That’s Gonna Leave a Mark: a book review

Jeremy Cowart is an artist, photographer and humanitarian. His art has been featured in popular magazines, news outlets, social media and in books.  He’s photographed numerous celebrities and has used his platform to make an impact by drawing attention to what is going on in the world (i.e. Haiti, Rwanda).  He’s even been a TED talker. In a new book, What’s Your Mark?: Every Moment Countshe points at modern day ‘mark-makers’ and encourages us to step out and make our mark.

Cowart profiles twenty contemporary people who have been marked by their faith in Christ and are making their mark on the world. Their images and stories are interwoven with the Gospel of Mark (get it?).   There are twenty one (actually twenty two but the book jacket says twenty one) photos and short bios. These include: Ellie Ambrose, Mark Burnett, Dan Cathy, Donald Collins, Caitlin Crosby, Katie Davis,  Claire Diaz-Ortiz,  Roma Downey, Bob Goff,  Gary Haugen, Ester Havens, Jesus, John-Mark (the author of Mark), Fred Katagwa, Shaun King,  Laura Lasky, Lecrae, Manny Martinez,  Jena Nardella,  Shannon Sedgwick  Davis, Jeff Shinabarger and Ann Voskamp. This is a fairly diverse sample of business people, authors, social media gurus, TV producers and do-gooders concerned about global injustices. These short bios celebrate their lives and their commitment to making their ‘mark’ for Christ.

On an artistic level I appreciate a lot of this book. Reading the profiles of  the ‘mark-makers’ together with the book of Mark, forces you to ask: what kind of impact did Jesus make on his world and how can I impact my world?  I think reading the Bible with questions opens you up to hearing the voice of God. I appreciated the question and found it illumined the text.  I also enjoyed meeting the people profiled. Some of them were familiar to me, others were not. Each is seeking to live out their faith in an impactful way. I am a fan of a few of these people and have questions of a few. But the way Cowart celebrates each makes me like them and want to know more about them.

However I struggled with parts of this book.   I  wished that the profiles were a little more substantive. These are brief portraits, more what you would expect to accompany a photo essay in a magazine. So Cowart points me to some interesting people but he doesn’t reveal much about their life.  I want the fuller picture. I still liked how Cowart celebrated these ‘mark-makers’ but I wanted more.

Also,I liked the inclusion of the NIV(2011) of Mark but greater thought should have gone into how to format this book. The profiles were intermittently broken up by a couple pages of Biblical text but it would simply reproduce what fit on two pages. Chapters, paragraphs and sentences did not necessarily fit neatly on the page and the gospel of Mark was  broken up in odd spots. Sentences and pericopes were divided awkwardly by several pages of personal profiles.  This made the biblical narrative somewhat disjointed even if the juxtaposition made for an interesting presentation. I  think this could have been done better.

A minor note: I found the glossy pages and photos made me want to not ‘mark this book up.’  I feel like I should mark up a book called What’s Your Mark, but I didn’t want to do it.

I still think that this might make a good gift book for someone graduating high-school or college to get them thinking about how they can live a life which impacts the world for the Kingdom of God.  I liked that it celebrates the lives of people who are creatively living out their vocations and can appreciate the implicit exhortation to go and do likewise. I give this book ★★★½.

Thank you to Zondervan for providing me a copy of this book (via BookSneeze) in exchange for my fair and balanced review.

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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