Last weekend, Tim Tebow gave special needs kids throughout the world a “Night to Shine,” and on this Sunday he gave a standing-room only church congregation in Clermont a day to remember.
They came from all over the state; thousands upon thousands of them — black and white, old and young, Baptists and Catholics, Seminoles and Gators. Traffic cops were hired to handle the logjam and some even tried to camp out on the doorstep Saturday night so they could get a front row seat.
The decline of churchgoers has reached epidemic proportions in this country, but on Sunday in Clermont attendance reached an all-time high.
“It’s so awesome to see a man you know you can trust who shares his faith openly and honestly, said John Sweet, who wore his No. 15 Tebow jersey into the chapel.
It seemed only appropriate that Tebow delivered his sermon at a non-denominational Christian church known as “Real Life” — a welcoming sanctuary where the pastor preaches in jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers and delivers messages of faith, forgiveness and grace. Perhaps the reason Real Life is one of the fastest growing churches in America with six campuses throughout Central Florida is because, by all accounts, it is a non-judgmental congregation with a mantra that was proudly displayed on head pastor Justin Miller’s T-shirt Sunday:
“God’s Crazy About You!”
Tebow, of course, was the perfect choice to drive that message home. After all, “God’s Crazy About You” is simply another way of translating the “John 3:16” Bible verse — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son …” — Tebow wore on his eye-black when he played for the Florida Gators and Denver Broncos.
Tebow told the story during the sermon of how, after he led the Denver Broncos to a stunning playoff victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012, he believes God gave him a statistical wink of acknowledgment for introducing so many football fans to the Bible that day.
Tebow told the adoring crowd that John 3:16 was the No. 1 trending search on Google after the Broncos beat the Steelers, and then pointed out some of the divine statistical coincidences: Tebow threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per pass completion. The Steelers’ time of possession was 31 minutes, 6 seconds, and the most-watched NFL wildcard game in history peaked with a 31.6 TV rating.
“God can take the little things we do and make them big,” an emotional and passionate Tebow told the crowd, which then applauded as if he’d just thrown a jump pass for a touchdown to beat the Tennessee Volunteers.
And speaking of Tennessee, much has been made this week of who the real Peyton Manning is after the ugly allegations of sexual misconduct involving a female trainer resurfaced from 20 years ago when Manning played for the Vols. One of the media narratives has been that we never really know our sports superstars.
I would argue we do know Tebow because he’s never changed. He’s the guy who was doing missionary work in high school. He’s the guy who preaches to prisoners on death row and has a hospital for the underprivileged in the Philippines. He’s the guy whom the tabloids reported recently broke up with his beauty queen girlfriend because of his pre-marital virginity vow.
Unlike some other political and religious leaders, Tebow’s the guy who chooses to uplift instead of tear down. He preaches love and unity; not hate and divisiveness.
Just last week, boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, a devout Christian who is running for office in the Philippines, was dropped by Nike after he said homosexual couples are “worse than animals.” Seriously, could you ever imagine Tebow saying something so ugly and dehumanizing?
“The goal is to bring people together,” Tebow said after his sermon, “we’re not supposed to divide people. People are going to disagree on things, but we can have unity if our No. 1 priority is we love Jesus and our No. 2 priority is we love people. Let’s agree on that and have the 300,000 churches in this country work together. If we did that, nobody would be dying of hunger.”
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SOURCE: Orlando Sentinel – Mike Bianchi