GEORGETOWN, Texas (AP)Tim Tebow drew a crowd of about 15,000 to an outdoor Easter church service Sunday, telling the gathering it’s important to be outspoken about faith while admonishing athletes about not being better role models.

“In Christianity, it’s the Pope and Tebow right now,” pastor Joe Champion he said. “We didn’t have enough room to handle the Pope.”

Tebow — devout Christian, backup NFL quarterback and cultural phenomenon — has a flock of admirers drawn as much to his religious leanings as his Heisman Trophy skills.

He told them he welcomed the attention on his convictions as well as the “Tebowing” prayer pose he often strikes on the field because it puts his faith and prayer in the public conversation.

“It’s being talking about,” he said. “That’s exciting.”

Some at the “Easter on the Hill” morning service under sunny skies drove more 100 miles to hear Tebow speak. The service took on the feeling of a rock concert with more than a 100 school buses shuttling people to the sprawling megachurch campus from local shopping centers and the nearby college.

The service was peppered with lively Christian rock songs and Tebow hit the large stage to cheers from those who could see him while others toward the back of the crowd watched on massive video screens. Tebow sat for a 20-minute interview with Champion to talk about his faith and the role it plays in his public life.

“It’s OK to be outspoken about your faith,” Tebow said.

He also took a shot at professional athletes who insist they are not role models.

“Yes you are. You’re just not a good one,” Tebow said.

Champion asked Tebow what he thought needed to change culturally in America.

“First and foremost is what this country was based on: one nation under God. The more that we can get back to that,” Tebow said to applause.

Although church officials had said they typically get their biggest crowds on Easter, Tebow was clearly the big draw Sunday. Several hundred started heading toward the exits after Tebow spoke, not waiting for Champion’s main Sunday sermon so they could avoid the 80-degree heat and beat the traffic.

Some couldn’t wait for the official 8 a.m. opening to the church grounds and showed up hours early.

Debbie Sandoval and her husband and two sons arrived before sunrise. They wore Tebow’s Jets jerseys and set up camp close the large soundstage with a row of chairs.

“I love that boy. … He’s like my third son,” said Sandoval, who is not a regular member of the church but wasn’t going to miss a chance to hear Tebow speak. A self-described “lifelong Broncos fan,” Sandoval said she became a Jets fan because of Tebow. Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs last season, but was acquired by the Jets in a trade March 21.

“Everything about this young man’s extraordinary life is special,” Sandoval said.

Amanda O’Hara drove about 100 miles from San Antonio on Saturday and got to the church about 4:30 a.m. “to be one of the first ones here.”

“I only got about four hours sleep, I was so excited,” O’Hara said. “He doesn’t hide who he is. Parents should see him as a role model.”

The crow included people dressed in Easter bunny costumes and one person dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo. About an hour before the service, Elmo dropped to a knee with a toddler boy to mimic Tebow’s prayer pose.

Media access to the event was tightly controlled inside the roped off field. Reporters and photographers were required to have an escort when walking through the crowd before the service. Television cameras were allowed to record only a portion of Tebow’s speech and no live video streaming of the service was permitted.

Church officials initially expected up to 20,000 and said Tebow’s appearance on Easter Sunday was coincidental. Church spokeswoman Tara Wall said it was Tebow who reached out to Champion with a request to appear and Sunday was the best date available.

Mike Benaglio and his wife, Debbie, sat on a blanket.

“I’m a fan of any pro athlete who stands up for his faith,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be part of this. It’s not about football. Whatever gets more people over to the cross, I’m in favor of.”

What do you think of Tim Tebow? Sound off in our comments section below…

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (28)
  1. you should know,your an idiot says:

    Who does his hair……….oh my!

    1. Rodin says:

      I think he’s a Muslim shill. Just look at that face.

      1. Rodin says:

        OMG, fer sher! He looks just like AMADINEJAD!!!

  2. Moshe says:

    The more I see of Tebow, the more it seems to be about him, not Jesus.

