The Way Back

How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back


By Phil Cooke

By Jonathan Bock

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“This book is both timely and needed. Provocative, yes, because the message is essential at this decisive ‘hinge moment’ in time.” — Philip Yancey, Author, Vanishing Grace

The Way Back is the way forward.” — Erwin Raphael McManus, Founder of Mosaic, and Author, The Last Arrow

On a dusty hilltop, Jesus once kickstarted His church with a ragtag group of fishermen who called themselves “The Way.” Truth be told, the builders of Christianity were a bunch of nobodies. Like us, they were powerless and flawed and sometimes petty. But they were committed. They were all-in. Within a remarkably short time, The Way became the world’s most influential religious faith — a force in culture, politics, literature, science, philanthropy, and the arts. Against impossible odds, that group of nobodies astonished the world.

Two thousand years later — by any measure — Christianity is retreating on all fronts. The Way has lost its way.

In The Way Back, media and marketing experts Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock take a hard look at Christians today and reveal that we, as a salesforce, have lost our faith in our product. Where’s the passion, the excitement, and the commitment that two thousand years ago made such improbable and staggering growth possible?

The Way Back will inspire and equip you to learn from that wonderful group of nobodies, so that you too can astonish the world once more.


“This book is both timely and needed. Provocative, yes, because the message is essential at this decisive ‘hinge moment’ in time.”

—Philip Yancey,
Author, Vanishing Grace

“This book arrives a crucially important time in history, as the chasm grows ever wider between who Christians say we are versus how the world perceives us. The Way Back is a much-needed wake up call for the Church to return to the humble and joy-filled basics of our faith. We’ve wandered for far too long.”

—Christine Caine,
Author, Evangelist, and co-founder, A21

“I can’t think of a single Christian in any walk of life who would not benefit from the insights and guidance found in The Way Back, but especially pastors, teachers, and communicators need this book, as does any executive trying to connect with Christians in America.”

—Hugh Hewitt,
Nationally Syndicated Radio Host and MSNBC Host

“Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock have shown in their book, The Way Back that traditional, core Christian values are not dated; in fact, they are more relevant today than ever before. I believe that this insightful, powerful, and provocative book will transform the way we believe and how we practice our beliefs!”

—DeVon Franklin,
Producer and New York Times Bestselling author

“In The Way Back, authors Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock have tackled one of the most consequential issues of our time: how the Church can regain credibility, and, ultimately, authority to influence and move the needle of culture as it once did. We are all called to live like Jesus, and this book is the ‘how-to’ guide on how to do so in today’s media-driven culture.”

—Rev. Samuel Rodriguez,
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Executive Producer of The Impossibles

“In The Way Back, my good friends Jonathan Bock and Phil Cooke have challenged how I think about the modern-day church and our need for a paradigm shift. In the same way, you’ll be challenged to discard conventional thinking in favor of a bolder way of living, just like the first Christians. You’ll also be inspired to hold fast to the Biblical values of the Early Church while pushing for innovation so we can regain influence and transform the world!”

—Bobby Gruenewald,
Pastor, Innovation Leader, Life. Church, and Founder, YouVersion Bible App

“With facts and figures these authors force us to consider how American Christianity has become a reflection of our dominant culture, rather than being an instrument of God for changing it. Then, they go on to give us a vision of how we might recover that transforming influence we once had. I give this book two thumbs up.”

—Tony Campolo,
Ph.D., Eastern University

“Phil and Jonathan’s book The Way Back is so important right now. It’s a wake-up call to remind us that the way we live our lives has an impact on others. If you want to make a difference in the world today, then this is the book to read.”

—Roma Downey,
Actor, Producer, and President, LightWorkers Media

The Way Back is a great recall book. Recall the way it was when the church was effective and reclaim the way the faithful can be effective in a challenging environment for the church. Proud of the gospel and aware of how the church has lost sight of itself in the recent past, this book is a wonderful response to how to find our way back to vibrancy.”

—Darrell L. Bock,
Executive Director for Cultural Engagement, Howard G. Hendricks Center and Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

“I am thankful for the powerful message in The Way Back. If you’re a Christian leader seeking to understand society and how to best reach people to further the Kingdom, you need this book. It truly dives in to how we, as leaders, can change the perception of today’s culture toward Christians and Christianity and live lives of love that will force people to rethink what they think about Jesus. “

—Tyler Reagin,
President, Catalyst

“In this timely and essential book, well-liked and highly respected marketing experts, Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock turn their decades of know-how towards solving the mounting public relations crisis that is holding back and sidelining many Christians today. Let The Way Back provide a roadmap for your way forward in impacting culture.”

