Megachurch Pastor's Sons Talk About Breaking Free From 'Second-Hand Religion'

Editor's Note: There are two parts to this story: an interview with Ryan Shook and an interview with Josh Shook, co-authors of the new book Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own. Below is the interview with Josh Shook.

Two brothers in their early twenties, whose parents are New York Times best-selling authors Kerry and Chris Shook, founders of Woodlands Church, a megachurch near Houston, are receiving high praises for their book about breaking free of their "second-hand religion."

After years of going to church, following the rules and trying to replicate the faith of their church-planting parents, Josh (22) and Ryan (23) Shook felt like the religion of their upbringing no longer made sense, explained publishers writing about Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own. They continued, "Everything they had been taught began to feel flimsy and fake, leading to a personal crisis of faith that turned them away from God to partying, endless video-game playing, and an addiction to pornography.

"Firsthand is a fresh, utterly honest quest by two young authors to help their peers move from beliefs and values that have been handed down from others to a more personal, grown up, and sustainable faith."

Craig Groeschel, pastor of, author of Soul Detox, Clean Living in a Contaminated World, is one of several well-known pastors endorsing the brothers' book.  "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," Groeschel writes.

"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," said Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church, Washington, DC, in his review of the book.

The Christian Post conducted an interview with Josh and Ryan Shook separately via email about the subject of their book. The interview with Josh is below. CP's interview with Ryan can be read by clicking here.

CP: What inspired you to write Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own?

Josh: Ryan and I went through a crisis of faith around the time we were getting to the end of high school. We had parents who lived out what they preached, but it seemed like what worked for them didn't work for us. And it wasn't just us. We began to notice that our friends were feeling the same way. Wether or not they grew up in church and went to all the Bible studies and camps, like we did, so many people in our generation had come to the conclusion that the Christianity they were introduced to growing up just wasn't a practical or authentic way to live. After we went to college and were on our own, we began to understand that what we thought was our faith was just something we had inherited from our parents, pastors and church. We had to learn how to discover what a relationship with Christ meant for ourselves.

CP: Calling what you learned as a child and young person "secondhand religion" might be a little harsh to hear for some parents. Are you grateful for any of that "religion" you first learned about? If so, what about it?

Josh: Absolutely. Ryan and I are so grateful for the way our parents raised us, and no one is perfect. But something our parents had to learn as we grew older was that they needed to share their struggles and insecurities with us if they ever expected us to be honest and real with them. Even when we were in high school, our dad would try to shelter us from the stress and issues going on at work. Of course, he was just trying to protect us and, honestly, he thought the last thing any high school student would want to hear about would be their father's problems. But the reality is just the opposite. We thought our parents were perfect because even though they backed up their faith with action, we never knew about the a lot of hardships and risks they went through. We began to understand that they continued to act in faith in the midst of their insecurities.

CP: Was it difficult to talk to your parents about your "crisis of faith?"

Josh: At first, yes. It was very awkward and difficult to articulate what we were going through. But it was so freeing to discover that they go through the same things we do. It's a continuing struggle, because being honest and real with others and God is not a one time thing. It's a daily commitment. But through that process we learned that God uses broken and imperfect people, and the more I boast about my weaknesses, the easier it is to recognize all that the Lord does.

CP: Did you feel alone during the transition between second and firsthand faith? If so, how?

Josh: For a time, yes. At first it was good to know that I was not alone in having a secondhand faith. But everyone's journey to discovering a relationship with the Lord is unique and something that they have to discover for themselves. Once I started to surround myself with people who craved an authentic faith just as much as I did, it became easier to celebrate the different ways we all grew closer to the Lord and to learn from them.

CP: What are the key elements of having a "faith of your own?"

Josh: Honesty, accountability, and serving. Being honest and real with God and others is a daily reminder of just how badly we need a savior. Accountability is critical because we will fail and try to cover it up; we need friends who will help us avoid our struggles and show us the love of Christ when we succumb to them. We need to love others as Christ first loved us, without expecting anything in return. Serving the people around us, either through ministry, deliberate acts of kindness, or social work helps cultivate the heart of Christ in our lives. It is incredible how God draws us closer to Him when we serve others especially when we don't feel like it.

CP: What would you like readers of your book to come away with?

Josh: Our prayer is that the book starts a conversation that we believe does not happen often enough. Regardless of age or belief, we want to encourage people and let them know that it is okay to have doubts about your faith, and that it is crucial to never be satisfied with standing still. In Philippians 1:6, Paul tells the church in Philippi that the Lord will continue to make perfect the good work he started in them until the day of Christ Jesus. The same is true for us. God meets us where we are, in the midst of our messes and doubt, and once He grabs hold of us He won't let us settle for anything this world can offer us.

On the Web: