Like most of us, siblings Ryan and Josh Shook received their religion as a hand-me-down, and like most of us, they wore it for decades without much thinking about its fabric or truth worth. When the brothers finally reached a crisis point, they didn't consign their beliefs to a spiritual dumpster; they searched for the true fabric of an authentic faith. Firsthand is their firsthand account of how readers can rethink and revitalize what was passed onto them long, long ago.
Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Ownby Ryan Shook, Josh Shook
Join us on a journey to find a faith of your own.
A faith that isn’t your parents’ or your youth pastor’s or your church’s.
Start from scratch, question everything, and get hold of a faith that’s real.
We call it firsthand faith.
“It’s rare to find young people unafraid to voice their doubts while/b>… See more details below
Join us on a journey to find a faith of your own.
A faith that isn’t your parents’ or your youth pastor’s or your church’s.
Start from scratch, question everything, and get hold of a faith that’s real.
We call it firsthand faith.
“It’s rare to find young people unafraid to voice their doubts while still being bold in their faith. Ryan and Josh are two of those people.”
—Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church, Washington, DC, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Circle Maker
“All Christian parents want their children to develop a faith of their own. Firsthand asks tough questions and guides those with a secondhand faith to find Christ for themselves.”
—Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv, Edmond, OK, and author of Soul Detox
“Josh and Ryan Shook, the sons of well-known pastor and author Kerry Shook, have fully embraced the fact that although their dad gave them a great start, they need to run their own race. Learn how to embrace a firsthand faith and walk in the strength of a personal relationship with Christ.”
—Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church, Charlotte, NC, and author of the New York Times bestseller Greater
“Ryan and Josh Shook don’t shy away from the tough questions but face them head-on in this powerful book that will encourage young adults not to settle for an inherited faith but to discover a true relationship with Jesus that is unique, exciting, and every bit their own.”
—Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church, Nashville, TN, and author of Plan B
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Read an Excerpt
FirsthandDitching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own
By Ryan Shook
WaterBrook PressCopyright © 2013 Ryan Shook
All right reserved.
Why Firsthand Matters
A Faith Straight from the Source
There comes a time when you can no
longer cling to your parents’ coattails
and you have to choose to make it
—Robert Griffin III
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
now I have it all firsthand.
—Job 42:5 (msg)
Hi, we’re Ryan and Josh Shook, two brothers in our twenties.
We’ve met before, actually. You see, even though you’ve probably never met us personally, you know people just like us. You’ve known them at every church you’ve attended. We’ve been on your football team, gone to the same parties, been in your group of friends.
You took one look at us and thought, They’re such good Christians. But you saw us when we were at our best. We were the leaders of the youth group, and you thought we probably had it all together.
So how could we possibly relate to you?
The truth is, we’ve both come back from the brink of spiritual death. Really. Only a short time ago we were so done with the whole Christian thing. Whatever we looked like on the outside, inside we were desperate for something more. Nothing at church satisfied the inner hunger gnawing at us. Being a Christian seemed to be only about going through the motions, following rules, keeping up appearances.
So we tried something else. We lived as if God didn’t exist. That worked for a while. And then it eventually stopped working. Actually, we ended up feeling even more desperate and unfulfilled than before.
Maybe you know what we’re talking about. Maybe you’ve given up on church and its promise of contentment. Maybe
you’ve not only given up on church but given up on God as well. Or maybe you’re just now starting to suspect that something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it.
If any of these scenarios apply to you, you’re not alone. The truth is, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six,
most young people experience a crisis of faith. Suddenly the beliefs that made sense yesterday are no longer relevant today. Our faith feels flimsy and fake.
For us it felt something like this: We had traveled halfway across a bridge and couldn’t get any further. The bridge just
ended. On the riverbank behind us, we could see the Christianity that worked when we were younger. Ahead of us, on the opposite bank, we could see, well, not much really. Mostly fog.
That didn’t feel good.
As it turns out, our experience is common for kids who grew up in church. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, a research and resource organization, investigated our generation’s dissatisfaction with traditional Christianity for his book You Lost Me. “The problem,” Kinnaman tells us, “is not that this generation has been less churched than children and teens before them; the problem is that much spiritual energy fades away during a crucial decade of life—the twenties.”1
We had traveled halfway across a bridge and couldn’t get any further. The bridge just ended.
Spiritual energy fades away. That description resonates deeply with us. After years of going to church, following the rules, and trying to replicate the faith of our parents, we had to admit that something was fading fast in our souls.
But there’s good news.
Right in the middle of our personal crises, we made a discovery that changed everything.
