That’s one of the goals here – as we start to get beyond the perceptions, and people start to see seeds in Christians living out their faith, and being able to articulate why their faith actually drives them and motivates them, there will be more connection. People will start to realize the idea of Christianity for centuries has been at the core of social justice, at the core of these sorts of movements, even environmental stewardship. You know, Christianity historically has led on those issues, and we think over the next 30 years that could happen again.

One of the things you say as you begin the book is that Christianity has an image problem. When some groups have an “image problem” they hire a consultant or a spin doctor. Do we do that? Or do we change the culture, which is a much more daunting task? And if that’s the answer, then how?

Lyons: I would say Christianity has an image problem but it’s not something you can change superficially. The reason these perceptions exist – as the old quote goes, “perception is reality” – is that this is really how Christians live. This is really what we’ve been expressing. Therefore, the perceptions and the image will change when Christians start to embody sort of a fresh expression of Christianity, that, again, is loving, authentic, kind, compassionate, service-oriented… When we start being known for those kinds of things, over time, and people start to have new experiences with Christians, that’s how these perceptions will change.

Basically, [those in the culture] have to replace and catalog new experiences with Christians, where they go, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize Christians really cared about this,” or would approach an issue this intelligently. The more logging of those experiences can happen one-on-one, this image will change over time, but we can’t just focus on changing the image. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about a core issue at the heart of what it means to be Christian. And we have to rediscover that.

Kinnaman: One of the things we argue pretty regularly throughout the book is that Christians are never called to be popular. Jesus says that all the time, the Scripture says that over and over. When you have a brand, and something goes wrong, then you solve it with spin doctoring and trying to figure out ways to reconnect with your audience. That’s not true in this particular case [of Christianity], we make that argument at different points throughout the book.

The goal of Christians is to be agents of spiritual transformation in people’s lives. We have to be a picture of Jesus to people. We represent Christ. We are an open book to our neighbors. John 1:14 shows Jesus as the perfect mixture of Grace and Truth. So when we talk about having an image problem, it’s because we haven’t represented that appropriate balance like Jesus had, of all grace, and all truth, all the time.

That’s tension. We don’t give up on Truth – that certain things are wrong, but when we don’t have this perspective that Jesus had of reconciling the world to Him, and of pursuing grace in people’s lives, particularly those who are the most broken (“those who have sinned much are forgiven much”), [then we’re not showing the full picture]. We’re not suggesting there is some sort of corporate or nationwide brainwashing that goes on, or any kind of advertising campaign or any methods of man other than to be more like Christ, to more represent that perfect balance of Grace and Truth.

To generations that are older, or “in power,” why does it matter what the 16-29-year-old generation thinks of Christianity?

Kinnaman: I think the simple answer is because they’re our future; it also matters because so many things about our country are changing, and people aren’t aware of that. It’s almost as if we want to believe that things are the same, and they’ll be the same, and that as people get older they’ll become more “conservative,” or they’ll come back to church.