Monday, December 30, 2013

"Where the battle rages"

"If I profess, with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle field besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

- Martin Luther

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Attraction, Temptation, and Lust

Desiring God has published an article by Nick Roen entitled "Is It Sin to Experience Same-Sex Attraction?" Roen believes there is a distinction between experiencing temptation and engaging in sin. I believe this is a helpful and, most importantly, biblical distinction. Our Lord was tempted in every way as are we yet without sin. Certainly, since we are fallen and "groaning" (Rom 8) we know what it is for temptation to give way to lust which then gives birth to evil deeds. But this does not change the fact that being tempted is not the same thing as being carried away by our lusts. Indeed, to equate the experience of temptation with sinful lusts and evil deeds is to place a burden upon our brothers and sisters that Scripture does not.

If are interested in reading more about Same Sex Attraction and homosexuality from a distinctively Biblical/Christian perspective, the following resources are helpful:

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champaign Butterfield
Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
Love Into Light: The Gospel, The Homosexual, and the Church by Peter Hubbard
Out of a Far Country by Yuan & Yuan

"The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants"

So said Woody Allen as he sought to justify his sexual relationship with his step-daughter. In one sense it is easy to dismiss Allen's behavior as isolated albeit disgusting. Recently, however, David Espstein, a political scientist from Columbia University, has been charged with incest for carrying on a sexual relationship with his adult daughter. Most of us have a reflexive response of disgust concerning such behavior. It is sinful. It is gross. But based upon what the left has told us for years about homosexuality must we now embrace incest so long as it is "consensual"?

Over at Slate, William Saletan asks, "If gay sex is okay, how can incest be wrong?"

Nowadays, when we talk about incest, we tend to think of child sexual abuse. That's how we use the term in the repressed-memory debate and in abortion legislation. When politicians such as President Obama make exceptions in abortion laws for "rape and incest," they're using the terms synonymously, except that in the incest scenario, the rapist is your dad.

But you can't prosecute Epstein under that theory. According to news reports, his daughter is 24, and their affair began in 2006. That makes her an adult. Furthermore, police say the sex appears to have been consensual. Four years ago, Ohio's Supreme Court upheld the incest conviction of Paul Lowe, a former sheriff's deputy, for what the court called "consensual sex with his 22-year-old stepdaughter." And last month, a 27-year-old Florida woman was sentenced to five years of probation for sex with her father. Clearly, we're prosecuting people for incest regardless of age or consent.

At this point, liberals tend to throw up their hands. If both parties are consenting adults and the genetic rationale is bogus, why should the law get involved? Incest may seem icky, but that's what people said about homosexuality, too. It's all private conduct. To which conservatives reply: We told you so. We warned you that if laws against homosexuality were struck down, laws against polygamy and incest would follow. And now you're proving us right.
Read the entire article HERE.

Commenting on the Slate article Al Mohler wrote:
This article is a very interesting window into the sexual confusions that lie at the heart of our age. To his credit, Saletan gets the conservative argument basically right:

The conservative view is that all sexual deviance—homosexuality, polyamory, adultery, bestiality, incest—violates the natural order. Families depend on moral structure: Mom, Dad, kids. When you confound that structure—when Dad sleeps with a man, Dad sleeps with another woman, or Mom sleeps with Grandpa—the family falls apart. Kids need clear roles and relationships. Without this, they get disoriented. Mess with the family, and you mess up the kids.

That’s a pretty fair summary. Of course, the Christian argument goes much deeper than the merely conservative argument, affirming the fact that, with exacting precision, God has spoken to the sinfulness of such behaviors — specifically condemning both homosexuality and incest. In other words, Christians move the question from mere wrongfulness to sinfulness and place all issues of sin within the biblical account of sin and redemption.

It is extremely revealing that, for many of our fellow citizens, incest may merely “seem icky.” And yet, all around us are folks who, with a straight face, deny the inevitability of this slippery slope.
Read Mohler's entire article HERE 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Let's Try Something...

Is there a difference between being tempted and lusting?

Is it sin to be tempted to commit gluttony?

Is it a sin to be tempted to not be generous?

Is it a sin to be tempted to disobey your parents?

You get the picture.

I'm in the zone!