  3. Rodin says:

    @ Dazed and Confused

    NeitherDazed nor Confused. Right on!

    This is precisely the problem with Christians, that neurotic need to proselytize, to SPREAD the “word,” like a virus or the Plague they are. Why can’t they just breed, like Muslims and Jews, and leave the rest of us out of it?

    Free from religion, good without gØds.

  4. you should know,your an idiot says:

    Why is this newsworthy?

  5. Rodin says:

    Is it the second coming yet?

  6. Dazed and Confused says:

    What happened to the concept of praying privately and avoiding ostentatious displays? (“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”)

    1. Michael H. says:

      These are what we call “Cafeteria Christians”. They pick and choose the verses in the bible that suit them.

    2. Rodin says:

      So did Thomas Jefferson but in a far more exacting, critical, judicious, enlightened way, nowhere near “cafeteria.”

      The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson in the latter years of his life by cutting and pasting numerous sections from various Bibles as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s composition excluded sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists.*

      * Source: Wikipedia

  7. AirCavRick says:

    The author of this story must be a real amature. He left the word “than” our of the sixth para., the word “than” our of the fifteenth para., and he left the letter “d” off the word crowd in para. 20. Amatures!!!!!!

    1. Goslyn says:

      Um, don’t you mean = AMATEURS!!!!!! Try investing in a dictionary, or at least spell check your posts before calling out errors…. Amateur!!!

      I’m over Tebow – there are other quiet NFL players/former players who live their faith without playing the “look at me” game. If he were some practice squad goof, nobody would look at him twice or fill a megachurch to listen to him. *yawn*

      1. Carol says:

        I agree with you. There are millions that practice their faith, no matter what the denomination, public or private. Me included. Enough of this guy and his “look at me” game. I’m actually sick of hearing about him and his routine. The same goes for those that post religious messages continuously on facebook. I don’t like religion or anything else rammed down my throat or faced to be a captive audience to someone’s soapbox rant.

  8. grammie5 says:

    God has opened doors for Tim Tebow and as a christian he is doing his best to do God’s will. Whatever arena Tim or any other christian has been offorded, we are to speak out for our Lord and Savior. He died for us, why can’t we at least stand up with other christians and take this country back in God’s name. Thank you Tim for your convictions and your public profession of faith in our Jesus.

    1. blic says:


    2. AirCavRick says:

      The letter “C” in the word Christian should be capitalized, just like the “A” in American.

    3. Mike says:

      Amen! I agree with you,grammie5

      1. Rodin says:

        Ugh! Ugh, ugh,ugh….

  9. Atheist Adult says:

    If you toss around enough manure, you are bound to attract flies. Particularly in Texass.

  10. Paul says:

    Tebow is right about setting a better example- and anyone in the public eye should follow that guideline, whether they are religious or not.
    The Constitution does not outlaw expression of faith, it only stipulates that the gov’t cannot establish a national religion ( like the nations of Europe had) and force people to attend. the is the essential basis of the separation of church and state. Speaking about God, having God in our courts and schools will not hurt America,
    I don’t think Tebow is perhaps the best quarterback in the universe, but he could turn out to be a leader and an example that can inspire his team and America,
    I wish him God Speed.

    1. Rodin says:

      You mean you wish him GOOD speed, so he can be a better player…. I doubt gØd is into football.

    2. you should know,your an idiot says:

      Let the Crusades continue………..

      1. Rodin says:

        … and may the AmeriKKKan Taliban lead us into the Christian Sharia!

  11. cygon says:

    He is a nice guy but he is not an ordained minister so why is he being made to do this? they just for fund raising ?

    1. Hunt says:

      Cygon, he was not MADE to do ANYTHING! Ordained or not, the fact that he has the ability to change hearts and minds speaks volumes….

    2. Truth says:

      Cygon, you don’t need to be ordained to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
      Look at those “ordained” ministers like Al Shapton, Jesse Jackson and other. What do they preached?

      1. Rodin says:

        No, just delusional.

        1. Rodin says:

          … and maybe racist.

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