4% or so of your purchase. I’ve made about $0 off that on this blog so far and only reviewed it positively because I really like the book, but if it bothers you, you can click here to get to without the affiliate code…)

One response to “Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson”

  1. Jon – this sounds interesting – I hadn’t heard he wrote a new book – the Stanley Tam story sounds incredible too.

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