Primal - Book Review

I've enjoyed Mark Batterson's blog for years. Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC, and can be counted on for a regular daily dose of good leadership insights. Only watching from the outside, Mark seems to be the kind of pastor I would love to be: energetic, sharp, well-read, with an ability to be serious about ministry and serious about his staff team (and church as a whole) having a lot of fun.

Primal is Mark's third book. I enjoyed "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day," and got the privilege of reviewing an advance copy of "Wild Goose Chase." His publisher was gracious enough to send me "Primal" as well.

"Primal" is Batterson's most mature book to date. This book has more intensity than its predecessors and hits just a little harder. But just like the first two books, "Primal" is a good motivational book with good advice about living the spiritual life.

Batterson has mastered the art of the axiom, and (as I wrote in my Wild Goose Chase review) is an anecdote machine. His one-liners and creative storytelling make the book an extremely fast read, and help it stick with the reader.

"Primal" is outlined around a "reimagination of the four primal elements detailed by Jesus in the the Great Commandment" (Mark 12:30). His thesis is that our primal problem as a Church is that we are rarely even good at the great commandment. In talking about the heart, soul, mind, and strength of Christianity, Batterson says we need "primal compassion," "primal wonder," "primal curiosity," and "primal energy."

The theologically astute reader will find little to argue with in Batterson's conclusions, but may be a little disappointed in the way Batterson gets there. The book is anecdote heavy, but not Bible heavy. Batterson often uses the Bible to illustrate his point, but rarely to make his point. This is a weakness, in my opinion, because it limits the real authority behind Batterson's right conclusions.

Batterson's writing style is extremely unique. He isn't a linear thinker, and doesn't write like one. So, the linear left-brained thinker (like me) may struggle to follow where Batterson is taking them. Instead, Batterson asserts several things around his point, tells a few story, and a conclusion pops out. The left-brained person may feel like the book is disjointed but it isn't. Once you understand Batterson's mindset, the book is much easier to follow.

If you're looking for a good motivational book this Christmas to set your focus as you head into the New Year, "Primal" might the book for you. It won't take you long to read, and you will find a lot of great points to think about. It shouldn't be the meatiest book you read in 2010, but is a good one to jump start your thinking.