Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Primal by Mark Batterson

It is often good to focus on the core; to get back to the basics of what you believe or how you do something. Mark Batterson sets out to help our generation embark on a reformation, not one that is a new discovery, but one that is a rediscovery of something old, even Primal. Primal is the title of the latest book by Mark Batterson. In an effort to pursue reformation, Mark takes a look original reason for creation, the core meaning of the Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

The author encourages us to engage Christ by applying thought and action to the four ares where we're to love God: our heart, soul, mind and strength. Each section is a thought-provoking analysis of the meaning of the those words from the original Greek, but the application uses relevant illustrations. This is not in an academic study, but an experiential one as you think carefully about what it means to love God with all your heart or with all your soul.

We live at a multi-task pace. We pay attention to our cell phones while we watch TV, surf the Internet and talk with our family. Many time the author calls us to focus, think deeply about what it means to do anything with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. For example, in the section on all of our mind, he discusses how our imagination is much more powerful than the logical-thinking part of our brain. Our imagination is able to conceive of much more than we can feel or taste or smell. But we use so little of our imagination when we are engaged with God. I confess avoiding my imagination in relationship to God. I get so easily discouraged when God doesn't meet my expectations. So I keep Him in a box. I was very challenged by the idea of worshiping God with my imagination. My gratitude goes to the author and the publisher for the challenge.

You need to read this book. Our church (the universal one) needs to re-ignite our Primal, core need to engage God and love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. This book will help you do just that.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Real Church by Larry Crabb

Larry Crabb doesn't much like going to church anymore. And he's not alone. That's actually the title of the Introduction to the book Real Church: Does It Exist? Can I Find It? by Larry Crabb.

Depending on your own perspective, I can imagine people calling the book anything from a rant to a compelling, transparent look at both the church and the person. My perspective is much like the authors. I don't much like going to church anymore either. I definitely wouldn't call this a rant.

The author is transparent and honest and represents both sides of some of his own arguments. Just reviewing the chapter titles will show you where the author's thoughts travel.
Chapter 1: Why Have We Lost Interest in Church?
Chapter 2: Why Do So Many People Still Attend Church and Like It?
Chapter 3: So What Is It that Makes a Gathering a Church?
Chapter 4: So What Is It that Causes a Gathering to Cease Being a Church?

And those were just the chapters of the introduction. The author goes on to examine the question, "Why should I go to church?" The next five chapters examine three answers to that question that just don't work:
  1. "It will make my life better;"
  2. "It will show me how to change my world;"
  3. "It will offer salvation and help for righteous living."
Before reaching the end of the book, the author calls many current church practices into question. His reasoning strikes me as biblically sound. Many of us could use asking God to take us throught the same evaluation the author describes.

For me the most compelling part of the book was in Chapter 20. The third section is titled "Marks of the Church I Want to Be Part Of" and chapter 20 is Mark #3: Finds Contentment in Wanting What Jesus Wants.
Listen to Jesus: "May they [His followers] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me" (John 17:23, emphasis mine). Francis Schaeffer called it God's "final apologetic." What he meant, I think, was this: how we get along with one another is the most persuasive evidence the Holy Spirit has to work with as He draws people to Jesus (emphasis in the original).

Jesus calls his church to unity. Why wouldn't we expect difficulty, even satanic attack, at that very point. Maybe that's why church seems to be such a performance any more with so little community (at least in my own personal experience).

If you're having trouble with church, I recommend the book. I believe the author managed to engage in constructive examination and pursuit of a deeper relationship with Jesus. Now if more church elders and staff people would read it too.