Now I'm getting pegged as being too unclear on sin for drawing a distinction between same sex attraction and homosexual acts. How about that! I'm too nuanced, too sensitive to the spirit of the age. This is truly a first. Someone is calling me out for being too nice, too vague, too liberal. So, for the same post I'm both ungracious and too permissive. I'm in the sweet spot people!

It still surprises me

Martin Luther identified a theologian of the cross as one who calls a thing what it is.

That sort of clarity seems to be in short supply in the church today. Love for God's truth seems to have been replaced by love for a certain aesthetic of niceness. Indeed, speaking with clarity is downright mean-spirited and ungracious. Our standards for evangelical politeness would keep the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself from being welcomed into many of our churches. They simply spoke too clearly, too directly. They identified sin with un-nuanced language. They pointed their fingers directly at transgressors and called them to account. There were prophets who openly mocked the gods of the pagans. They named the sins of God's people and warned them of coming judgment. Jesus described some of his opponents with terms like "vipers" and "white washed tombs full of dead men's bones." He warned of hell more than anyone else in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul named men whom the church should avoid and even remove from fellowship. He used quite colorful language at times. He once invited the Judaizers in Galatia to castrate themselves. Such clarity and sanctified anger is all but absent from the contemporary church.

I'm certainly not pointing this out because I want to tell people to do what Paul told the Judaizers to do. I'm not itching to call anyone a viper. And yet, see what happens when a pastor writes a simple blog post calling for grace and shelter for those who struggle with same sex attraction but clarity on the sinfulness of homosexual acts. He is excoriated by some for being ungracious. Perhaps I am na├»ve but that sort of thing surprises me when it comes from fellow Christians. Being criticized for affirming what the Bible says by unbelievers? Sure. But to be called ungracious by Christians for affirming the testimony of God's Word and that which Christians have believed for 2,000 years? It still surprises me.

I believe Michael Horton explains well the prevailing sentiment which guides much of American evangelicalism...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Right Men

In the most recent edition of Mortification of Spin, Carl and I discuss the role and importance of
elders in the local church.

It is clear in Scripture that the church is to be led by a plurality of godly men who meet a very specific list of requirements. The requirements themselves (found in 1 Timothy and Titus 1) are not unique to elders save one: the ability to teach the Bible and sound doctrine. What this tells us, among other things, is that an elder is called to be an ordinary Christian who nevertheless has an above average understanding of Scripture and the ability to instruct in sound doctrine. A church must never make the mistake of appointing as elders men who, although nice, do not possess that quality that makes an elder, an elder in the first place. The consequences for the church that fails at this are disastrous.

Phil Robertson, Elitism, and the Yuck Factor

I've written a post over at Ref21 concerning the Phil Robertson flap. Specifically I seek to distinguish between our reactions to same sex attraction and homosexual acts. I also seek to defend the "yuck factor" as a legitimate response to homosexual acts.
As I have read the many commentaries offered by various evangelicals on the Phil Robertson flap I cannot help but wonder if some of the discussion confuses categories. Some, while in sympathy with Robertson's view that homosexuality is sin, are scandalized by his, shall we say, "earthy language." Same sex attraction requires more sensitivity and nuance, we are told. It is a complicated matter. And indeed it is. But same sex attraction is not what Mr. Robertson was addressing. He was addressing the specific sin of homosexual acts which is a related but different category from same sex attraction. We have brothers and sisters in Christ who, while struggling with same sex attraction, persevere faithfully in God-honoring chastity recognizing that homosexuality is a sin. The church ought to be a place where these saints can be honest about their particular area of temptation so that they can be spurred on toward love and good deeds. You know, just like those saints who struggle with lustful thoughts, dishonesty, pride, disobedience to parents, greed, anger, gluttony, etc.

Homosexual acts, however, do not merit such sensitivity and nuance (nor does lying, coveting, murder, etc). The Scripture's condemnation of such acts is clear. But God's book of nature is just as clear. Paul appeals to natural revelation in Romans one where homosexual acts are described as self-evidently unnatural. We live among people who reject outright the Biblical prohibition against such acts. That much is clear. But, as Paul points out, these same folks have exchanged in favor of a lie God's truth revealed in the natural world as well. It is a knowledge that is clear enough to render them without excuse. Is this not what Phil Robertson was pointing out? Could it be that his words were just too clear for the more sophisticated among us?

