Better yet, ask a teen or an even younger child, "Are you a Christian?" and you would be surprised how many times the response will be in the plural form: "Yes, we are Christians." Some of this stems from a strong sense of the family unit in the younger years, but in the case of teens, it may stem from the fact that they see Christianity as something their family does. They might say, "Yeah, we go to church," or "We read the Bible." This perspective could be an indicator that a child doesn't have an individual, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Shook brothers describe a second-hand faith in their opening chapter (page 5):
"Our parents taught us that Christianity wasn't about religion and rules but about a relationship with the God who made us. [...] We truly feel blessed to have parents who have a real and authentic faith. But it's theirs.
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. A handed-down faith that you've never owned for yourself doesn't give meaning to your life. You might sort of wear it, but it doesn't say much about who you are. In fact, hand-me-down beliefs can start to weigh on you. [...] a bar set too high that reminds you of your failures. Or they just seem outdated and irrelevant."
Ryan & Josh share their own personal experiences with doubt about Biblical Truths, frustration with the church community and other issues they wrestled with as they reached adulthood and began examining how they lived their lives and why. Unsure at first if they even wanted to continue in their faith, they started a journey to discover what they believed. They gained a lot of insight into the plague of hand-me-down faith which seems to have a grip on masses of young Christians and they share gems of wisdom, practical application, and candid quotations from others facing similar challenges.
They tackle some heartfelt concerns in such an easy going manner that I had to actually go back and make sure each of these questions had been addressed. Yes, indeed, they were! Their casual writing style is so easy going that some of the points they make do not "jump out" at you while reading, but in reflection you will realize the real depth and meaning of what they've conveyed. Here is a list from inside the dust jacket:
If God is real, then why do I feel empty?
- Why should I even try to follow God when I fail so often?
- How do I experience a connection with Christ that's more than surface level?
- Can I ever get past a "checklist Christianity" of dos and don'ts?
- Is it possible to have authentic faith when I'm full of doubts and questions?
- Can I really discover my purpose in life through a relationship with Christ?
- How can I find a community of other people who take firsthand faith seriously?
Some portions, however, were very easy to relate to and did resonate with me. Topics addressed include:
- feeling burnt out (Chapter titled "Trashing the Checklist")
- what happens when we don't respond to God's prompting in our lives; becoming a judgmental Christian (Chapter titled "Divine Disturbance)
- being critical and dissatisfied with the church due to a false definition of what the church is and/or an unrealistic expectation/consumer mentality (Chapter titled "Firsthand Community")
To me, the Scripture choice wasn't ideal. I understand that verse not as an invitation to doubt the Lord, but as an invitation to learn of His character- to draw near to Him to see for ourselves that He is good. It does not say: Come to see that the Lord is real. This made me hesitant, but I found nothing else that raised any red flags as far as having someone immature in their faith (and perhaps in general, lol) read the book.
****In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purpose of reviewing. I didn't have to give a positive review, the opinions are mine.