Posted by: Brian Musser | April 2, 2013

A Book Review: Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan & Josh Shook


41jsHaBk9xLMany who follow my blog know that I am the Baptist Campus Minister at Drexel.  As I have defined my role on the campus, Firsthand applies to three of my four purposes.  I want to challenge people to evaluate what they believe especially what they believe in regards to the claims of Christ.  I want to challenge people to live up to what they say they believe especially if they claim to be followers of Christ.  And then I want to equip, encourage and inspire the church to see academic settings as places to missionally influence.  Firsthand was written with much of the same heart.

Firsthand gives young adults permission to examine what they truly feel and believe when it comes to the Christian faith.  It guides them through the tough questions that so often leave them stranded if not dealt with honestly.  It cast a picture of God who is big enough to handle the truth.  And it illustrates a God who is caring enough to gently walk with them through it all.

BloggingForBooks-120x600As I read through this book it took me on a personal journey through the conversations I have had with students over the years.  Chapter one is subtitled A Faith Straight from the Source.   It reminds me of a conversation I had with a Muslim student who wanted to learn about Christianity but wanted to study Jesus and not what others said about Jesus.  He wanted to study the Bible directly and not people’s ideas about the Bible.  Then in the second chapter I was reminded of a student who needed to work through a lot of pain because of how she was born and how the world had treated her because of it.  She has been able to take her emptiness to God and find relief.  Our ministry on campus is built on accountability and it never ceases to amaze me how hungry Christian students are for real relationships where they can be honest with each other and God about their sin.  They are looking for A Faith that Frees.  One of my favorite student testimonies is from the guy who was a leader of his church youth group while pedaling drugs on the side until he came to college and radically met Jesus and his life was transformed by his faith.  So many students struggle with the new found freedom at school and how they are going to practice their faith in their new environment oscillating between rules and relationships.  Just the other day I had a student in my office doubting God, His existence and His plan for her life because of financial issues that have developed in her life.  And as May and June get closer so many seniors will wrestle with the ideas of how their faith calls them to action for the rest of their lives.

This book is about the lives of young adults.  This book understands the struggle of developing necessarily dependent childhood faith into thriving and robust adult faith.  If you are somewhere in that journey please read Firsthand.  If you are at Drexel, or anywhere in the Philadelphia area, you can also connect with me at any time.  I can help you along the way.

If you are not a young adult but an older Christian or church leader who wants to understand the threatening pitfalls and amazing potential of this generation I recommend you to read the book as well.  This book could be an excellent resource for you to get a glimpse into what is necessary for churches to do to mentor students into an adult faith.

Allow me to leave with a quote from a totally different book; Big Questions, Worthy Dreams by Sharon Daloz Parks, who is a well respected member of the academic community holding multiple teaching positions at multiple prestigious universities.  “… a primary concern that fueled my research and writing was that young people would discover a critical perspective that would call into question their inherited, conventional faith, and then, though able to enlarge their respect for the faith of others, they would be able to recompose a worthy faith of their own.”  The shift from secondhand faith to firsthand faith is a noted and necessary phenomenon throughout our culture.  Firsthand by Ryan & Josh Shook is a tool to help us get there and lead others through as well.


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