Book Review of Mark Batterson’s “Primal”

When I was given a preview copy of PRIMAL, Mark Batterson’s newest book, to review I thought “Great, a free book!”  After reading it I now realize that I was given the privilege of previewing what should be the first book you read in 2010.  How’s that for a bold statement?  Read on. 

Click here to order PRIMAL
Click PRIMAL to order

PRIMAL  is a call for reformation. It is a call for a movement that takes seriously the truths revealed in 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.”  It is a handbook on how having a primal love for the Lord changes not only us, but the church and the culture we engage.  I can honestly say that few books have challenged me to take the Great Commandment seriously as the core of my Christian experience as much as this one. 

PRIMAL is divided into four sections based on the four primal elements in the Great Commandment. 

  • The heart of Christianity is Primal compassion.
  • The soul of Christianity is Primal wonder.
  • The mind of Christianity is Primal curiosity.
  • The strength of Christianity is Primal energy.

The book’s challenge is simple: become great at obeying the Great Commandment.  According to Batterson this is a challenge because:    

“. . . we’re not great at the Great Commandment. In too many instances, we’re not even good at it.”  

So how do we get great at it?  Batterson’s answer is to have a single minded love toward God.  He writes, 

“Here is what I have learned about loving God, and how that changed my life.  Perhaps it will be an encouragement to you to seek to break out of your ruts and chains and truly love God.”


PRIMAL  is a different sort of book.   It is not written in a point, by point systematic theology style rather it is a journal of a journey of a life learning to love God and learning to live out of that love by loving God with all our compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy.   Batterson calls this loving “to the fourth power”.  PRIMAL keeps the main theme front and center in a way that is never boring.  I look forward to reading it again in the future. 

When I began to read this book (and yes, I was asked to write this review in my blog but I received no compensation other than the preview copy of PRIMAL) my first thought was “Do we really need another book on Mark 12:30?” I know I’ve often read that verse, and in fact I’ve read many books based on it, but what Batterson brings to the table is his belief that reading The Great Commandment and meditating on it are two very different things.  I was not prepared for how challenged I would be by the latter and how God would use it to speak to me in my specific circumstances. Batterson describes this process well: 

“According to rabbinic tradition, every word of sacred Scripture has seventy faces and six hundred thousand meanings. If I had to describe Scripture in a single word, it would be kaleidoscopic. You can read the same verse on different occasions and it will speak to you in totally different ways. It reminds me of the adage attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “You never step into the same river twice.” In a similar vein, you never read the same verse of Scripture the same way twice. And that is a testament to its divine Author.” 

This is just one of the many nuggets of wisdom sprinkled generously throughout PRIMAL. Its anecdotal stories and scholarly quotes alone are enough to make me recommend this book to other Shadowlanders, but there is so much more to recommend it.  For one there is the author himself. 

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. One church with nine services in five locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations and meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the D.C. area.  Obviously Batterson is an innovative pastor (in fact, his story would itself make a good book) and his insight and storytelling ability make PRIMAL as delightful to read as it is challenging to digest.  I’ll say it again: this should be your first book to read in 2010. 

I have recommended this book to one of our small group leaders for group study.  I hope she will  give it a serious look. If you lead a small group I make the same recommendation to you.  If I were still preaching every week there is no doubt in my mind that I would have a sermon series based on PRIMAL If you are a pastor, preacher, or campus minister I hope you’ll read this book and use it in your preaching/teaching.  You can thank me later! I have a sister-in-law that is part of a serious book club.  To her and anyone else in a book club or book study group I say you and your group could spend weeks discussing the search for the lost soul of Christianity and how to love God to the fourth power.  What a great way to start the first New Year of a new decade of this new millennium! 

Toward the end of PRIMAL:A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity  Batterson pens these words: 

“Compassion, Wonder, Curiosity and Energy are nouns.  It’s our job to turn them into verbs. It’s our highest calling and greatest privilege.” 

Enough said. Buy PRIMAL(click on the book cover to order it) when it goes on sale on December 22.  Read it.  Join the Primal reformation. 

When you read PRIMAL I’d love to hear from you. 


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