Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own

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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…

Firsthand faith is not something you wear on the outside. Firsthand faith, in our experience, is centered deep in your own mind and heart. Sure, it’s still a work in progress, but it’s yours. It’s you. When hard times hit, you have a lot to draw on to weather the storm. In fact, firsthand faith is so real and personal that it just gets stronger when it is challenged.

Who wouldn’t want that kind of living, breathing faith?”

Excerpted from Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Daily Reflection: Are you relying on the faith of another (parent, spouse, child, friend), or do you know the Lord firsthand?

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Michael Hodge

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Eric Crisp

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Randy Mann

NEWS: The Gospel Coalition Reviews “Firsthand”

“What’s refreshing about Josh and Ryan’s approach is that they don’t herald doubt as an art form; instead, they encourage doubters to pursue the truth,” states in its review of Ryan and Josh Shook’s New York Times bestseller, Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own.

Brothers Ryan (23) and Josh (22) Shook,  the oldest children of mega-church pastor Kerry Shook, have confronted their own experience with disillusionment with their faith and offer a clarion call to their generation to move beyond an inherited beliefs to a genuine faith of their own.

Click  here to read The Gospel Coalition’s full review.

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Blogger Callie Williams

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Craig T. Owens

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – College Pastor Patrick Willis

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Blogger Tara Brittany

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor David Mullens

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Youth Pastor Matthew Parks

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Karl Dumas

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Educator Joel Medley

Ryan, Josh & Kerry Shook on “Family Talk”

 Ryan and Josh Shook, authors of Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of  Your Own, are guests along with their father Pastor Kerry Shook on "Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk" radio broadcast on Monday, May 6 and Tuesday, May 7.  The Shook family discusses the difficulty young adults are having as they tranisition to a personal faith and not that of their parents or others.  Ryan and Josh advise parents and peers to ask the hard questions and to go directly to God with their doubts. To hear more, click here:      

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Camp Ministry Leader Eric Wood

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Chuck Harrison

VIDEO: Firsthand Endorsement – Pastor Andrew Courtright

“Firsthand” Makes NY Times Bestseller List

Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own (WaterBrook Press, March 19, 2013) by debut authors Ryan and Josh Shook has swept through the national bestseller lists during its first week on sale with the book ranking #4 on the New York  Times Hardcover How-to, Advice, Misc list (Apr. 7), #5 on the Publishers Weekly Hardcover Non-fiction list (Apr. 1), #8 on the Wall Street Journal Hardcover Non-fiction list (Mar. 29), and #107 on USA Today’s Top 150 (Mar. 28).

Brothers Ryan (24) and Josh (23) Shook, the oldest sons of mega-church pastor Kerry Shook of the Woodlands Church near Houston, joined forces to tell their experiences of leaving home and doubting their faith. The two discovered that each of them needed to develop a personal relationship with Christ instead of relying on the one passed down from their parents. The book addresses an antidote to the rampant exodus of young adults from the church. Ryan and Josh speak directly to their peers on the faith-related issues of emptiness, doubt, authenticity and more.

Sick of Secrets

“Living as a slave to a lie will set you up for an endless cycle of shame and guilt. When you feel worthless and ashamed most of the time, getting close to God—or even wanting to—is hard. Really hard. It’s easier just to go through the motions. Settle for secondhand religion.  Maybe move away from God and church altogether…

Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

But it doesn't have to. Think  about what amazing things you could  do if you could  break free from those feelings of worthlessness and  shame. Imagine feeling like you could get close to God without fear of condemnation.  Imagine what  it would feel like to break free from the cycle of secrets-of beating yourself up with all that shame and guilt.

Your spirit would come alive. Your life would change. You would walk into a world filled with new possibilities.

And you would be free.”

Excerpted from Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Daily Reflection: What lies have you been believing about yourself and about God?

He Will Be Enough

“Every time we start to feel empty, it reminds us to keep coming back to our primal relationship with Christ.

Emptiness and desperation are the greatest reminders that our faith is not simply an aspect of our lives or a cultural inheritance. They point to a God who wants us to experience Him every moment of every day. They are a constant reminder that we were made for (and promised) a greater world free of pain and emptiness.

Maybe that's what being filled with new life is all about. We come to realize that we can depend on Him for everything-no matter what we feel or what comes next-and He will be enough.”

Excerpted from Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Daily Reflection: Pray that today God will fill you up with His grace.


When we forget that Christianity is all about a relationship with Christ and we start to settle for the kind of Christianity where we check off our to-do lists for God, then we inevitably experience the emptiness of religion. Religion is all about humankind trying to work its way into God's approval, and that always leaves an emptiness and ache in the soul.

Empty religion shows up when someone tries to follow rules and rituals to earn salvation, but it also shows up when a Christ follower starts trying to be a “good Christian” so God will love him or her more.
Most of us can't keep that up for very long.

Two things are certain when you turn faith into religion and try to do all the right things to get God's approval. Number one: you feel empty inside. Number two: you always fail! That's because religion isn't the same thing as a real relationship and because there is no way in the world that on our own we could work our way up to God's approval.

Excerpted from Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Daily Reflection: What lies have you been believing about yourself and about God?

Houston Post: Ryan & Josh Shook Rediscover ‘Firsthand’ Faith

Ryan and Josh Shook are profiled in the Houston Chronicle regarding their debut book Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own (March 19, 2013) and their personal struggles as  pastor's kids to find a personal faith instead of copying that of their parents.  "You don't have to be a pastor's kid to find the faith that you had - or faked - for years doesn't feel real anymore, they say. Ask most 20-somethings raised in a Christian home: They've gone through struggles and left the church, or like the Shooks, been forced to find a deeper understanding of Christianity," writes the Houston Post. Ryan and Josh Shook, along with their father Kerry, pastor of the Woodlands Church, will appear together at Lakewood Church in Houston on Wednesday, March 20 at 7:30 PM.

NEWS: Author Josh Shook Talks About His Faith Journey in the Knoxville News Sentinel

Josh Shook, co-author of Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own,  is interviewed on regarding some of the tough spiritual questions facing today's millennial generation. Click here to read the interview.

SNEAK PEEK: Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook


Ditching Secondhand Religion For A Faith of Your Own

Click here to download chapter one of Firsthand.

Every person inherits a system of beliefs. Maybe yours came from community, or church, or society, or your parents. But one day you reach a breaking point. You look at the rituals and traditions and worship and theology and it all seems foggy. Foreign. Strange. You wonder why you believe what you believe. If you even believe anymore...

Brothers Ryan and Josh Shook reached that breaking point. Their book, Firsthand, is a smart, honest and deeply felt journey that invites you to leave behind handed-down beliefs and find authentic faith. A faith that lets go of how things are supposed to be. A faith that refuses to be defined by expectations or subcultures.

Click here to download chapter one of Firsthand.

PODCAST: Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

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