Ed Young, founding and senior pastor of Fellowship Church, has drawn international attention for his new Sexperiment series after staging a 24-hour bed-in with his wife atop his church. Some Christians even called the attempt to get people talking about sex "gimmicky." But according to the evangelical megachurch pastor, his preaching style is not "gimmicky" but "God-driven."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Young said the bed-in event to promote Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse and his other out-of-the-box approaches to preaching, including driving a Ferrari on his church stage last year, were inspired by Jesus.
"We are simply doing what Jesus did. He was a multisensory communicator. He uses words and pictures to tell stories like none other. That's what we're doing. It's as simple as that. Our philosophy is actually a couple of thousand years old. We are just doing what he did," Young told CP.
Most churches today preach 70 percent information and only 30 percent application in the sermons, he said. But if they were following Jesus' style of preaching, they would do it the other way around.
"Almost of 70 percent of his words in the Gospel were words of application. In other words, the so-what principle of doing the stuff. Thirty percent were words of information. The church kind of got that backwards," argued Young.
Shrugging off criticism, he added, "So the Christian should be the most creative, the most multisensory teachers and leaders and everything else. For people to criticize that, they don't even know the Bible. They're not even reading the Bible in my opinion."
In the interview, Pastor Ed Young also speaks about people's reaction to his latest book, why kids and singles – not just married couples – should also hear his message on God-created sex, and why couples walking with the Lord should have regular sex.
The book Sexperiment was on The New York Times Best Sellers List for two weeks following a successful debut in January. The creative publicity stunt may have helped. Three days after the book was released, Young and his wife spent 24 hours sitting in a bed atop the roof of their Grapevine megachurch, which has four locations in the Dallas area and one in Miami, Fla., to spread the word on how marriage done God's way should look like.
The title is provocative and the challenge of the book is equally so: have sex for seven straight days. The Youngs who co-authored the book promise that Sexperiment will help couples deepen marital intimacy, and yes, even bring a husband and wife closer to the Divine by elucidating God's purpose and design for sex. According to the Youngs, who have been married 29 years and have four children, frequent sex in Christian marriages is healthy because it means spouses are practicing biblical principles of oneness, unconditional love, sacrifice and forgiveness.
Young's church, which did the "Sexperiment" for the first time in 2008, is currently doing the seven-day sexperiment for a second time during National Marriage Week USA, which concludes on Valentine's Day.
The following are excerpts from the interview done on Feb. 10, 2012:
CP: The Sexperiment kicked off on Feb. 7 and goes until Valentine's Day. According to the calendar, you should currently be on Day 4. How has it been going between you and your wife Lisa?
Young: It has been going absolutely fantastic. We are trying to tell people that the point is not to make 7 out of 7. It shouldn't be the point of it. The fact is that sex is more than just sex. It's multifaceted and multidimensional.
During this week, we are giving out what we call sexual chocolate, seven pieces of chocolate and wrapped around the chocolate are seven different reasons (divinity, unity, purity, priority, legacy, creativity, loyalty) why we should make love if you are married, and for singles to think about and pray about when they get married. We have seven different devotions people can go through online whether they are single or married to go through.
We have seven different chocolates and if you are married then to have a romantic evening or day and for singles then just eat the chocolate.
CP: I remember that in Sexperiment, you were so tired on the last day that you didn't do it on the last day. This time around, have you been keeping to it?
Young: I mean I've already been tired. No, really. On day 3, with the speaking. I just went to bed. We try to make up for it.
CP: But that's okay right? That's the message?
I've been blown away by the response to the book that Lisa and I wrote. It's not just in the Christian community but it's also exciting for people who are not followers of Christ who have just raised the doubts and the book and the whole concept.
CP: What has been the reaction you been receiving from the book? Is it more shock, positive, critical?
Young: It's been positive. The only negative that we would hear is from a few Christians. You have to wonder if they really know the Lord first of all and if they really know Scripture because Jesus was the most multisensory communicator of all time. He always used word, picture and visuals and things like that. I'm just taking a page out of his playbook.
The only negative stuff you get is from the super spiritual crowd who look down upon believers who talk about something that God is not shy about.
In fact, my wife has something to say about that. How radical was it that Jesus preached on a mountainside instead of inside a temple? And yet we put a bed on top of a church and we have so-called Christian people who say that's ridiculous? I would say they are ridiculous. Their heads are in the sand. Anyway, that's a whole other story.
