Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012, at 5:47 PM
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Relativity Media
With the trade of Tim Tebow to the New York Jets, many football fans are asking where the popular quarterback will line up on the field (halfback?). But if you take Tebow’s own word for it, the gridiron is not the most important place in the athlete’s life. The essential question is: Where will he go to church?
Contrary to its popular image, New York City is hardly a godless place. True, Colorado was an unusually friendly spot for an outspoken, proselytizing Christian like Tebow. Colorado Springs is home to one of the biggest concentrations of evangelical Christian groups in the country, including Focus on the Family (which famously partnered with Tebow for those mom-and-son anti-abortion ads) and the New Life Church (the megachurch made famous by disgraced former pastor Ted Haggard). Not surprisingly, while many Broncos fans are excited about the arrival of Peyton Manning to the team, some Denver Christians are busy lamenting Tebow’s loss. (Pat Robertson, meanwhile, has suggested that an injury to Manning would serve the Broncos right.)
But there are plenty of evangelicals in New York who will likely welcome Tebow with open arms. Many of them will tell you, in fact, that the city is in the middle of a genuine revival. As the AP noted today in a piece about Tebow’s move to New York, “about 40 percent of the 200 evangelical congregations in Manhattan below 125th Street started in the last decade.” Tebow is the son of Baptist missionaries who worked in the Philippines; as a football star, though, he’s aligned himself with the evangelical movement in general—so we’re guessing he won’t be a denominational stickler in his new home. Is one of these new congregations right for Tebow?
If he’s looking for a big church that shares his passion for missionary work, he’ll want to consider a New York institution that’s slightly older: the Times Square Church, an interdenominational megachurch at the corner of 51st and Broadway, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. From the outside, the church looks at first like a Broadway theater—it was, in fact, where Jesus Christ Superstar premiered—until you notice the Bible quote on the marquee: “A great multitude of all nations, people, and languages...” (Rev 7:9). TSC says they have about 8,000 worshipers a week at their services, and Tebow might be inspired by the church’s origin story: It was founded by David Wilkerson, a former small-town pastor who took on the salvation of New York City as a personal challenge from God, and was moved by the Holy Spirit to found a church right in the middle of a pre-Disneyfied Times Square.
If Times Square is a touch too close to New York’s non-stop media frenzy, though, Tebow might consider the Brooklyn Tabernacle as an alternative. It counts over 10,000 members (their facility fits 3,200, and they hold services 3x a week). He might also take a look at the Christian Cultural Center in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York.
If, on the other hand, Tebow wants to get in with the city’s much-written-about hipster Christian scene, he has a bevy of other options. Jay Bakker—the son of Jimmy and Tammy Faye who was profiled by New York in 2010—runs Revolution, which meets in Pete’s Candy store, a live music venue in Williamsburg. Revolution even has its own indie artist on the pastor roll: Rev. Vince Anderson, who performs weekly at the Union Pool. (His most recent sermon at Revolution was titled “There Are Motherf@#%ing Snakes in This Motherf@#%ing Church.”) There’s also Redeemer Presbyterian, Resurrection Presbyterian, the Journey, and many others. (For more recommendations, Tebow should keep his eye on the New York Times, which loves the juxtaposition of Jesus and skinny jeans.)
Should neither the mega- nor the hipster church be to Tebow’s liking, there are plenty of other noteworthy evangelical churches in the city. He could check out Hillsong Church, a transplant from Australia, or the Trinity Grace Church, which just opened in the East Village last year. The list goes on. Even if the fans of his new team prove unwelcoming, the parishioners at any one of these spots will, I’m sure, be more hospitable.
Point being, Tebow: New York, in case you’ve heard otherwise, is no spiritual wasteland. And more importantly, you don’t need to move to New Jersey.