Kingdom Man (Book review)
Photo credit: Tyndale publishers.
In this approachable book weighing in just over 200 pages, author Dr. Tony Evans seeks to help men step up out of apathy and into their God-given role as leaders and, well, men. Written in the same vein as Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, Evans takes issue with who men tend to be these days-staid, meek, and devoid of passion for either God, their families, and their world. He envisions a world in which men lead courageously and boldly towards a Kingdom vision of life. He fleshes out what he means by that in 15 chapters divided into three parts: The Formation of a Kingdom Man, The Foundation of a Kingdom Man, and The Function of a Kingdom Man (Psalm 128). Evans seeks to set down a challenge and call to men to man up, as well as a feasible path with which to get there. I found that Evans struck a nice balance between the conceptual framework for "Kingdom" manhood and the concrete path that one must follow to get there. Unfortunately, other than that I really didn't have much to rave about in this book.
Before I get any further, I should probably make it clear that I don't have any prior experience with Tony Evans. I've never listened to his sermons or read any of his previous books. I received this one as a gift and while I know that I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, I was immediately turned off by the picture of a big, burly man lifting his arm in a "I'm throwing an imaginary football" pose while near-angelic light glows around his shoulders. I suppose I'm not really the type of man that Tony Evans was really writing to, which became even more evident as I began to read the beginning. After reading the first few pages, I kept asking myself, okay, he's doing a good job of pumping guys up, but can we finally get past the endless football analogies and talk about something substantive?
I was disappointed to find that he doesn't really move past them until the third section of the book, in chapter 10 where he discusses the implications of kingdom manhood on personal, family, church, and community life.
I know that who I am as a person affects how I read a book, and so it's important for you to know that I'm a quiet academic thinker. I'm a vegetarian who was born and raised in a liberal county, and now I'm a college pastor at a conservative Baptist church. I don't enjoy watching sports (seriously, not even a little bit), and I don't even know the rules of football. I recognize that this puts me in a rather unique (one might say odd) niche in society, and that most people do enjoy sports and get them enough that a sports analogy in a book like this would be a helpful illustration of a more abstract concept. However, I must say that personally it was at best very difficult for me to make it through. As a confession, I skimmed the first parts until I finally got past the quarterbacks and first downs to the theology. Therefore, the remainder of this review will focus exclusively on the last part where he lays down the critical elements of his thesis.
In discussing his own path towards manhood and the role of his father in his life, Evans does great work in illuminating what he believes a kingdom man is. He strives to draw men into a biblical understanding of who they are and who they were meant to be and what they were meant to do. Reading like an impassioned sermon, Evans clearly is writing to inspire men to new levels of greatness. Using Psalm 128 as a structure and a guide for the remaining chapters, he paints a picture of what it would mean to be a kingdom man in personal life, a godly husband and father in family life, an active, loving member of a local church, and salt and light in the surrounding community. For the most part, he does a pretty good job of showing his readers what a kingdom man looks like and why his arguments bare biblical weight.
I was disappointed to find, however, that Evans seems ultimately to be preaching more about a specific Christian/'Merican cultural manifestation of biblical manhood and not something that was more broadly applicable. I can say with near 100% certainty that men similar to myself would never buy this book, because we just don't fit into that culture. I'm not implying that it's bad to write a book to a specific demographic, but the danger is when that specific demographic becomes "the way" to be a man. My understanding of biblical manhood has nothing to do with football, hunting, or republicanism. I'm not condemning any of those things, I just think there's a difference between personal persuasions and cogent masculinity. Sorry, Old Spice man. I disagree with you.
I know that this review is pretty negative, but I want to clarify that I don't think it's all bad. Despite my un-enjoyment of it and my concern at some points, I think that it could be helpful to some men in certain situations. I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to, but that's not saying I wouldn't but that I'd be very careful and cautious in doing so. Evans gives some great encouragement and motivation to be a better man, but his idea of what that means is a little narrower than what I read from Scripture.
For what I consider to be a more scripturally sound overview of biblical manhood, check out the core beliefs of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Their description is, I think, much more culturally abstracted.
You can purchase Kingdom Man on Amazon for $14.