No Point Pretending
What we discovered was that what we thought was our faith wasn’t ours after all. Not completely. Mostly it belonged to our parents. Some of it belonged to the youth pastor or our friends. Sure, some of it was real for us too. But a lot of it wasn’t. If you had closely inspected our personal beliefs, you might have noticed some flimsy plastic labels hanging on them.
On them would have been scribbled “Secondhand.”
Or maybe “Belongs to Dad.”
Or “Just trying to fit in.”
Our faith was something we had inherited, and it felt like it was not originally intended for us. That wasn’t our parents’ fault. Or the youth pastor’s. Or the church’s.
Our parents taught us that Christianity wasn’t about religion and rules but about a relationship with the God who made
us. Yes, they made mistakes. But we saw them live out a genuine faith in front of us—two imperfect parents seeking to trust a perfect God. We truly feel blessed to have parents who have a real and authentic faith. But it’s theirs.
It doesn’t matter how real your parents’ faith is, or anyone else’s for that matter, if you don’t develop a faith of your own. A handed-down faith that you’ve never owned for yourself doesn’t give meaning to your life. You might sort of wear it, but it doesn’t say much about who you are. In fact, hand-me-down beliefs can start to weigh on you. They become a source of shame and guilt, a bar set too high that reminds you of your failures. Or they just seem outdated and irrelevant.
Hand-me-down faith may work when things are going well, but when pressures and problems hit, what you thought you believed will crumble.
“I hate to say this, but so many of the so-called Christian kids on this campus really turn me off,” Taylor, a university
sophomore on the West Coast, told us. “The guys from church party just like the rest. At the frat parties they just want to get the girls drunk so that they can get their clothes off. They say they’re Christians—but come on!” That kind of faith is more like a shirt you wear when you’re with a certain group of friends. In reality, that kind of faith is not faith at all! It’s secondhand religion, and it doesn’t get inside your life or change anything about you.
Mike, a university senior we read about, was at least more honest than those frat guys. He told an interviewer he had grown up going to church and learning about God, but in college he wasn’t so sure anymore that God even existed. Mike was looking for solid evidence that God is real. He said that during his search he felt like he was an “adopted child wanting to know the truth about [my] birth parents.”2
We think Mike is right not to rely completely on the faith of his parents just because they are his parents. If you don’t believe in God because of your own convictions, there is no point in pretending that you believe at all.
Excerpted from Firsthand by Ryan Shook Copyright © 2013 by Ryan Shook. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I was so excited for this book to finally be released. I lived in my parents faith for years, but my father always told my sisters and I that we had to have our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ, because his relationship would not get us into heaven. I only knew what that meant on the surface until my Dad died. Until then I lived with a fear that my parents would die and I would be lost. This, from the book really sums up how I felt for years: On the riverbank behind us, we could see the Christian- ity that worked when we were younger. Ahead of us, on the opposite bank, we could see, well, not much really. - Ryan and Josh Shook (Firsthand) Yet, this scripture is where I am now: I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand. —Job 42:5 (msg) As the children of a pastor, grandchildren of a catholic grandmum determined that we get a proper catholic education we encountered much of what the Shook brothers detail in the foreward and introduction to Firsthand. This book is an awesome, awesome tool for a generation searching for a way home, but no way to get there. This is the tool I know I've been looking for and trying to create myself, but this wheel is already crafted. I will be using it with my young adults as an advisor, to open up the pathway to finding their own faith journey. The Shook brothers have constructed a missing link that churches, pastors, youth workers, anybody looking to do kingdom work has been searching for in detailing why this generation cannot embrace the church. It's not their church. Every person has to find a faith of their own.
I got to meet these guys and hear them speak this past weekend. They are the real deal and the their book is a call to any young Christian who hasn't made their faith their own. Great book!
The Shook brothers take a topic that many can relate to and yet none really discuss, and dive right into it. They explain how a "Secondhand religion" is not going to work out for people in the long run. So, you're a teenager who's been going to church since you were born, you were baptized, you have memorized tons of verses and bible stories, you know the Book inside out, you know how to pray properly, you are the perfect example of what a Christian should be. You're textbook. Momma and Daddy taught you to believe in God and Jesus, so you believe in God and Jesus. You practically grew up in church. That's wonderful, that's amazing. But that's common. That's something that has happened to most of the people who call themselves "Christian." But let's face it, you aren't experiencing true faith. You are riding on the faith of your parents, your pastor, your youth leader, and members of your congregation. You don't really have a religion of your own. Maybe you say that you've accepted Christ, but have you really? Or did you just do it because others expected it of you. That is what secondhand faith is. It didn't belong to you from the start, a faith handed down to you. The Shook brothers shake you. Firsthand explores why this secondhand faith happens, and how to prevent it, and then explains in such a way that teenagers and young adults can clearly understand and relate. The questions are answered, and backed up with experiences from outside sources. At the end of each of the eight chapters, there are comments from other people explaining how second and firsthand faith affected them. And then after that there are suggestions and links to websites and videos that might help the reader branch out on their own. Every teenager should read Firsthand. I read it, and found myself relating to so much of the content. I had to take a step back and really examine myself. Firsthand made me look at things, and at my faith in a whole new light, and it truly changed my perspective on so many things. When I finished reading I asked myself, "Do I still want secondhand faith?" The answer is no. But you should find that out for yourself.
