Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson in Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity challenges the church to question the current state of Christianity. Batterson finds our faith to be educated, civilized and generally acceptable to the world while losing its power, compassion and authenticity. To regain these lost elements Batterson drives us to the essence of our faith in the Primal Commandment Mark 12:30:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Batterson charges the church with not striving to be great with the commandant, in fact he states the church often is not even good at this charge. The author argues that in order to regain its God given authority, the church and individuals must excel at this essential directive. Batterson then examines the pieces of the primal commandant; heart, soul, mind and strength for his reader. Batterson concludes with a call for a new reformation based on believers who have learned to excel at this basic command.

Though Batterson’s material may seem similar to some readers, Batterson’s voice provides a new take on calls for authentic faith and response. Batterson enjoys science and understanding how things work, reinforcing his faith by understanding the complexity of the world. Batterson the pastor shows a willingness to experiment; seeing movie theaters as a platform for delivering the gospel. Multnomah Books and Batterson are encouraging Christians to consider this book as their first read in 2010 sparking a Primal movement. For some readers this book could serve as a good introduction to emergent thought and a challenge to foster a passionate relationship with God that surpasses apologetics and involves the readers mind and soul. For other readers much of the book will seem to reinforce the thoughts of other authors that have called the church to return to the essentials of the faith. For both audiences this book could be a fruitful first read for 2010, though perhaps not essential.

Review Copy provided by Multnomah Books

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Tallest of Smalls by Max Lucado

In the town of Stiltsville the community is divided into two groups. Once group places themselves above the other standing on stilts. Ollie is a boy who sees himself as not special and desires to be valued by receiving the gift of stilts. When Ollie receives his stilts, his raised position above those on the ground does not last long and Ollie learns that his value is not in stilts but in his relationship with his maker and savior.

Overall this is a very cute book with great illustrations that help engage children to the text. My daughter pointed out visuals that corresponded with the story, furthering the experience. However, despite its cuteness the book does fall a little flat in some areas. The cover advertises a tie-in to the adult Lucado book Fearless. However, readers not familiar with that book will have a hard time connecting this children’s story with the topic of fear. Also in many ways this book feels like another telling if the Punchinello You are Special story which shares a common theme with this book, but Punchinello is more subtle and effective in execution.

Review Copy provided by Thomas Nelson

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield.

Stephen Mansfield in The Search for God and Guinness combines two topics that many may find opposed, beer and God. Mansfield provides an overview of the long holy history of beer and its importance from ancient to early modern society. He overturns the myth of the establishment of the Guinness brewery as a God ordained antidote to the social ills of 18th century Ireland, but instead shows the determination of one religious man in Arthur Guinness’ establishment of the St. James Gate brewery in 1759. Mansfield provides a history of the first Arthur’s decedents in three branches the brewers, the bankers and the “Guinness’s for God” focusing primarily on the brewers and those who made ministry their vocation. The Guinness family history ends with the end of a Guinness directly running the brewery and movement from a family brewery to a major corporation.

The history of the “Guinness’s for God” should be especially heartwarming to Christians. But more exciting is the history of the brewers. The Guinness Brewery is a story of a culture of generosity. It is a tale of care towards brewery staff who were better paid, better educated, better housed and generally lived better lives than their neighbors due to the loving spirit of the Guinness family. The positive effects of the brewery spilled into the streets of Dublin in the early 20th century to inspire social improvement and social justice. Mansfield is a historian who is able to successfully combine the historian’s craft with a heart for God. He tells a story that both challenges his and our views towards beer and shows what a legacy of love can do to impact the lives of others. His story is one that will make me less judgmental towards those sporting Guinness gear and one that makes we want to share the meaning of a powerful organization.