Book Review: firsthand – Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own

In the book firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own Ryan and Josh challenge the modern Christian to examine their Faith. In this easy read with only 8 chapters the authors examine statements like

“If you don’t believe in God because of your own convictions, there is no point in pre- tending that you believe at all.”

—Robert Griffin III

In the first Chapter this amazing passage is brought out.

Job answered God : “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” (Job 42:1-6 MSG)

When I first picked up this book I could not put it down. From years of seeing this lived out not only in my own life but from students that I ministered to daily. Being able to have the amazing privilege to work with teenagers for over 12 years in ministry you begin to see common struggles. One of the biggest struggles I saw them facing is owning their faith. In the book firsthand the authors address some key reasons why so many never really own their faith.

  • Many cling to their parents faith.

“There comes a time when you can no longer cling to your parents’ coat tails and you have to choose to make it your faith.” Ch. 1

“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. ” Ch.1

The Authors give great insight that serves readers as a signs to tell if their have secondhand faith vs a firsthand faith.

“Hand-me-down faith may work when things are going well, but when pressures and problems hit, what you thought you believed will crumble.” Ch.1

WOW! This is so true. Anyone can put on a smile and lift their hands when things are going great but when pressures come true colors really show. How a believer conducts themselves during times of troubles reveals character and their true faith in God. Just like in the above passage from Job. Job was able to fully see a side of God that he would have never seen if it had not been from his hardships.

Check out one of the examples the authors shared from a interview from a college student named Taylor.

“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 sec- ondhand religion, and it doesn’t get inside your life or change anything about you.“Ch. 1

This is sometimes the norm and lifestyle many come to know a Christian is all about. Ryan and Josh Shook are so right when they say in Ch. 2 “No matter what you try to fill your life with if it’s not filled with God you will be empty.” Not just teenagers but every human being wants fulfillment in life we are all on a quest to be satisfied. There is nothing in this world that can compare with the hope and love of Christ. After the high is gone, the date is over and the money spent the quest is not over and the fulfillment is not meet.

“ God is waiting for you to abandon all the unhealthy habits, relationships, and junk that you’re grasping at to find fulfillment. ” Ch. 2

I just love this quote

You must be emptied of that of which you are full, so that you may be filled with that of which you are empty – Augustine

Whether you a youth pastor looking to teach your students on this issue, a person struggling with putting your Faith in God, or maybe your interest is now peaked to read more. Whatever your reason I highly suggest checking out this book.

I believe people who call themselves Christians and live secondhand faiths are the very issue so many people turn away from the gospel. I am thankful for Ryan and Josh Shook for being brave to approach this very real issue in the Christian faith.

Lastly here are some questions taken from the last chapter I encourage you to interact and answer them below in the comment section.

Praises for Firsthand

“You can’t live a purpose-driven life without a real and personal faith. Christ didn’t come to start a religion; he came to connect with you in a genuine firsthand relationship. Ryan and Josh Shook will challenge you never to settle for a secondhand religion but instead to develop a personal faith that transforms your life.”
—Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA, and author of the New York Times #1 bestseller The Purpose Driven Life

“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 in Washington, DC, and author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Circle Maker.

“Josh and Ryan Shook, as the sons of a 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, Elevation Church & author of the New York Times bestseller, Greater

“Firsthand is a rich and insightful book for believers who are tired of second-hand religion. Honest, compelling and well-written, Ryan Shook and Josh Shook have given us a huge gift! Their candor is so refreshing, and they point to the way to a vibrant, personal faith. This could be one of the most important books you’ll ever read.”
—Jud Wilhite, author of Pursued, senior pastor of Central Christian Church

“Every Christian parent wants their children to develop a faith of their own. Firsthand asks tough questions and guides those with a second-hand faith to find Christ for themselves.”
—Craig Groeschel, Pastor of, author of Soul Detox, Clean Living in a Contaminated World

“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 to not settle for an inherited faith, but to discover a true relationship with Jesus that is unique, exciting, and every bit your own.”
—Pete Wilson, Pastor of Cross Point Church, and author of Plan B and Empty Promises
From the Author
We grew up in church and always knew the right answers. Our parents and church really were great, but when we got to college we discovered that our faith was no longer working for us. After struggling with what a genuine faith looked like we realized that the reason our faith no longer worked for us was because it was never our own. What we called our faith was really borrowed religion from our friends, church and parents. When we looked around, we saw that many of our friends, Christian or not, really didn’t have a faith that they called their own either.

Firsthand is a book all about moving from secondhand religion to a firsthand relationship with Christ. We aren’t Bible scholars, we don’t have all the answers, but we do genuinely want you to discover the beauty and passion of a firsthand relationship with Christ. Throughout this book you will find honest examples, practical advice, and thought provoking questions designed to help our generation own a firsthand faith. We didn’t write this book to give you simple Bible school answers or criticize your questions. We embrace doubts, seek honesty, and value community in our lives as well as our faith. We hope this book challenges you in a positive way and we would love for you to join the community of young people trying to live out a firsthand faith. Please let us know what you think and join the conversation by visiting


  1. On a scale from 1 to 10, how real and viral would you say your faith is right now? ( One Means “I’m not sure I even have a personal faith in Christ.” While ten means “My faith is really changing me and bringing fulfillment to my life.” )Why did you choose that number?
  2. Who have been the strongest influences on your faith so far in your life ( your parents, friends, youth pastor…) ?

To what extent is your faith based on what they believe, and to what extent is it based on what you believe?

  1. Have you felt need to make your faith more your own?

Where are you in that process?


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Originally posted 2013-10-23 01:53:03.