There is an inescapable "yuck factor" to homosexual acts that ought not be diminished by Christians. I'm not talking about juvenile snickering. I'm talking about a mature disgust generated by acts that have gone desperately awry of what is natural. Any medical doctor worth his salt will tell you the sorts of destruction done to the bodies of homosexuals. I would suggest that the greater ignorance is to be silent to such physical realities rather than pointing them out.

It seems to me that some of the condemnation of Phil Robertson coming from evangelicals has the aroma of cultural elitism. That is, a faith that is expressed in very ordinary and "un-nuanced" ways tends be sneered at by those Christians who prefer their cappuccinos be crafted by free range baristas (Okay, that was just a little cheap shot but I've got to keep your interest). My point is that those of us who have attended seminary and enjoy coffee from independent coffee shops need to remember that the Faith we embrace goes to the unschooled and uncouth. It is a faith for duck hunters, children, stock brokers, middle school dropouts, physicists and those who love the pancakes at Cracker Barrel. If that is embarrassing to some of my fellow evangelicals then perhaps Christian Science may provide a bit more insulation from the ruffians of Munroe, Louisiana.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Upcoming Sermon Series

On January 19 I will begin preaching a series through Acts. The series will begin with a few sermons focusing on the identity and mission of the church. I'm still in the midst of outlining Acts so I'm not sure yet how long the series will be. However, it looks like Acts is going to be one of those series that will have to be broken up into a few large sections. I have wanted to preach through Acts for some time but have not had the right opportunity. I am grateful to be walking through this portion of God's Word with the saints at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

So, here is what I am reading on this cold Christmas Eve morning - A Theology of Luke & Acts by Darrell Bock.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Can you trust the Bible?

The following are some excellent resources addressing the doctrine of the Scripture's inerrancy:

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics

The Inerrancy of Scripture part 1 (audio) - Wayne Grudem
The Inerrancy of Scripture part 2 (audio) - Wayne Grudem
The Inerrancy of Scripture part 3 (audio) - Wayne Grudem

Evangelical Self-Identity and the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy by John Woodbridge

Why We Believe The Bible (video/audio) from John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church

God Has Spoken by J.I. Packer
Taking The Bible At Its Word by Paul Wells
Inspiration And Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield
Thy Word Is Truth by E.J. Young
The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by G.K. Beale
Christ And The Bible by John Wenham
Do Historical Matters Matter To Faith?  Hoffmeier & Magary (ed.)
Inerrancy and Worldview by Vern Poythress

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Doubting Darwin

Eric Metaxas recently interviewed Dr. Stephen Meyer on his Socrates In The City. Dr. Meyer is the author of the excellent Darwin's Doubts.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Defending the Faith

Mortification of Spin

Check out the latest edition of Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit.
Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd are back at it, and doing what they do best: tear down your preconceived notions and build up Gospel truths in their place. This time they take on Christmas, and discuss the utter amazing truth of Jesus' incarnation. The trio try their best to cover this hugely important topic in a short amount of time. How do we understand the connection between Jesus' humanity and his deity? What are some good resources in helping to understand this doctrine? What's Carl's favorite Christmas song?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

For your edification...

For decades, Ligonier Ministries has been producing excellent resources for that space between Seminary and Sunday School. Their latest is an upgrade to their RefNet site. It's called RefNet 2.0 and functions as a "24 hour Christian internet radio."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Sign of the Apocalypse?

Carl Trueman and Scott McKnight agree on something!

Actually, I was not surprised. Dr. McKnight has written an excellent piece on Christian publishing and recent peculiar events concerning a certain evangelebrity.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's good to be a Presbyterian

Mark Jones, author if the recently published Antinomianism, has written a helpful article entitled "Why You Should Be a Presbyterian." If you are a Presbyterian you ought to read it to be reminded of the distinctives of Presbyterianism. If you are not a Presbyterian, then read with care. Your mind may change.

Jones writes:
What mechanism is in place to protect and build up the unity of the visible church if congregationalism is accepted? False teaching destroys unity, but the mechanism for dealing with false teaching under congregational ecclesiology is left to the congregation itself. Particular congregations need the protection of other congregations, just as pastors need the protection and (sometimes) discipline of other pastors. It's good that my congregation can appeal to my presbytery if my teaching becomes suspect and the elders and I refuse to see my problem. That other elders can have authority over matters of doctrine in our church is our strength, not a weakness—for they may provide a more objective assessment of the problem in question (Prov. 11:14).