Simple Read But Good Content Ryan & Josh Shook sons of Kerry and Chris Shook authors of One Month To Live have written a very relevant and necessary book for this generation in firsthand. Ryan & Josh grew up in church but as they got older they realized their need to find their own faith instead of relying on the faith of their parents or teachers. They have used their own personal struggles in achieving an authentic faith to write firsthand. Firsthand deals with replacing secondhand religion with a faith that is your own, a firsthand faith. Secondhand religion is the religion that you accept as your own but it really belongs to someone else and has been passed down to you either by parents or teachers. You accept and believe things because someone else does. The book firsthand challenges you to look at what you believe and build a relationship with Christ for yourself. I really believe this book is necessary. There are so many young people who are questioning whether the church or God are relevant in their lives. They are living the Christian life on shaky ground because they do not have a faith of their own. They have a faith that is borrowed from someone else. They will eventually find their own faith the hard way or turn away from Christianity all together. Firsthand's goal is to help people who are struggling with second hand religion find their own firsthand faith. Each chapter in the book is followed up by questions for the reader to answer as well as testimonials from others who have struggled to find their own faith. This book was a pretty easy read. Usually I am not a fan of easy read books but I think that in this case the fact that it is an easy read is a good thing. The reader really needs to focus on their own lives and answer some pretty challenging questions in order to gain their firsthand faith. If this book's difficulty level were any harder it would get in the way of the purpose of the book especially when dealing with a generation of readers who are use to reading online in the format of blogs, wiki's, Tweets and Facebook. I am recommending firsthand as a Christian growth and development tool not as a Bible Study. If you are struggling with your experiences in church, with the Christian life, or are a ministry leader who has noticed that people in your ministry may be struggling you could very well benefit from using this book.
Brothers Ryan and Josh Shook grew up in church. In fact their parents planted a vibrant, exciting church in Houston. Now they are actively seeking careers far away from Houston. Ryan is a filmmaker living on the west coast, while Josh is a musician living in Nashville. And though they seem to be far removed from their roots in Texas, they write a book about how their faith roots are stronger than ever. In a day when more and more people in the younger generation are growing disillusioned with the faith of their parents, the Shook brothers have found the secret to faith that is lasting and real: stop playing at religion that is at best a hand-me-down from your parents and replace it with a firsthand, no-holds-barred relationship with Jesus Christ. This book is less of a “how-to” book and more of a “what could happen” vision. Starting with their own wandering away from their parents’ faith and building on that with interviews and candid remarks from a number of people who had discovered the difference between plastic religion and real relationship, the authors weave a story that is at both challenging and a bit unnerving. There is no sugar coating here, just real admission of attempts and failures followed by struggle and success. Bottom-line advice from these two young men who have “been there” is to stop trying to be a Christian, and just build a relationship with Jesus. This short 8-chapter book deals with all the things that church-goers try to do to get in good with God, and gives testimony and example of how one might stop going through motions and let their relationship grow. Their term, as the title suggests, for this authentic experience is “firsthand faith.” This book is a good starting point when someone has grown disappointed in the church experience of their roots. While believers are encouraged to do the things that our church society has done as a sign of their relationship with Christ, the motivation is moved from marking your checklist of being a good Christian, to letting the actions flow from who you are. Even so, because the book is focused on the generation of younger adults, those who are approaching or have even passed middle age who are dealing with the same questions about faith are neglected. This is not necessarily a fault of the authors or the publisher but a drawback built into focusing on a particular audience, limiting further an already limited audience. That said the book has value when someone is struggling with whether what they’ve always believed is really real—especially when it is believed because that’s what they (or their family) has always believed. Each chapter includes a sampling of quotes from a handful of the people interviewed in the researching of the book, some questions for deeper thought, and some practical application suggestions to put what the preceding chapter has discussed into action. I would suggest that pastors and youth pastors, as well as collegiate ministry workers, would want to have a copy or two of this book handy to help young people who are dealing with questions of faith. The struggle of authentic faith is one that has been around for ages and will continue to haunt the church. In Firsthand the church has a resource to address this struggle head-on. I give the book 4 out of 5 reading glasses. —Benjamin Potter April 19, 2013 [Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]