—Brad Lomenick,
Founder, BLINC, Former President of Catalyst, and Author, H3 Leadership and The Catalyst Leader

“An insightful and devastating analysis of why Christians are ignored and irrelevant in our culture. But thankfully, Bock and Cooke’s book offers lots of practical answers and examples of how to give ourselves away and find our way back. Very encouraging and hopeful.”

—Ralph Winter,
Film Producer of X-Men, Wolverine, Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek

“I’m focusing a significant part of my future to raising up a new generation of Christian leaders who will share the gospel boldly, while understanding the changing culture we live in today. The Way Back could be a textbook for that cause. From two respected media and marketing experts, this is a wake-up call for the Body of Christ, and my great hope is that the Church will listen to the alarm.”

—Dr. Jack Graham,
Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Church, and founder, PowerPoint Media Ministries

“Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock provide a unique and fresh perspective on evangelism for today’s church. I really believe this is the kind of message that is going to transform how we approach the gospel, church, and people. I would encourage everyone to read this book—and to buy a copy for a family member or friend!”

—Pastor Chad Veach,
Lead Pastor, ZOE Church Los Angeles

“In The Way Back, Phil and Jonathan remind us that we are part of a winning team and the Gospel of Jesus is the ultimate prize. This book will reinvigorate believers to start trusting again in our own product and embolden us take that message to the masses in new, creative ways.”

—Craig Gross,

In Phil and Jonathan’s book, The Way Back, they take a no-holds-barred look into how we’ve lost our influence in the world and give life-changing advice and insight into how we can find our way back to living a life that sets us, and the world, on fire again. I encourage you read this book with the mindset that each one of us needs to take an honest evaluation of ourselves and be bold in taking the steps we need to find our way again.”

—Rob Hoskins,
President & CEO, OneHope, Inc.

“I have known Jonathan Bock and Phil Cooke for nearly 20 years now. I love that these two marketing experts are turning their attention to the Church and asking hard questions of why the Church has lost its impact on culture. Instead of focusing on modern marketing techniques, they are taking us back two thousand years to reclaim the essence that made the Church an unstoppable force. The Way Back is the way forward.”

—Erwin Raphael McManus,
Founder, Mosaic, and Author, The Last Arrow

The Way Back is an inventive, creative, and unusual look at how to reclaim Christianity’s lost credibility by two extraordinary communicators. If you’re serious about reaching this generation (and we all should be), then this is the book for you.”

—Bobby Schuller,
Senior Pastor, Shepherd’s Grove Church, and Host, Hour of Power television program

The Way Back is the book we need at a time when it seems like the culture is, at best, indifferent to us. If you want to understand what is happening around us and learn how you could make a difference in your community, you need to read this book.”

—Greg Surratt,
Founding Pastor, Seacoast Church and President, Association of Related Churches

The Way Back is a clarion call for all Christians to surprise the world once again with the power of their faith. This book challenges us to set aside any secret desire for worldly influence in favor of total surrender to God.”

—Commissioner Kenneth Hodder,
Territorial Commander, Salvation Army

“From the practical to the lofty, these brothers have written a virtual handbook for any person of faith who longs to reclaim the spiritual adrenaline that fueled Christianity’s earliest believers. I saw both myself—and who I want myself to be—all over these pages.”

Poet, Rapper, and Activist

The Way Back is a brilliant assessment of how we have lost our way as a church, and casts a compelling vision for how we can once again become a transformative force. It’s a must-read that will challenge your thinking and breathe hope back into your soul. I highly recommend it.”

—Ken Foreman,
Sr. Pastor, Cathedral of Faith

The Way Back is an inspiring call to faith rather than fear. Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock draw upon the winsome witness of the ancient church to forge a future for contemporary Christians. The Way Back is loaded with beautiful examples of how we can serve our communities today.”

—Craig Detweiler,
President, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

“Seldom do leaders respond to a gentle tap. Most leaders engrossed in exploration and new conquests need a jarring experience to slow down, absorb, rethink, and realign. My friends Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock do just that. The possibilities are real, achievable and practical. I want to be a part of “The Way Back” movement and so will you.”

