Steve Bateman has focused almost three decades of pastoral ministry on preparing people for contagious influence as followers of Christ. It has been a privilege to observe personally the authenticity of his life and ministry. This book is a carefully categorized refinement of insights Bateman has taught men in his home, in his church, and at numerous conferences.
Bateman sounds an alarm regarding the spiritual condition and relational influence of men in America, cataloging sociological evidence of moral and cultural decline that appears to be escalating. His question is “Where are the men?” and his answer is that many have withdrawn from the battle facing those who would bless future generations, much like many soldiers later called “summer solders and sunshine patriots” abandoned Washington’s army at Valley Forge before the decisive victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776.
This prompts a call to action for those now shaping the lives of boys and young men for the century ahead. Bateman blends quotes from contemporary cultural celebrities (such as Lance Armstrong, Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg, Bill Mahr, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates) with historical illustrations to illuminate the profound spiritual confusion and relational dysfunction in American society. His seven-pronged response to these concerns joins theological insights from centuries-old creeds with biblical instruction forged during Bateman’s lengthy pastoral ministry. He blends personal transparency with compelling examples of spiritual credibility to exhort his readers toward a life with an enduring legacy.
Bateman first unpacks the priority and patterns of a life that glorifies God in contrast to the fading spiritual vitality he previously described. This exhortation is followed by an explanation of principles for studying and practicing the truths of Scripture. His explanation of the canonicity of the New Testament and seven rules for sound interpretation exemplify Bateman’s ability to provide instruction that is both brief and significant.
These pursuits form the essential foundation for the remainder of his strategy designed to stimulate the daily practice of God’s truth. First, the author highlights the importance of sound theology, focusing on core aspects of the Apostles’ Creed. He then responds to confusion about the orthodox teaching on the Trinity with insight refined by helping people in his church grapple with this profound and critical truth.
Next the pathway for pleasing God is introduced by an explanation of the Mosaic Law with focus on the Ten Commandments. This section analizes the believer’s relationship to the Law that leaves many questions unaddressed, especially regarding the sense in which Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17), that he is the end of the Law (Rom. 10:4), and that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (8:2). While acknowledging inability to obey the Law, which reveals our failure and mocks our weakness, this section seems imbalanced by the extensive discussion of the Law. The sound insights in the chapters on legalistic distortions and the delight of experiencing salvation through Christ would be enhanced by more thorough treatment of how the follower of Christ lives daily in dependence on God’s Spirit and less explanation of theological constructs regarding the Mosaic Law.
Bateman’s enthusiasm for the beauty of the gospel is obvious when he turns his focus to reconciliation to God. His treatment of the tenses of salvation, the essential elements of this life-changing message from 1 Corinthians 15, and his emphasis on three imputations—Adam’s guilt to us, our guilt to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to us—are clear and compelling. However, his summary of the “solas” of the Reformation, especially in regard to “faith alone” would be more helpful if he addressed questions prompted by his preferred formula: Faith —> Justification + Works. While Ephesians 2:8–10 indicates that followers of Christ saved by grace through faith alone fulfill God’s purpose through good works prepared for them by God himself, a pastoral discussion of how soon, how much, and how consistently faith must produce these good works would make this chapter far more helpful. Addressing these debated matters in the context of biblical teaching on the believer’s security in Christ, God’s discipline of his children, and the anticipation of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ could perhaps be the kernel for Bateman’s next book.
Bateman’s expositional treatment of the Lord’s Prayer, his contrast of tests with temptations, and his description of common temptations illustrate the practical insights found throughout the book. This section would be a fruitful catalyst for several weeks invested in exploring the passages and personal applications detailed in these chapters.
The final of seven priorities for Christian men is an exhortation for faithful ministry through a local church. Leaning heavily on Calvin’s writings, Bateman briefly outlines marks of a true church as one where God’s Word is rightly preached, the sacraments (ordinances) are rightly administered, and church discipline is rightly practiced. He delineates three purposes of the church—exaltation, education, and evangelism—before expressing his convictions regarding the cultural shifts impacting church attendance, especially youth sports on Sunday. These theological declarations are worthy of more practical explanation.
After brief but helpful discussions of hypocrisy, church discipline and qualifications for church leaders, Bateman concludes his book by linking the current spiritual challenge for men with that faced by those who resolutely stayed with Washington and fought the battle that changed the future of our nation. In the spiritual battle men face today, that is a fitting analogy for those who desire to impact the next generations of men.