I'm having a very difficult time knowing just what to say about this book. There are points I agree with. I realize many, within a church, are disillusioned with their church. In the words of the authors, they are living a second-hand faith. Also, not every Christian is living a dynamic, radically driven, purpose-filled life, thus further disillusionment. True, there are many who read their Bibles and seem to get very little out of it. I appreciate the brothers Shook in their efforts to stress the relational side of God. Christianity is not a philosophy. It is not a mere mental exercise, otherwise it would be just like Buddhism. There is a real God and He longs for us to know Him. Chapter Five focused upon this a great deal. It requires 'trashing the checklist' of our faith in order to zero in upon the relationship of our faith. And yet there's just something about this book that troubles me. I can't quite lay a finger upon it, however. In the above mentioned chapter, these two brothers encourage those stuck in a 'second-hand faith' existence to throw out their checklists. The 'checklists' are those things which drive us, demand complete loyalty and obedience from us and yet do not feed the relationship. One example, Ryan speaks of going to a Bible camp and returning home all fired up by his experience there. He promised to read his Bible, pray and witness more. Before he said another word, I knew where this was going to end up: the experience waned, his commitments flagged and before long, he wasn't doing any of it. Here's what he says, 'After camp my intentions were good. What I didn't have was a solid relationship that could serve as a foundation for my spiritual discipline. The checklist on its own made things worse, not better. What a mess!' Ryan goes on to counsel those who make such checklists the driving energy of their faith to toss them out. Stop reading your Bible slavishly. And yet, because of this statement, it seems like they stumble over their advice just a few pages further on in telling you the one way to know God, to enhance your 'firsthand' faith experience is to…read your Bible. Absolutely. It is the only way you get to know anything at all about God. We don't know God through dreams. We don't learn of God through creation alone (despite the way in which the authors stress the worship they have when out in creation; wonderful, but unless you have the Word and the Gospel, you'll still come up short of God's ultimate glory; just read Romans 1). Jesus said, in John 8.31–32: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Where must we go if we want to abide in Jesus? To the truth. Where will we find the truth? In His Word. Granted, the Jews who hated Jesus had the Word, but they stopped believing it. And I wonder if this isn't where the problem begins. Both Shook brothers seem reticent to ever say that these who are stuck in a 'second-hand' faith simply are not truly believers. Their faith is not really second-hand; it's non-existent. What they have is not faith in God or Christ or the Word. It is in themselves and some experience they've been told to have or maintain. Yes, they need a 'firsthand' faith. One that trusts Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. They need to be saved. From there, they need to be taught what it means to 'abide in Christ.' Jesus Himself says, 'Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.' That's first-hand faith. I want to like this book. I want to understand it better. However, I think, in the effort to be encouraging to those of the 'second-hand faith' category, the brothers Shook come off just a bit too accommodating for me. I, along with them, long to see those living a 'second-hand faith' come to a true saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When I was thirteen years old, I was made greatly aware of my attempts to live off my parents faith, the faith of my church and Sunday School teachers, the merits of my Bible memorization awards and perfect Sunday School attendance for twelve years. What made be aware of the need of firsthand faith was not an encouragement to ditch all that, but a call to come to saving faith in Christ; to look to the cross alone and not myself or my experience. So, I had to confess my sin, repent of my sins and trust Christ for everything. That's what firsthand faith is all about.
This book is a must read for anyone who grew up in a Christian home and never truly felt that it was a faith that belonged to them. Religion needs to be sought and explored. It can be frustrating if one only believes what one has been told. Ryan and Josh Shook made the choice to start over and really search for a faith that was theirs, and not second-hand. Great advice. Great read.
It's exciting to see something that steps out of religiosity and gets real. People cannot live on their parent's faith, they must develop their own. Great book - wonderful truth.
A faith- challenging book sure to cause the reader to take a deeper look at their Christian faith, or lack thereof. Written in a very non - confrontational way, filled with real life examples and thoughts, not only from the authors, but from a wealth of others, there are a variety of ideas and faith levels represented. Readers will find not only conversation about having one's own faith firsthand as opposed to believing through parents or other adults, but also ways to dig deeper, search more completely and grow stronger through reading and actions. A great book for all levels of faith, each reader is sure to find encouragement and challenge to know Christ firsthand. Well worth the read and a fantastic book to pass along! I was provided a free copy of this book for review by WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging For Books program. I was in no way compensated for this review nor required to write a positive review, all thoughts are my own.