Moreover, in many congregational churches it's entirely possible for the Calvinistic minister to leave, only to be replaced by an Arminian one. Presbyterians have mechanisms for preventing such a drastic shift. I've learned a lot from my congregational friend Hunter Powell (the leading scholar of Puritan ecclesiology today), such as how much the Congregationalists needed the state to regulate true religion in the hope of achieving ecclesiastical unity. With today's separation of church and state, however, congregationalists have no such recourse for establishing wider church unity. And so one of the flaws of congregational ecclesiology is its crass independency and inability to regulate true religion on wide scale. Presbyterianism has a better mechanism in place to deal with false religion and establish true religion (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith).

Guy Waters observes, "Presbyterianism is essential to the well-being (bene esse) but not to the essence (esse) of the church. Non-acceptance of Presbyterianism is, therefore, no barrier to receiving a non-Presbyterian person as a Christian, or a non-Presbyterian church as a true branch of the church, provided that he in fact holds fast the only Head of the church, Jesus Christ." Thus, in the PCA we welcome any who are Christians as a regular member in our church, even if they are an anti-paedobaptist. If someone belongs to Christ we have no grounds for barring him or her from visible communion in Christ's body. Our desire for unity—objectified in our terms for membership—is our glory and Christ's glory (John 17:20-22), and this glory is best realized in the form of government known as Presbyterianism.
Read the entire article HERE.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is God's law relevant to Christians?

From J.I. Packer's introduction to Antinomianism by Mark Jones:
Antinomians among the Reformed have always seen themselves as reacting in the name of free grace against a hangover of legalistic, works-based bondage in personal discipleship. Characteristically, they have affirmed, not that the Mosaic law, under which Jesus lived and which was basic to his own moral teaching, does not after all state God's true standards for human living, but that it and its sanctions have no direct relevance to us once we have closed with Christ. Distinctive to Reformed theology from its birth has been its insistence that salvation, both relationally in justification and transformationally in sanctification, is ours entirely by virture of our grace-given union with Christ in his death and resurrection -- a union that God the Holy Spirit creates and sustains. Within this biblical framework, the key error of antinomianism in all its forms has been to treat our union with Christ as involving in effect some degree of personal absorption into Christ, such that the law as a voice from God no longer speaks to us or of us directly. From this starting point, the phalanx of antinomian teachers has spread out, celebrating different aspects of the assured confidence and joy in Christ that this supposedly biblical move of muzzling the law is thought to have opened for us.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached from John 1:1-14. The message is entitled "The Word Became Flesh" and can be listened to HERE.

Reformed University Fellowship

Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) is coming to James Madison University. For years, many have prayed for RUF to come to JMU, Virginia's second largest university. Now it appears that the Lord is answering those prayers. In 2014 Reformed University Fellowship will be coming to JMU. At Covenant Presbyterian Church we are especially enthusiastic about this since JMU is such a significant part of our community. We look forward to the many students who will be discipled through this excellent ministry.

RUF will have a special place in the heart of Covenant Presbyterian not only for our proximity to JMU but because the director will be our own Joe Slater. Joe is an ordained Teaching Elder in the PCA and a pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Although the Cov Pres staff hate that we will not be seeing Joe on a daily basis, we nevertheless are thrilled about his coming leadership at the JMU RUF! If you have a child considering JMU or are a student at JMU, you will want to find out more.

You can learn more about RUF, contact Joe Slater, and find opportunities to help HERE.

Christmas Reading

If I am a good boy, I am counting on Santa bringing me the following two books for Christmas:

From Heaven He Came And Sought Her

“This book is formidable and persuasive. Those familiar with the terrain will recognize that the editors know exactly the key issues and figures in this debate. And none of the authors who follow disappoint. The tone is calm and courteous, the scholarship rigorous and relentless, the argument clear and compelling. This penetrating discussion takes into account the major modern academic criticisms of definite atonement (Barth, the Torrances, Armstrong, Kendall, and others) as well as more popular critiques (Clifford, Driscoll and Breshears). An impressive team of scholars adorns this subject and aims to help Christians toward a deeper gratitude to God for his grace, a greater assurance of salvation, a sweeter fellowship with Christ, stronger affections in their worship of him, more love for people and superior courage and sacrifice in witness and service, and indeed to propel us into the global work of missions with compassion and confidence.”
– J. Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS

Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"What Nettles makes plain is that for Spurgeon, all theology is pastoral theology. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It should be widely distributed by all who love the gospel of God's grace that Spurgeon preached. Every pastor, ministerial student and those who work to train men for the ministry should carefully learn from the life and labors of Charles Haddon Spurgeon as Tom Nettles elucidates them. Nearly everyone who knows of Spurgeon admires him for his great accomplishments. Nettles helps us understand the theological underpinnings of those accomplishments. In doing so, the author, like his subject, has served the church well.
– Tom Ascol, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On Plagiarism and Celebrity

In light of recent events, Neil Cole has offered some helpful thoughts on an evangelical culture that values celebrity. He writes:
We have a church celebrity culture that actually encourages plagiarism and often refuses to admit it. Entire books are written by ghostwriters who are never mentioned. While this is seemingly acceptable in our current Christian climate, one must ask if it should be. If your name is on the front cover (and often your smiling face), and you didn't write the book but someone else did, you have questionable integrity. Honesty is not possible when you take credit for a book someone else wrote. No matter how good the content, such a book should be held suspect. This has gone on for decades now and as long as the contract is clear and the check is written all is fine...or is it? I've heard of personal stories from a ghostwriter's childhood that have been used by an author who then changed names to fit his own background and published the story as if he had the experience. This is not merely plagiarism, it is straight up lying; even if the ghostwriter is paid what the contract stipulated. Can we buy a life story for publication? Is that what we have come to? Why are some pressured to this point?

To build one's success as a Christian celebrity on lies is folly and will not be fruitful in the end. In fact fame itself is fickle and can be gone in a moment. It demands all your attention immediately just to keep your Klout score up and your blog traffic coming. The race to collect twitter followers and Facebook friends is cruel and never satisfied. When your book sells well and is featured in Barnes and Noble there is always another book that sold better and is featured at Walmart or Costco...upping the ante. When you are invited to speak at a big conference, you feel good until you realize someone else is speaking in the prime slot and you're just the warm-up act. No matter how far up you climb the ladder of fame there is always somebody's backside your are looking up at. Fame is a race that doesn't have a finish line, it just has lots of people running and falling back––and eventually out––while younger energetic people jump onto the track...until they too fall behind. No one wins in this race. That is a lot of pressure to put on someone who is already busy running a church, and many are trying to do just that.

Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Too Big To Fail?

On the latest edition of Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit (our 15 minute bi-weekly podcast) Carl Trueman, Aimee Byrd, and yours truly weigh in on some current goings on in the evangelical sub-culture. Specifically we discuss the possibility that the neo-Reformed movement has failed to uphold standards of ethics and accountability for its big shots.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I wrapped up our series through Ruth with part five. It is entitled "There Is A Redeemer" and may be listened to HERE.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Blame His Church

The evangelical circus may be making an addition to their increasingly grotesque sideshow. Apparently, the world needs another reality show. Ed Young Jr. of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX is in talks with a major network to bring his big life to the small screen.

While Ed Young Jr. is a grown man and fully responsible for his decisions, I nevertheless blame his church for this latest publicity stunt. You may remember that Ed and his wife Lisa have made headlines in recent years for things like the week long sex challenge they gave their church, the 24 hour bed-in on the roof of Fellowship Church, and the controversy surrounding their lavish lifestyle. All of this would be a bit more understandable if Fellowship Church were an independent word/faith congregation a' la Kenneth Copeland. But Fellowship Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 I understand that things happen gradually, but didn't any of the controversies (24 hour bed-in on the church's roof, the mansion by the lake, the partnerships with prosperity preachers, the million dollar condo in Miami, the private jet, the unaccountable board) merit a rebuke from his congregation? Ed Young did not become Ed Young Inc. without the permission of his church.

I offer the following observations in hopes that other churches will not follow Fellowship Church's example:

1. Fellowship Church should not have allowed their pastor to embrace prosperity preachers.
Fellowship Church should have done something when Pastor Ed embraced prosperity preachers like T.D. Jakes and the Houstons of Hillsong Church. These relationships seem to have only emboldened Ed to further his embrace of certain aspects of prosperity teaching.

