Ryan and Josh were like so many young people in church today. They looked like such nice young Christians, but underneath that outer appearance, they had a huge inner hunger gnawing at them. They decided to give up on church. That life was even worse.
Their experience is common for kids who grow up in church. Most young people between sixteen and twenty-six experience a faith crisis.
Ryan and Josh discovered that what they thought was their faith wasn't. It was their parents' faith, their youth pastor's. It was something they had inherited. It was secondhand faith.
What is described in this book is how to experience firsthand faith - faith that is centered deep in your mind and heart. Ryan and Josh lay out the truths that helped them as they pursued their firsthand faith. They tackle the problems people experience on their journey. They use their own experience as the basis for this book, but they also share the experiences of others.
Subjects they write about include God getting our attention, being honest, real change, forgetting the checklist, questioning and doubting, and getting into community. They end each chapter with a Think About It section of questions and then, Might Try This, one or more suggestions.
There is more to Christianity than living by someone else's faith. Ryan and Josh invite you along on their journey to a life of real and personal relationship with God. It will take time and effort but the fruit will be the kind of life you were created for. If you a cynical about the church, are new to Christianity, or just want to strengthen your faith, this book will be an encouragement.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
I understand the need for this book as there has recently been much discussion about children who grow part of a family that attends church, grow up, move away or go off to college, and then drift away from Christianity. Some may come back later in life some won't. The premise presented by the Shook brothers is that many of the youth who leave the Church do so because they had never developed a strong faith of their own. Rather, they are living off the coattails of the faith of others. This may be true. The Shook brothers surveyed people for the book and even used quotes from some of the study participants. However, this may point to a larger issue than youth not developing their own faith - that may merely be a symptom to a root cause.
Perhaps youth don't develop their own genuine faith because they are not being disciple well enough - either at home, or through their church and church youth groups. We may be developing a generation with faith planted in one of the faulty soils Jesus mentions in the parable He shares.
However, while I could expound on this point, it is a diversion from actually reviewing this book.
Firsthand is easy to read, but the writing style of the authors did not 'grip' me. That could be because I am not the intended audience for the book. At the end of each chapter they pose questions and offer recommendations. However, as many of the recommendations refer the reader to the website they have created, there are times it comes across as an infomercial rather than genuine assistance.
Others may relate to this book very well, because it represents where they are, or have been, in life. I however cannot say it was one of the better books I have reviewed.
I received this book through Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest evaluation.
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,ÃÂ
'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:ÃÂ "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,ÃÂ 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.
Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook is a book which is advertised as a "journey to find a faith of your own. A faith that isn't your parents' or you're your pastor's or your church's. Start from scratch, question everything, and get hold of a faith that's real." A faith they call firsthand faith. This is a good book about finding your own way into what your faith really means and making your faith statement your own. This is not one of those new age books about I'm ok and God is whatever you want Him to be. This is a book about the discovery of a personal God who loves your where you are but expects that you will live a life striving for perfection. This is not an attainable goal with Jesus' sacrifice but the importance is that you never give up striving for perfection.
I liked this book even though I am probably not in the target readership. I thought that this is an especially good book for parents (especially moms) raising boys and boys who are questioning the faith of their parents and finding that they are pretending to be so called good Christians but they are having guilt because they know what they are thinking about in their heads and know it is not what Jesus would do or think. This book discusses porn and though it does not say that it is sin free or desirable attribute it is common especially among boys and men and how to deal with the thoughts and desires that happen to them and what to do about it. Christian literature can be preachy especially when written by pastors and this one is written by pastor's children but with the possible exception of the last chapter this one is not preachy and it is easily read with the plan to improve your life.
This book was provided by Waterbrook Press for this review.