As far as I know, there is no such thing as “C.A.” (Churchies Anonymous), but maybe there should be. There are undoubtedly a lot of you like me who were raised in the subculture of the Western Evangelical American Church. You know, that subtle, religious dance, where Christianity is defined by a set of behavioral standards and consistent Sunday attendance.
And while I really do cherish the way I was raised, I often wonder how much of my understanding of God was shaped merely by a set of cultural norms rather than a true and personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Many days I feel like I’m still waking up.
That‘s why I love Mark Batterson’s new book PRIMAL: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. This book takes dead aim at humanity’s uncanny ability to over-complicate God. To trade in the freedom of Christ for the layers of religiosity He actually came to unravel, all in our vain attempts to find Him in the first place. In PRIMAL, Mark gets back to the simple essence of what it means to love God.
Mark is a “churchie” like me. Raised in it, married into it, studied it, built it. But he’s a church “insider” that’s not satisfied with simply preserving the status quo. Mark’s not afraid of the hard questions, yet he asks them with such dignity and class you feel like he’s giving you a high five while he’s really kicking your butt. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“The temptation is to ask this question: what’s wrong with this generation? But that is the wrong question. The right question is this: what’s wrong with the church?”
“As we grow in our love relationship with God, we begin to empathize with God. We feel what He feels.”
“It seems to me that we have spiritualized the American Dream or materialized the gospel.”
“When we lose our sense of wonder, what we really lose is our soul. Our lack of wonder is really a lack of love.”
“I’m afraid we’ve unintentionally fostered a subtle form of spiritual codependency in our churches. It’ is easy to let others take responsibility for what should be our responsibility.”
“Too many of us try to understand truth in the static state. We want to understand it without doing anything about it, but it doesn’t work that way. You want to understand it? Then obey it.”
“The truth is that most of us are already educated way beyond the level of our obedience. We learn more and do less, thinking all the while that we’re growing spiritually.”
“Which do you love more: your dream or God?”
“This book is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you, more important than you, and longer lasting than you. It’s an invitation to be part of the next reformation.“
PRIMAL reads quickly and is compiled in powerful, poignant, yet small, almost blog-like chunks. In fact, this book really seems to be further development of many of Mark’s posts from the last few years. It reflects an honest passion for Christ beyond just being a church leader (as well as an obvious fascination for scientific thought and studies).
I highly recommend it as a first read for 2010. It’s a great book for anyone, but it found a special connection with me as a church “insider” constantly looking to escape the complicated layers that religious culture has quietly coated me with over the years. If you want something real, search for something primal.
Check it out. Let me know what you think.