But, 95 percent of it has been overwhelmingly positive. People are saying, "Wow!" Church is the second best place to hear about sex. Number one is the home. Number two, the church. Sadly, you know, the church has been silent about the topic that God...what people don't understand is the reason that they are silent about sex is that it goes all the way back to Plato. Plato basically said that the body is bad and the soul is good. Then Augustine perpetuated that vibe in his writings that we don't need more sexual baggage and the church perpetuated that.
Then Martin Luther, the great Reformer, also said we don't need more sexual baggage. Those guys are great guys but that's why the church is so antiquated. They weren't thinking right. So basically the church had a platonic layer on it and it's bound to brush it off.
Romans 12:2 said it can be transformed by the freeing of our mind. I think when you think right and you think like God then you act right. When you think right then you feel right and when you feel right you act right. But for far too long, we've been thinking wrong and when we think wrong, we feel wrong and act wrong. And that is true about sex.
CP: According to your book, Sexperiment is not only about sex but about intimacy. You explain how having more sex can create more intimacy and intimacy more sex. This sounds like the chicken or the egg. What does come first?
Young: You're exactly right. Definitely, intimacy comes first. God created sex – the content to be used in the context – which is the marriage bed. When we take a God-given gift and use it in a God-forbidden way, it results in chaos.
I don't hate on the world, our culture, because they don't even understand God's view of sex. What we wrote in the book is that we want to show God is a big God and He wants us to have big sex and He has a big purpose for our sexuality. If we don't know the Lord personally, then we are going to have little sex and it's going to be limited and we're not going to discover the dynamic, the depth that God has for our relationships.
Sex and marriage are so interesting. Sex and marriage are about nonsexual things. The book is not like a sex manual. We talk a lot about nonsexual things. Every marriage deals with the same stuff. Everyone. Marriage goes successful when it negotiates through these closing points to go to the next level.
The reason why we wrote the book is because my wife – Lisa and I wrote it, of course, so it's not like a guy talking about sex, it's a woman as well – Lisa was the one who gave me the idea. She read an article in a parenting magazine. They interviewed 40,000 young fathers and these fathers said that they were not having the intimacy that they desired. The moms said that as well. Within the article, it says that some of these marriages were committed to having sex for seven straight days. Thus, we had the idea for this "Sexperiment." We shared it with our church and we said, "Hey, if you want to participate in this experiment, go for it for the next seven days." And from there, that's how we wrote the book.
It's not that people don't desire sex. People do desire sex. But it's because of the kids, the careers, the commitments – those are all blocking barriers to sex. So what we say is, when I say "I do," basically it says, "I have the privilege of doing it with you for the rest of our lives."
CP: That leads to my next question. You mentioned in your book, God first, marriage second, and kids third. You also write, "Sex should never the sole foundation of any relationship, Christ should occupy that position (p.9)." Why is it important to keep these priorities in this order? Some people tend to put their kids first, which is out of order.
Young: There is no difficult issue to love your kids. Kids should supersede everything. Lisa and I have four and we would give our lives for our kids.
However, the marriage is the main thing. One of the greatest things you could do as a parent is to have a great marriage because those values are more caught than taught. But when your kids see that the marriage is the main thing, then they in turn will go out and find someone who will understand the priorities and importance of the marriage.
So, marriage is where it's at. Genesis 2:24, it says the man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. Well, spouses stay, kids leave.
I think, too often, people are too kid-centric instead of marriage-centric. In order to be marriage-centric, you got to have the Date Night, Mate Night at least twice a month. You got to be intentional to put your kids down, not when they're ready, but when you're ready. You got to be intentional about saying "No" to the good so you can say "Yes" to the best, which is your spouse in marriage.
CP: A lot of people consider sex a taboo discussion. Some people say that sex should only be discussed in certain contexts and to certain audiences. For example, not to singles who may be tempted by sex or to kids who they say are not ready for that kind of discussion. They would argue that sex should only be a subject of discussion among married couples. How would you respond to that?
Young: That is absolutely ridiculous. Ridiculous. Because just the basic research is that when kids are 5 to 6 years of age, they are bombarded with and understand about this subject. First of all, it needs to happen at home. Secondly, in the church. The church needs to underscore and highlight the values that need to be talked about at home.
Singles desperately need this. In fact, Sexperiment is as much as it is for singles as it is for married couples. Why? Because we are always preparing for the next station in life. Ninety percent of singles will get married. So to sit there and say it's not for singles is ludicrous. It's just ridiculous.
