Primal Chapter 5 – Seventy Faces

Recently, I was asked by Andy if I would be willing to participate in a group blogging project regarding Mark Batterson‘s book, Primal. I had already read it and Bible college once I had graduated from high school.  I even earned a religion degree.  But I was deemed “most likely to appear on Jerry Springer” by my peers, no one could have foreseen what God would do in my life.  No one would have said, “David. He’ll be the Bible guy.”

And yet, that’s what I’ve become.  In my journey, I’ve become the Bible-thumper.  And perhaps, that’s why this chapter resonated with my journey.   In the attempt to go back to the basics of the Christian faith and life, we must return to the Christian Word.

The quest for the lost soul of Christianity always leads us back to the Bible. (pg. 72)

The Not-so Bible Guy

Truth be told, my years in college were a smorgasbord of running away from God.  I experienced the same hypocrisy that existed in my own heart present in the lives of so many of those I wanted to look up to.  I watched the preaching students with the pleated khaki’s and the polo shirts party harder than I ever imagined every weekend.  And it disgusted me.  Not because of what they were doing, but because I had the same experience and inclination.  So I rebelled from the expectation.  I decided that I would be the same guy on the weekends that I was during the week.  But rather than aligning my life by straightening up, I quit playing pretend, had fun, and damaged far too many relationships around me.

When I “discovered the Bible”

And it was somewhere in this journey – not pretending to be the nice Christian boy I was expected to be, but just trying to live a good life – that God began actively drawing me to himself.  I tried to live a life pleasing to God, while also trying to prevent that from changing anything in me.  I wanted be to whole.  I wanted to be strong.  I wanted to grow in Christ.  But I could not bring myself to establish a consistent time in God’s Word.  I had heard lessons, sermons, and lectures on why I should read my Bible and memorize verses and have a quiet time – all of which would apparently be even better and more godly if I would do them before dawn. And I tried. I set my alarm to no avail. I fell asleep while reading the Bible and sufficiently drooled all over God’s Word. I envied my friends who would share with me their invigoration after they had encountered God while I was still sawing logs, but try as I might, I could not do it.

And then, through a season of intense struggling, I came to understand (by God’s grace) that the foundation for my hope was in the revealed Word of God.  In it, I began to see that the same sovereign hand at work in the Scriptures, was at work in me.  My heart was suddenly drawn to God’s Word in a way that it had not been before.  I committed to reading the Bible cover-to-cover once per year and purchased a “Daily Message” Bible (which interestingly enough, is the exact same Bible that Mark Batterson purchased with the same commitment).

When we open the Bible, it’s like God opens his mouth… That’s how we tune in to his voice. (pg. 72)

In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who had a similar epiphany), “I discovered the Bible.”  I discovered a sense of intimate fellowship with my Creator as I read, prayed, and meditated on his Word.  Because reading God’s Word isn’t enough.  We should meditate on it.  And that sounds so eastern, but rather than emptying our minds, meditating on Scripture fills our minds with it.  And yet, that’s so difficult for most of to attempt.

We dissect Scripture instead of letting Scripture dissect us.  We approach it like a textbook, analyzing the words with our logical left brains.  But until it captures our right-brain imagination, we’ll be nothing more than half-minded, half-hearted, half-souled Christians. (pg. 80)

Read it.  Meditate on it.  Then live it out.

Perhaps, you find yourself in a similar position I was in.  Maybe you’re running from the complicated (mis)understanding of what the Christian life looks and feels like.  Perhaps, you find yourself just beginning the journey as a new believer.  Or, maybe more likely, you’re somewhere in-between, searching out what this could and should look like for you.

My encouragement is this: Get your nose in the book.  Read it.  Embrace it.  Allow it to transform the way you think and understand.  Meditate on it.  Soak it in.  Digest each word, each phrase.  Pray it back to God.  Allow his Word to be the words that you speak to him.  And then roll up your sleeves, and get to work living out what God is speaking to you through his Holy Word.

Caveat Lector

As for me?  My journey with the Scriptures has been more than I could have ever imagined.  I uprooted my family because I felt that God was prompting me to leave a good position at a good church in a great city in order to start a new church elsewhere.  That journey was a glorious failure in the sense that it didn’t happen, but a tremendous chapter in my life that God used to challenge and develop my faith and my assurance in his providence and sovereignty.  Today, I sit on the other side of that season as the pastor of a new church in Wichita, KS.  And I wouldn’t trade one second of the journey that God – through his Word – has led me on.