—Sam Chand,
Leadership Consultant and Author, Bigger Faster Leadership

“With authenticity and secure commitment to Christ, my friends Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock have intentionally taken the bull by the horns, confronting believers everywhere to set out toward The Way Back: to not only believing but boldly living the all-powerful gospel we preach to the world. Their passion to see the Church and believers everywhere reflect Christ and engage zealously with society will both challenge your convictions and embolden your faith.”

—Brian Houston,
Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church

“When you contrast the early Christians’ power to turn the world upside down to the anemic weakness of Christianity today, you have to ask what went wrong and how to fix it. The Way Back explores that question and provides answers. Both Phil and Jonathan are uniquely qualified to navigate these waters. Get this book. Read it.”

—Jerry A. Johnson, Ph.D.
President and CEO, National Religious Broadcasters



How Christians Blew Our Credibility


Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock


Copyright © 2018 by Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock

Published by Worthy Books, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, a division of Worthy Media, Inc.,
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Helping people experience the heart of God

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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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When God wants to change the world,
he doesn’t send in the tanks.
He sends in the meek.


Perhaps the question should not be:
“Why are others persecuted?”
Perhaps the better question is:
“Why are we not?”



IF YOU’VE EVER plopped yourself down in front of a computer to write a book, then you know it’s no casual jog. More like an IRONMAN competition. In a barren desert.

This book is the culmination of no less than dozens of campfire conversations with thoughtful and frustrated Christian pals and more than a few wounded but helpful non-Christian friends. They helped us diagnose both the problems and the solutions. If we’ve learned nothing else from this experience, it’s that many of the world’s biggest problems can probably be solved around a fire pit.

We’d also be remiss not to thank our wives, Kathleen Cooke and Kelly Bock. You get the finished product, but they get the daily “Honey, what do you think if this?” globs of literary mush that eventually become a book. Simply put, without their patience and feedback, this endeavor would not have been possible.

Our literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, understood the concept immediately and was willing to do battle to help us find the right publisher. She did exactly that with Byron Williamson and Jeana Ledbetter at Worthy Publishing, who somehow saw the kernel of an idea and worked very hard to help us bring it to reality.

Finally, our editor, Jennifer Stair, did a masterful job helping us craft the final manuscript. She challenged us, inspired us, and helped two media and marketing guys craft a book that, hopefully, helps right the listing ship.



I WILL NEVER, ever forget it. I was sitting at a wooden table in a restaurant in a small town in Germany called Wittenberg. My wife, Susanne, was with me and we were in fact across the street from the very spot upon which Martin Luther had posted his fabled 95 Theses five hundred years before!

In May 2017 I was there with Matt and Laurie Crouch to film a special program for their Trinity Broadcasting Network on the subject of Luther, and to celebrate the unavoidably important five-hundreth anniversary since the start of the Reformation. I had just finished writing a biography of Luther, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, and the Crouches thought having me there with them in Wittenberg would work well for their program on Luther—not to mention it would be a lot of fun!

And it certainly was fun, mainly because Matt Crouch has a streak of irreverent humor much like my own. We were able to crack jokes while talking about one of the most important figures in the history of the world. But another reason it was fun was because of what happened as we were sitting in the restaurant. This part you could not make up, even if you wanted to.

As the four of us sat there resting from a full day of filming—ordering our kaffee und strudel, mit Schlagsahne, (natürlich, warum nicht?)—I was either making a joke or a sarcastic comment when Matt said for the second time in as many days how much I reminded him of our mutual longtime friend, Phil Cooke. Phil is a media producer and consultant and he, too, has a streak of irreverent humor, and, somehow, my humor reminded Matt of Phil.

Phil lives in Los Angeles and I live in New York City, so I guess when two people are serious about their faith, have a streak of irreverent humor, work in media, and live in important coastal cultural capitals, others tend to think of you with respect to each other. (I might add here that Phil’s lovely wife, Kathleen, recently told me that people sometimes call me the East Coast Phil Cooke, although we all know that in fact it is Phil Cooke who is the West Coast Eric Metaxas!)

In any event, we were all sitting at this table in Germany when it happened. I looked up from my strudel and saw something mightily perplexing. Was what I saw an apparition or a trick of the light? Or perhaps it was an optical illusion brought on by jetlag from my transatlantic flight? Indeed, it was none of these things. Into the obscure restaurant in Wittenberg, Germany walked in none other than Phil Cooke himself!