CP: What age did you start talking to your kids about sex?
Young: There is not an age. It begins from the moment the doctor says, "It's a boy," "It's a girl." Sex education begins there.
The talk is not a definitive process. Obviously, there are times when you give them more and more information when it's age-appropriate. We have people who say, "Oh, I need to talk my daughter or son out because they are 10 or 11 years of age. They're not ready." I say, "No, they're ready. Here's the problem: you're not ready."
I would say, sadly, so many people in the church world aren't ready. They have their head in the sand of denial. It's time to wake up and smell the espresso. As believers, we should be the "sexperts." We should be the ones who are talking about the beauty of it. So it's time to talk about it with singles and your kids.
You got to keep the open lines of communication with your kids. You have to. Most parents wait too long to have "the talk." But what I'm so happy about is the fact that the book Sexperiment is out there and churches are openly talking about it because God was so open to create it.
I tell people all the time that sex is not something you do, it's who you are.
CP: You have said that your book is not meant to be a sex manual. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, also recently published a book on sex called Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. Have you heard about it?
Young: I've heard about it. I have not read the book but I've heard about it.
CP: Well, he has some chapters in his book that has been considered provocative. He's been criticized by some evangelicals for speaking candidly about sex acts the Scripture approves and the book has a chapter on Song of Solomon and another called "Can We Do______?" You say we should be speaking about sex but how far is too far when speaking about sex?
Young: I think you obviously have to be tasteful. I've never read the book so I can't speak to Mark Driscoll's book. I know Mark is a brilliant guy who knows the Bible and he's been very open about his marriage and all that.
I mean as long as it's tastefully done and it's direct, I don't have a problem. I don't.
I think we've allowed our culture to hijack sex. It's time for us to take it back. As I've said for years, we've taken the bed out of church and God out of the bed but it's time to bring the bed back into the church and God back into the bed.
CP: Now, also you speak about Song of Solomon as a way of romancing your spouse. Some people say that Song of Solomon is more about the relationship between Christ and the Church, not about sex. How would you respond to that?
Young: I mean, I understand what they're saying. Obviously, they have the right to view it that way. I believe it is showing how man and woman grow in the context of marriage. That's what I believe.
Even without Song of Solomon, the Bible is clear ... it's obvious to me that God gave sex for recreation as well as for procreation. If it's just for procreation then my wife and I would only have sex for four times since we have four kids, you know?
It's not just about sex. We use the word sex to be acrostic. It's supernatural. It should be enjoyed for life. It's not X-rated, it's God-created.
CP: You also say in the book that God's design for sex needs to be regular. Is it your contention that spouses who aren't having regular sex are not fulfilling the will of God for their marriage?
Young: Definitely! I think if you look at Scripture and see just like 1 Corinthians 7 where you see Apostle Paul says, "Stop depriving each other of one another." I think that too many of us are saying "No" in marriage. It's fine to say "No" but "No" with a caveat: "No, tomorrow morning," "No, tomorrow night," etc., etc. I think when you say "No" you have the spirit of rejection on your marriage. 1 Corinthians 7 says your husband has rights over the wife's body and the wife has rights over the husband's body. I think one day we will be held accountable regarding how we satisfied our spouses sexually.
I would, in fact, off of Romans 12:1 say that sex is even an act of worship because Romans 12 said we can present our bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is a reasonable act of worship. Everything we do in the act of marriage is the act of worship.
CP: So, Christians should be having better sex than everyone else?
Young: Better sex, more sex, and creative sex. Yup. When I say creative sex, I mean romance, etc…
CP: In mid-January, the Pew Research Center released a study that found 72 percent of all adults ages 18 and older were married in 1960; but today just 51 percent are married which is a record low. So they are saying there are more divorces or people are not getting married. Do you think having more sex will save more marriages or lower the divorce rate?
Young: Yea. I mean it's not just sex. It's the whole intimacy piece we talked about that culminates with sex. Yes, all of it. I think all of it will turn the tide during these tumultuous times. We talked to people who've read the book and have done the experiment and are really buying the biblical principles in the book and they said, "Wow, it's changed our lives. It's changed our marriage."
CP: What has been the most encouraging story that you have heard from a couple trying the "Sexperiment?"
Young: Oh, there has been so many.
