For a third straight year, Emmanuel Christian Center hosted “Super Sunday” on Super Bowl Sunday, meeting football fans with messages of faith.
“People who don’t even like football are aware there’s a game,” said Pastor Nate Ruch, lead pastor at Emmanuel. “As a church, we don’t want to be irrelevant to what’s going on in the culture.”
So, the church brought in former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow Feb. 5, hoping his story would resonate with church-goers and drive those who have not accepted Jesus into their life to hear God’s word.
Last weekend, 6,000 people attended two services at the Spring Lake Park church, well above average Sunday attendance.
Ruch heard dozens of stories of people bringing friends from work and family members who typically don’t attend church. And he saw many new faces.
Tebow spoke about his faith journey and life goals at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services.
Tebow has been outspoken about his faith throughout his career. Playing college football for the University of Florida, Tebow painted Bible verses on his eye black until messages on eye black were banned in 2010. Kneeling in prayer on the field became known as “Tebowing” when he played for the Denver Broncos.
He was involved in athletics from an early age and has always extremely competitive, he said.
“I was a pretty arrogant little kid,” Tebow said.
In an effort to keep Tebow humble, his parents, both missionaries, required him and his siblings to memorize a scripture verse on humility before every game.
Though Tebow had many early triumphs on the field – he was the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy – he had his fair share of low points, too.
After playing for the Broncos for two years, he was traded to the New York Jets and cut from the team after one season. He signed with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and 2015, respectively, but was cut from both teams before regular season play.
“We don’t have to define success by the world’s standards,” he told those assembled at Emmanuel Christian Center Sunday. “We get to define success by the God of this universe telling us that he loves us; his son died for us.”
He also encouraged all in the room to live above their emotions.
“Sometimes we have to live by our convictions,” he said. “They’re more important than our emotions.”
Two important faith forming experiences for Tebow were going on a mission trip to the Philippines at 15 and visiting an inmate put away for murder who was on suicide watch in prison.
Both informed his foundation’s mission “to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
While Tebow loves playing sports – he signed a minor league baseball contract with the New York Mets last year – he wants to be remembered for more than his athletic prowess.
Trophies will rust, and applause will eventually stop, he said. But changing lives for the better outlives us all.
The church presented a $500 donation to Spring Lake Park athletics. Panther athletes are encouraged to find success not only on the field, but also in the classroom and in the world.
“They go beyond the field,” said Tim Sanders, director of community partnerships at Emmanuel.
After services, hot dogs, brats and other classic game food was available for families to enjoy.
Planning of “Super Sunday 2018” has already began, and the fourth installment will be particularly exciting with the big game in Minneapolis.
With so many athletes in town, “it opens up the door tremendously,” Sanders said.
Previous “Super Sunday” guests are Anthony Bass, former defensive back for the Minnesota Vikings; William Green, former running back with the Cleveland Browns; and Ben Utecht, a Gopher football player who went on to win Super Bowl XLI with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.