GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Christian leaders must address the critical issues of the day -- even when they will spark controversy -- but they must tackle sensitive topics in a way that honors God and not allow popular culture to drag them down into vulgarity.

That's the philosophy Ed Young Jr. follows when he challenges members of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, to understand and express their sexuality in the context of God's creative intent.

Young is senior pastor of the 30,000-member congregation, which has a main campus just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and four satellite campuses in the metro area and Miami, Fla.

"Sex is a sensitive topic that, for far too long, the church has not talked openly and honestly enough about," Young told Baptist Press in an interview. "But God was not shy to invent sex, so I don't think the church should be shy to talk about it. However, I think those of us who lead have a very high calling when we talk about something like sex."

The church's reluctance to speak frankly about sex has allowed the larger culture to dominate the discussion and press its values on impressionable people, Young said.

"For year and years, in my opinion, we've taken the bed out of the church, and we've taken God out of the bed. Well it's time to, I believe, bring the bed back in church and put God back in the bed," he said. "We've been hesitant to talk about something that God was not hesitant to create, and it's caused a lot of evil. We've allowed our culture to hijack sex. A lot of us have not preached about it in a direct way because we're wanting to steer away from controversy.

"Those of us who teach have a responsibility to talk about controversial issues. I've talked about abortion. I've talked about same-sex marriage and homosexuality. I talk about premarital sex. I talk about the environment," Young said. "We need to build bridges of love, but also to draw lines in the sand."

When he preached on "The Poison of Pornography," for example, Young spoke plainly to his congregation:

"I've counseled too many husbands and wives not to see the lethal effect of pornography," he said. "It takes sexuality out of context and it turns it into a biological event or athletic competition and ... sex is not a biological event [or] an athletic event. It should reflect the image of God.

"Sexuality has to flow out of a lifelong commitment in marriage," he added. "First there must be love, understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, a mutual respect and then in a tender, loving way, you have the act of sex. Not the lie from pornography. So every time you look at porn, men, you're destroying the dignity of women in your minds."

When Young addressed "The Truth about Homosexuality," he affirmed God's love for homosexuals but also explained, "God says in His Word time and time again that sex is for one man and one woman in marriage." Young shared statistics about the prevalence of promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases in the gay community, then warned parents he was about to show a graphic video clip, giving them an opportunity to take any children in the sanctuary outside. In the video clip, a physician described the health dangers of gay sexual practices. Young closed by encouraging his congregation to stand with people caught in a homosexual lifestyle and help them find deliverance in Christ.

Young also uses platform props, in one case bringing a high-powered sports car onto the stage to illustrate that sex outside of marriage is like taking a fine automobile onto an off-road course. In another sermon, he contrasted a bed, which represented "big sex" within God's boundary of marriage, to a dog bed, which symbolized "little sex" -- casual "just sex" that reduces physical intimacy to an animal function.

Sex outside marriage "abuses and confuses ... every single time," Young said. "You abuse your mind. You abuse your body. You abuse your soul. You abuse the other person. You strip them of their humanity while you're stripping yourself of your humanity. You're getting naked outside the context of where nakedness should take place."