I'll give you one story. A guy who is not a believer. I sent him a book, saying that the title is sex but this book is about nonsexual things. But anyway, what he said was about the chapter on lust. He said he was on a flight to "Lust Vegas" right after he read the book and an attractive woman was seated next to him on the plane. This woman asked him if he needed a ride to his hotel. And he said, "You know what I did? I just pressed the delete button. I said, 'No, thank you.'" And here is a guy who is not a follower of Christ telling me that.
One of the reasons why we did the sexual chocolate and seven chocolates is to remind people of National Marriage Week. That's why we did that is that the seven-day sex challenge is to go along with the devotionals we had online. We did that on that end and then we launched with the bed on top of the roof and then for Valentine's Day we did the sexual chocolate.
CP: We can't talk about sex today without talking about porn. A lot of times when pastors talk about strengthening marriages, there is a big elephant in the room which is porn because it presents such a big hindrance to intimacy in marriage. In the book, you said that you once spoke with a girl in the adult film industry and told her, "When someone looks at porn, they are stripping the humanity of the people they are watching and of themselves." Can you elaborate on that further on why porn is so detrimental to achieving as you call it a "SucSEXful" marriage?
Young: Yea, what it is is you are cheating on your spouse and if you are single, cheating on yourself. If you are watching it, you're stripping yourself of your humanity, you're stripping the person that you are lusting after. You are downgrading yourself to an animal. The problem is our culture has animalized humans and humanized animals. God made it clear that we are not animals.
One of the sadistic sides of porn is that the reality is that with one click of a mouse you can see millions of images of people. There is no way that a spouse can compare with those images. Why? Because those images are totally and completely out of context – out of context. Those people that you're lusting after, there's zero intimacy. You're trying to compare someone who is in a covenant to someone who is outside of a covenant. They may be dealing with mortgages, fatigue, car payments, with kids. It is dark and it leads to destruction and chaos and devastation in life and first of all in marriages.
I would say that porn is one of the biggest causes of problems of all the marital mayhem that we see in the world today. There is no question about it. Yet, it is alluring. Couples say, "Let's look at porn and it will spice up our sex lives, ect." And yea, at first it does but always, ultimately, it can bear some things and then you have things that are said and things that progress from that.
God tells us to stay away from that. He tells us to "flee." The word "flee" means to run from that. The stats are alarming to see believers, even pastors, who view porn. It's something that we have to be intentional about with filters and vigilant about to make accountability. But it's definitely an addiction.
CP: Your preaching style has been to approach topics by doing things out of the box from driving a Ferrari onto your church stage to doing the 24-hour bed-in on the church roof. Outside people may see this as gimmicky and naturally it attracts a lot of attention to you. How do you use that attention in a way that gives glory to God?
Young: I would say it's not gimmicky but it's God-driven. We've never tried to do something where we say, "Oh yea, let's do something where we try to be crazier the next week." Again, we are simply doing what Jesus did. He was a multisensory communicator. He uses words and pictures to tell stories like none other. That's what we're doing. It's as simple as that. Our philosophy is actually a couple of thousand years old. We are just doing what he did.
Almost of 70 percent of his words in the Gospel were words of application. In other words, the so-what principle of doing the stuff. Thirty percent were words of information. The church kind of got that backwards. We talk 70 percent of information and 30 percent of application. A lot of us have it backwards. That's why we do that.
So the Christian should be the most creative, the most multisensory teachers and leaders and everything else. For people to criticize that, they don't even know the Bible. They're not even reading the Bible in my opinion.
CP: How would you like Christians or the Church to think about sex five years from now?
Young: They should be thinking about it the way Scripture says. It's nothing new. It's a reliance that God invented it. He gave it to us in marriage for pleasure secondarily before procreation. But it should be practiced within the guidelines and guardrails of marriage. That's basically it.
I pray that people see the divine purpose of sex. Marriage is the only human relationship that is analogous to Christ's relationship with the Church. And if the Church is on fire then you have intimacy between the bridegroom and the bride. Where there is intimacy, there is reproduction, there is joy. The same is true of marriage.
CP: What will you and your wife Lisa be doing on Valentine's Day?
Young: I don't know what we are going to do on Valentine's Day.
(Lisa speaks to him from the next room)
You know what, she just said, "Every day is Valentine's Day." She said that, I didn't say that. Why wait for once a year?
If people will read the book and apply the principles, I think their marriage will go places they never have dreamed possible. I really, really believe that. It's time to get this message to every married couple in the world.
I want to tell every married couple in the world to take a week to have sex for seven straight days.