Hand-Me-Down Faith | Brian Mills and Ben Trueblood

Hand-Me-Down Faith

Let me shoot straight with you for a second.

If you grew up in church, in a Christian school or home, there’s a good chance that you believe what you do about the gospel because it is something your parents, teachers, youth pastor, or other church leaders taught you. It was something they passed on to you, and you believed them.

It’s great that these leaders in your life are Christians, but there’s a danger here: if I described you just now, there’s a good chance that, left on your own, you will be unable to explain why you believe what you do about the gospel. There’s a good chance that you are inconsistent at best with time that you spend reading your Bible and praying. And there’s a good chance that what you believe about the gospel hasn’t translated into specific ways that it shapes who you are and how you live.

Before you angrily close the book, hold on one more second and hear me out. I know there’s a good chance for these things to be true because I’ve seen thousands of students fit this description throughout my time in student ministry. And I’ve also fit this description myself.

As a high school student in a Christian home, involved in a great church, and at a Christian school, I had a hand-me-down faith. I believed it because other people whom I loved believed. Truth be told, I struggled in my faith, at times doubting my belief, and at other times being sure of it. Once the doubting of faith was settled, my struggle moved on to wondering if I was a good enough Christian, if I was strong enough in my faith. I was a leader in the youth ministry and was at that time the only one of three children “walking with Jesus” in the eyes of my parents. The expectations I felt were like a mountain of burden that lasted through my college years and beyond as I struggled to know if my faith was strong enough, if I was “good enough.”

Because of this I often found myself simply trying harder or giving more effort to living a “good Christian life,” but at the same time, I found myself on the losing side of my personal battles with sin and temptation. It was like I was constantly running but never going anywhere. This kind of life is painful and exhausting, and is the furthest thing from the abundant life that Jesus said is available to us (John 10:10).

The “good enough” struggle is a real one that plagues many, and it begins in the minds of believers who have not yet taken the step to truly own their faith. They’re still living in a hand-me-down Christianity. I was meant for so much more than life on a spiritual treadmill, constantly running and going nowhere. You are too. It’s time for you to jump off of the treadmill and take ownership of your faith, which begins with an understanding of the gospel.


This was an excerpt from Brian and Ben’s new book A Different College Experience: Following Christ in College that will be released this month!


Brian Mills was a youth pastor for 15 years leading ministries as large as 2000 students. He has planted campuses, preaches in churches all over the country and leads a college ministry of over 1000 college students from the University of Arkansas. Brian has a heart to share the gospel and disciple others weekly. He loves the local church and is committed to pouring his life into Pastoring. 

Ben Trueblood serves as director of Student Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. He has twenty years of student ministry experience, thirteen of which were spent in the local church as a student pastor. Ben is the author of Student Ministry that Matters and is involved in training, consulting, and speaking to student ministries across the United States. Ben and his wife Kristen have four children: Jonathan, Avery, Josiah, and Adrienne.