by Patrick Morley
Most men lead hollow lives. And they hate it. They work in jobs that offer them no long-lasting fulfillment. Their relationships are surface. They don’t have any deep friendships like they see celebrated in the movies. No, men are dying inside.
Man Alive proposes to transform “your 7 primal needs into a powerful spiritual life.” The book offers a chapter for each need (along with an introductory and concluding chapter). Does it succeed?
Well, yes and no. Dave Ramsey has a quote on the front cover: “You need to hear the truth and brother-to-brother encouragement that Patrick Morley delivers in Man Alive!” Either Ramsey doesn’t read a lot of men’s ministry books or he’s overselling.
The book makes a good survey of a bunch of problems facing men. Morley does a fine job presenting God’s answers, and how churches can help provide answers. There’s honestly a lot of good stuff in here. My struggle as I read it lay in that I’ve been doing a fair amount of work in men’s ministry, and this book is aimed at men who haven’t. I’m not the target audience, and it showed. I wanted each chapter to go far deeper, and this book isn’t aimed to do that.
Morley makes a lot of excellent observations and clearly understands how many men work. Some of these are truly “well, duh” statements for anyone who pays attention to such things, but again, this book is aimed at those who haven’t necessarily been paying attention. For instance, he bemoans the lack of deep, genuine friendships among most men. He notes a great litmus test: have you been in your friends’ homes? If you haven’t, can you call that person your friend? He suggests that men join small groups in local congregations and share their stories.
Within that same chapter, he makes an observation that cheered me. I’ll let Morley talk:
Christianity is heart transformation, not behavior modification. The reason that 90 percent of men lead lukewarm, often defeated lives is really quite simple. They’re trying to solve the wrong problem. Most of us have the idea that Christianity is about behavior modification – using determination to change our behavior or be more spiritual… Authentic faith is really about the heart. Of course, Christianity is also about behavior, but it’s behavior that overflows from what we believe in our hearts.
Yay! Transformed hearts lead to transformed lives, and far too many men focus on the transformed lives without transforming any hearts. Morley is law-focused, of course. Especially after the last incredible book I read (Jesus + Nothing = Everything), I glommed onto those law motivation passages. Be aware of them! Yet Morley has a lot of good things to say, and I was able to take a lot of good information away.
Incidentally, the seven primal needs of the book include the need for true friendship, to know that God cares about you personally, to believe that my life has a purpose, to break free from destructive behaviors, to be in awe, to be loved, and to leave the world a better place. I’ve started addressing some of those needs explicitly in sermons and Bible studies, and I have noticed that the men are paying much more attention than they had. I will be reviewing these needs and showing how the Gospel fulfills those needs.
Morley also notes later in the book that, “Repentance is not merely asking God to make us better men; it’s asking him to make us different and to change our ways.” Wow. That is a powerful – and true! – message. We are to drown our old sinful nature in daily repentance. That means not “getting better” but longing for true change – longing to be different. Morley doesn’t pull any punches. Thankfully, he does breathe out the Gospel at that point, showing how the Father longs to forgive us.
There’s a lot of things to commend here. As I mentioned before, the biggest fault of the book is that it doesn’t go deeper – but I’m fairly certain that going deeper would hamper the purpose of the book.
If you’re looking for a great place to start in dealing with men’s ministry, or you’re a man looking to get going spiritually and figure out why your life just seems so stale, this is a good place to start. If you’re already well-read, this might serve as a good “summary” book for your shelf.
Legal nuts and bolts: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.