I almost fell out of my chair. Matt Crouch almost fell out of his chair too. We sat there, transfixed, staring agog at the supreme oddity of seeing the very person we were just discussing. The same someone who lives in very faraway Los Angeles. However inconceivable it was, it was all quite real and undeniable. After we realized we were not dreaming, we all stood up and ran over and said hello to Phil and Kathleen, and of course told Phil that we were, quite literally, just talking about him!

Naturally, we had to ask why Phil and Kathleen were in Lutherstadt, as Wittenberg is often called, and they told us that they were in this renowned city because Museum of the Bible was doing a special exhibition right down the street and Phil was filming the exhibit. None of us will ever forget that extraordinary moment.

But precisely what do this uncanny meeting—and Luther’s Reformation—have to do with this book you are now reading?

For many years, Phil’s work has been focused on engaging today’s disrupted, media-driven world with the gospel. Part of his challenge is exploring the uncomfortable truths about why Christianity continues to lose influence in our culture. That’s why he began working on this book with his friend and co-writer, Jonathan Bock. While I’m friends with Phil, I only know Jonathan by reputation—but as you may know, it’s quite a reputation! He pioneered the concept of faith-based marketing in Hollywood, and every studio and network in town is his client. Maybe you’ve heard of one or two of the five hundred projects he’s worked on: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia films, The Blind Side, Les Misérables, Bruce Almighty, The Conjuring series, The Bible series on the History Channel, the Finding Jesus series on CNN, Unbroken, The Book of Eli, 42, and Walk the Line. Working in Hollywood while maintaining the respect and admiration of the Christian community is no easy feat, but Jonathan somehow manages to pull it off.

If you are following my logic, Luther’s Reformation—and what he did five hundred years earlier across the street from that restaurant where we ran into Phil—was precisely along the same lines as what this very book is about. You see, the Augustinian monk named Martin Luther was trying to get the church of his day to see that they had strayed from their original purpose. And he was hoping to get them to recalculate their position and head back to the place they had started from. Is this not the American church’s dilemma today? Is that five-hundred-year-old story not our story this minute too? Let me blurt out the answer right now: it is!

Let’s face it, church: we’ve strayed. And there’s nothing to do but admit it and make our way back to where we ought to be. Why continue to waste time far from where we belong when we can begin the journey back to the spot where we ought to be? That was the crazy idea Luther had back then, and it is the crazy idea Phil, Jonathan, and many others have today. Their book is about the very idea that it is possible to get back to our roots and once again make a difference in this world.

So, won’t you stop reading this foreword and start reading the book itself? In fact, I will give you no choice but to do just that—thank you for reading this far, but don’t stop! Phil and Jonathan’s message is very important. God bless you as you read.






The Christian faith is quickly losing traction in Western culture, not only as a result of unchristian behavior, as significant as that is, but because we haven’t recognized our new reality and adapted.


We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think religion stops people from thinking. I think it justified crazies.


IN A 2013 Wall Street Journal interview, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, shared the story of a college friend who wanted to run for political office two decades ago, so the choice of which church to attend was a critical first step. In those days, a potential senator or governor needed to join a local church because everyone else belonged. But today, his friend wouldn’t feel that way at all, because the need to be associated with a Christian church has largely disappeared from society. In fact, today, church attendance is almost a hindrance to running for public office, since people of other faiths—or no faith at all—might be offended. Moore said, “The Bible Belt is collapsing.”


On Sale
Feb 6, 2018
Page Count
272 pages
Worthy Books

Phil Cooke

About the Author

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media consultant, and working Hollywood producer with a Ph.D. in Theology. He’s appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal. In addition to writing his blog at, he also blogs for the Huffington Post, and has been a contributor to Fast Company,,, and Phil has been a long-time member of the Academy of Tevelevision Arts and Sciences. Phil and his wife, Kathy, live in Los Angeles, California.

Jonathan Bock began his career in marketing at Warner Bros. He’s the founder of Grace Hill Media, which has marketed more than 400 major motion pictures and television projects to Christian audiences worldwide. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and an elder at Bel Air Prespyterian Church Los Angeles. Jonathan lives in Los Angeles, California.

Learn more about this author