Be prepared.  When you begin to take God’s Word seriously, everything changes. God’s calling on your life will be different than mine, no doubt.  But don’t be surprised when you look back after a few years and wonder when it all changed…


  1. Wow. Thanks David. I love that you got this chapter when I gave out the assignments.

    It has been very similar for me. For years, I constantly struggled reading through the Bible. I would start on January 1 and maybe make it a couple weeks using a canned reading plan, but most times, I would fizzle out before making it to Exodus.

    Then 4 years ago, I decided to hit it during my summer vacation. I decided to cease reading the ‘notes’ in the footer. I only wanted to read. And I wanted to read for speed.

    The first time through, I was amazed when I completed it. It took me a lot less time than I thought that it would. I started again.

    Each time through (it’s been 6 times now) I’ve often found that a different word or concept screams out at me. One time, I remember the word being the word Flesh. It just kept hitting me over and over. Another time reading, I kept hearing Sabbath.

    Mark mentions the Kaleidoscope of Scripture. I totally get that now.

    One of the ouch moments for me during this chapter was when mark mentioned how so many leave churches because they aren’t ‘being fed.’ I remember times in my life where this applied to me. I wasn’t feeding myself. I’ve come a long way in the past several years and know that maturity will come with a constant diet of scripture.

    Now that I’ve become more familiar with the timing, flow and harmony of scripture, I do find myself peeking more at footnotes and commentaries. I want to hear what those who are much smarter than I say about specific passages. I’ve been reading an ESV as of lately, and like Mark, I’ve been thinking of going oldschool next year with the KJV. Something special for the 400th anniversary of it.

    1. My favorite method this year, is to read my Daily Message alongside my ESV. Last year, it was my Daily Message alongside my HCSB. As for the Daily Message (this is my 4th year working through it), it’s being held together by duct tape…

      1. I have been listening to the daily message and reading the ESV. I should probably moved to the same reading plan for both, but right now I don’t. I get totally different things when I listen and when I read.

        Personally, while I think bible reading is important. It was participating in fixed hour prayers that really brought the Psalms alive to me. I am not a poetry person and never really got the Psalms until I started using them in context of prayer and praise. Funny how using scripture how it was intended actually is more meaningful than using it out of context.

  2. Great thoughts David. I definitely go through seasons where digging in daily becomes difficult, but pushing through them is always worth it. I definitely find that the more I’m in it, the more passionate I become about following it, and the more alive it becomes when I make sure it’s a part of my daily routine. When it’s not, I feel it missing. When the bible says the word is alive, I really think it is. Once it’s in your life, you miss it when it’s gone.

    Also want to echo what Andy said in his comment. A big moment for me in this chapter was when Mark talked about people “being fed”. This used to be me. Over time, I’ve learned to start looking inward first when I feel like I’m stalling out spiritually, and that’s certainly not an easy thing to do. I’ve seen a lot of really good people move on from church for the exact reason marks talks about, I almost did it myself at one time.

    Great post! Excited for tomorrow!

  3. I got to tell you that your explanation of this chapter is one of the reasons why this book study has been so impressive on me. While reading the chapter I didn’t really get exactly what Mark was trying to say. Now I get it. It is going to be a natural response of a love relationship to read God’s Word. Like so many times in my life that I have wanted to spend time just reading not feeling like I have to read the Bible. I have been so challenged by y’alls comments. David, Thanks for taking the time to write about this chapter.

  4. to be painfully honest I do not read the Bible enough.
    But when I do it is most likely with my wife and my son (if he would just sit still). Those times are great because I tend to approach the bible with an almost complete right brained framework and my wife with very much a left brained framework. So she challenges me with questions and thoughts when I would rather just let it sink in.

    1. Reading together is great. But another option that helped me was to start listening to it. I needed something that moved it out from duty and for me, starting to listen really helped.

  5. This is were I struggle the most in my Christian walk. I have yet to read the entire Bible all the way through. I want to and I try to but it never happens. I know the Bible pretty well and if I piece together all the studies I have done and the personal reading — I have probably read more than 90% of it.

    I know that when I am consistently taking the time to read the Bible that I just can’t get enough of it and I actually find myself longing to read at times when I can’t…however, life gets busy and I get worn out then it becomes less of a priority for me and that desire to be in the Word fades a little until I get convicted again after not reading for weeks. It’s a horrible roller coaster. I want to do better.

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