Firsthand by Ryan & Josh Shook – While recently perusing the YouTube channel for publisher WaterBrook Multnomah, I spotted a series of video reviews for this book called Firsthand. I don’t know that I would’ve paid much attention to it other than the fact that the tagline read, “Ditching secondhand religion for a faith of your own.” That piqued my interest enough to read some reviews and ultimately order two copies. One copy was for our Youth Pastor and the other for our Young Adult group.
Although that may seem either optimistic, risky, or both, I placed a bit of confidence that this book could be worthwhile for some if not many. The issue of carrying your parent’s or friend’s or even your pastor’s religion with you into your formidable years is usually nothing shy of crisis-inducing. I was hoping this book dealt with this head on.
So was I disappointed? No! Is it a perfect book? No! Ha ha, seriously though this book may hit some people right between the eyes and be the challenge that they need. Not only do the authors, who are still fairly young, recount their own struggles to come to terms with their own core beliefs, they include quotes from other young adults who have also been through the fire and come to their own beliefs in God.
The authors take their time working through different areas of Christianity that need examined, ask questions for application at the end of each chapter, as well as give the reader some practical things to try. In no way do they claim to have “THE formula” for success, but offer some things that they have found helpful. They address many issues that young adults deal with (guilt, playing Christian, forgiveness, etc) and look to encourage you to seek God to be the source of the answers. They don’t discount problems or minimize them as inconsequential, rather the Shooks validate many things as common and opportunities for God to direct you to a deeper relationship with Him.
I personally found books that challenge me with questions and when I take time to reflect and answer them, that I am often stretched. When there are encouragements to do something practical, even if it’s just a handful of times that I do them, that I often gain a perspective I previously had not held. For these reasons alone, I think this book has the potential to be used by God to open someone’s mind and life to the idea of finding out for themselves what a real relationship with God is like.
I’ll admit, for as much encouragement and pointed questions that are laced throughout this book, you won’t be inundated with theology requiring a life jacket. I would say if you were to find a fault with this book, then this would be it. But if that’s a good thing for where you are, then maybe that will attract you to it.
Honestly, this book doesn’t try to be everything to everyone and exhaustively answer all your questions. Instead, it is an encouragement to join the authors “on a journey to find a faith of your own.” There is a message of God’s faithfulness, even while you attempt to “start from scratch, question everything, and get a hold of a faith that’s real.” The Shook’s do a good job of providing a starting point for this and much more.
I’m going to rate it 4 out 5 stars. I’m going to recommend this book for anyone who grew up in the church and has struggled to find their “own faith”, especially those in the 15 to 28.5 year old range. I’m going to recommend it to our high school teens and young adults.
At 189 pages, this book won’t take you long to read. Take a few evenings or a couple of weeks and read this book and see if God isn’t able to use it to grow you in your faith!