Washington Redskin's Quarterback and American cultural celebrity Robert Griffin III, speaking about Christianity, once said that "There comes a time when you can no longer cling to your parents' coattails and you have to chose to make it your faith." In Firsthand Ryan and Josh Shook tackle the issue of transforming the secondhand faith that many American Christians grow up with-- their parents' faith-- into a vibrant firsthand faith of their own. Ryan and Josh grew up as preacher's kids, got to a point where they were tired of Christianity and set out on their own, only to later realize that they needed an authentic relationship with God-- not merely secondhand religion that had grown up with.
In Firsthand, Ryan and Josh share their experiences and the lessons they learned about growing from secondhand religion into their own firsthand experience of faith. First explaining why firsthand faith matters, the Shooks note the importance of asking questions about the faith that people have grown up in, noting that if something is factually true, it can (and will) stand up to scrutiny. Ryan and Josh also note the importance of relational honesty in thinking about and transforming one's faith. They rightfully discuss that finding firsthand faith is not easy, nor does it necessarily mean things will be comfortable. If I were to find one weakness in this book, I would suggest that Firsthand deal more with the potential negative implications of trying to transform one's faith. A sad truth about American Christianity is that not every Christian community welcomes the type of questioning, searching, and transformation that the Shook's advocate in this book. Further resources and ideas for young adults in those types of situations would be an excellent addition to this book.
A facet of this book that I found extremely helpful was the end of each chapter, where various quotes and stories from real people expounded about the topic of the chapter and where insightful discussion questions and sources for application were located. This section not only made the contents of the book that more real, sharing real-life accounts of people, but also allowed readers beyond a merely intellectual or personal interaction with the book. Perhaps the best part of this book is its accompanying website, www.firsthandbook.com , which provides additional accounts, discussion forums, and resources for those interacting with the book. These resources made this book an excellent resource for small groups as well as the student or young adult who is working through questions about their faith. While not an apologetic work in the strictest sense, this book serves as an excellent tool for those who have grown up within Christianity and are questioning their faith or moving into a time of transition.
The overarching point of Firsthand reflects the need of young Christians everywhere to not simply accept the faith that they've grown up around, but to ask tough questions and make it their own, something that everyone who is called to follow Christ must do at some point. I highly recommend this book to those asking questions about their faith, seeking transformation from secondhand to firsthand faith, and to youth ministers and leaders in need of honest and thought-provoking small groups materials.
I received this book from WaterBrook Press free of charge. All opinions expressed are my own.
Ryan and Josh Shook have hit on an experience that I believe many have when truly experiencing faith. Many people have life crisis or challenges to their beliefs that cause them to doubt, turn away, or question the validity of their faith. It is then that people either realize the importance and value of struggle and doubt or just give up completely, never becoming true believers in Jesus Christ. What "Firsthand" provides is the assurance that it is alright to enter into periods of doubt and struggle. It also provides the encouragement to come out on the other side. Ryan's and Josh's personal stories as well as all the stories they touch on from people they interviewed prove that this is a common experience. I really like how they conclude the book talking about the value of community. This book illustrates the value of the community of Christ when we all come to terms with our faith -- do we own it as our own, keep leeching from those who believe before us, or turn away completely. The community represented in this text offers the example of common ground. The real reason that this book does not get a 5 star rating is because I feel that it fails to bring in the reality of philosophical doubts and struggles brought on by our society's primary belief systems and life crisis. There are many people that could readily identify with the stories shared here-in. Yet, there are many people who would turn away from this text because it does not offer the depth of knowledge that exists within their own crisis of faith. I received this book as part of Multonomah's blogging for books program.
Many Christians believe what they believe because they "inherited" it from their family. Other believe because of a set of teachings from their church. Life seems to be going good when they believe what they believe until things in life comes crashing down.
In their book, Firsthand, brothers Ryan and Josh Shook explore looking at faith that you do not "inherit," but one that is "centered deep in your own mind and heart" (pg 6). The purpose of this book is to show the readers that "there is so much more to Christianity than living by someone else's faith. More, too, than being good, going to church, or following the rules. It's about a relationship with the One who fed five thousand hungry people-people just like you and me. It's about quenching your thirst at the Source" (pg 16).
The Shooks share their own struggles and stories along with those that have dealt with similar situations each chapter addresses. They answer some of the tough questions such as:
Why do I feel empty if God is real?
Why should I trust God when I feel like a failure?
Can I discover the meaning of life through a relationship with Jesus?
This book has a good subject because many people think they can pass through life on the faith of someone else. It does teach that our fellowship with God through Jesus is important and we should grow on our faith. The truth is every Christian needs to grow in their faith but they need to grow based on the Bible and grow together in community.