Amo Dei. Love God. That's the rally cry Washington, D.C., pastor Mark Batterson wants for the next reformation.
In a new book released this week, Batterson suggests that believers strip away the superficialities of Christianity and get back to the basics – that is, to love God.
"It seems to me that maybe we have overcomplicated this thing called Christianity and maybe what we need to get back to is this thing called the Great Commandment ... or primal commandment," Batterson said in a recent webchat.
Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity is Batterson's third book. It was inspired by a recent trip he and his wife, Lora, took to Rome. There they came across a nondescript church that was built over catacombs where second-century Christians secretly worshipped God before the legalization of Christianity in 313.
The catacombs convicted Batterson.
"Over the last two thousand years, Christianity has evolved in lots of ways. We've come out of the catacombs and built majestic cathedrals with all the bells and steeples," he writes in Primal. "And I wonder ... if the accumulated layers of Christian traditions and institutions have unintentionally obscured what lies beneath."
The book centers on rediscovering Christianity in its most primal form, which begins with what he believes is the prime and most important commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
It's nothing new but the simple commandment seems to have gotten lost or buried by rules, regulations, traditions and institutions, the author indicated.
"It's not that we don't know enough. All of us frankly are educated way beyond the level of our obedience," Batterson pointed out. "I think it's more about us radically applying some of these simple truths of Scripture to our lives like love your neighbor. Hey, as soon as we get that one down, then let's go on to the deeper truths."
Batterson, who pastors mainly young adults at National Community Church, is hoping Primal will be more than a book. He believes God wants it to be a movement and maybe even the reformation for this generation.
Reformations, he noted, are not born out of new discoveries. Rather, they're based on something old and biblical.
"Just as Martin Luther rediscovered ... this idea of justification by faith (in the 16th century), I think our generation needs to rediscover and get back to this place where God loving us and us loving God is what it's all about," said Batterson.
And frankly, Christians are not great at the Great Commandment, or love to the fourth power, as he describes it.
Batterson envisions the twenty-somethings leading the next reformation. They're not satisfied with the status quo, he said. There's a certain rebellion and idealism within them and a desire to be a part of a revolution to make a difference.
"I think the twenty-somethings will rediscover that love for God that can really begin a movement toward us, as Christians, becoming what we really should be and that is a movement of people that is marked by our love for God, by our compassion, wonder, curiosity and energy," he said.
While looking out for the amo dei rally cry, Batterson reminds Christians that the most primal form of love is not doing things for God.
Rather, "it is receiving with gratitude what He has already done for us. And then reflecting it in our lives," he highlights in the book.