2. Fellowship Church should not have allowed their pastor to appoint his own board of directors.
Fellowship Church has a strange and dangerous system of government. The men to whom Pastor Ed reports, the men who set his salary, are appointed by him. They are mega-church pastors from other churches living in different states. Ed should never have exploited his church in such a self-serving way. But Fellowship Church should never have allowed it.

3. Fellowship Church should not have made their pastor wealthy.
To be sure, church's are called to take care of those elders who labor in preaching and teaching. My own denomination admonishes churches to care for their pastor's financial needs so that he is not distracted from his calling by the cares of the world. But providing responsibly for a pastor so that he can afford a home and send his children to college is not the same as burdening his soul with an excess of material wealth. Scripture makes it clear that wealth, while not inherently sinful, does present a particular form of temptation that many cannot not find tolerable. Riches are dangerous for the pastor. Just as too little money can burden him, so too will great wealth. There is also the pastoral consideration of a church making its pastor wealthier than 95% of his congregation. We pastors are sinful creatures and we need our brothers and sisters to help us. Riches are a great temptation to any human soul. A church should not tempt their pastor to sin by paying him too little or too much.

4. Fellowship Church should not have allowed their pastor to become an exhibitionist.
One of the justifications Pastor Ed is offering for the proposed reality show is, "I don't mind showing anybody anything." Frankly, this mystifies me. There ought to be all manner of things in our lives that we don't want broadcast into millions of homes. I'm not suggesting that pastors should have hidden lives of shame. God forbid! But what happened to the idea of modesty? Is there any value in privacy anymore? I suppose in our celebrity saturated culture exhibitionism is simply the job description for the reality TV wannabe. But a pastor ought to have more wisdom than this.

So is it fair of me to blame Fellowship Church for its pastor's behavior? I believe so. They made a bargain that they now have to live with. They agreed to allow their pastor to be a celebrity (perhaps encouraged it) so long as he treated them like spectators in his own show.

I close with a description of a typical Sunday at one of Fellowship Church's new satellite locations (a Southern Baptist congregation):
Church happens inside a theater with plush leather stadium seats. As approximately 50 congregants trickle in — hipster dads with Sunday-morning stubble and retro eyeglasses, women in designer jeans with their hair pulled into ponytails — an extended remix of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” thumps through the sound system. (The church embraces secular music.) The house music fades. A band in front begins a set of contemporary songs, some with vaguely spiritual lyrics. The leader of this morning’s service is 32-year-old Landon Pickering, whose title at Fellowship is global youth pastor. He is also the pastor at this branch and at the church’s downtown Dallas location. Pickering (he goes by “l_pick” on Instagram) welcomes the crowd with enthusiasm. They hand it back. Pickering has movie-star looks, tatts on his arms and speaks in a sort of urban dialect. He is also dating his boss’s eldest daughter, LeeBeth Young, 27, who works in communications and video for the church and is on hand this morning to help out.

The screen darkens. A video with better special effects than most Syfy channel shows begins. It depicts a set of bones magically being enveloped in tendons, then flesh, then skin, until a whole man — naked and ripped, but shown in chaste tight shots — stands upright. Music swells. Cross-dissolve. Ed Young is now on-screen, live, at the Grapevine church, flanked by two medical-supply skeletons. The hashtag for today’s sermon and the handles of Ed’s Twitter and Instagram accounts remain posted in the screen’s lower corner. Want to accept Christ into your life at the end of the service? Hit #32898 on your smartphone and ushers will assist. Young wears a black hoodie with shiny zippers, snug rust-colored pants and chunky lace-up black boots. Later that morning, for the 11:30 service at the mother church, he will don a new outfit: blue oxford button-down, plaid vest, jeans cuffed at the ankles and wingtips with no socks. (One of Young’s side projects is a blog he started, called Ahead of his arrival? An elaborate production number interpreting “Radioactive,” an end-times anthem and hit song by Las Vegas rock band Imagine Dragons. A young woman on-stage sings the apocalyptic tune while laser lights slice through a thickening mist from a fog machine. Behind her, three jumbo screens flash disturbing images of gas masks. At stagefront, two breakdancers in yellow biohazard suits contort and gyrate, and simulate drum-beating on large toxic-waste barrels.