Tim Tebow drew a crowd of 4,000 fans when he made a guest appearance at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas on Saturday. But he's not the only Tebow to be making his mark from the pulpit.
The weekend before, Tim's older brother, 27-year-old Peter Tebow, delivered his first sermon at Highline Community Church in Littleton. And while he attracted a significantly smaller throng than did his famous sibling, he's seen as a rising star in the Christian worship community.
On February 26, Highline's regular congregation was bolstered by members of Peter's young adult ministry, which he started last November. During the ministry's early days, Peter was preaching to a fifteen members who met Friday evenings in a small living room. Within a month, however, the group had grown to almost 100 young adults, forcing it to relocate to a larger space at the church.
Prior to the service, Peter tweeted to his approximately 6,500 followers (so far), expressing his uneasiness:
But by the grace of God I am what I am!Preaching in big church tomorrow and could use some prayers
— Peter Tebow (@petertebow) February 26, 2012
Early that Sunday morning, when Denver was still sleeping, Peter was awake, nervously preparing a 45-minute talk. In his speech, he would speak of his internal battle with an addiction, of God, and of what it was like growing up in a Christian household.
Unfortunately, the rest of theTebow family couldn't make it because of their busy traveling schedules; Tim spent the evening at the Vanity Fair Oscar party in Los Angeles, where he met Taylor Swift, his reported dinner date the next night. Regardless, I was excited to be in the presence of someone so close to Tim, but also nervous, because I hadn't attended a traditional church service in over a decade.
I took the RTD bus into Littleton, passing by four other churches within a five-mile radius along University Boulevard. Some of the other passengers on the bus were clearly dressed for formal church services -- I was in jeans. The bus let us off in front of our respective churches, and upon my arrival, I was relieved to find that the other Highline members were dressed casually, too.
Not suprisingly, Peter made references to Corinthians 15:10 -- growing up in a Christian household, that's how he relates to the world. In his sermon, he said, "Gosh, I grew up in the South, and the denomination I grew up in, man, when I was a kid, we went around knocking on doors and trying to lead people to Jesus, ya know. I was probably fifteen years old doing that. The first sermon I ever preached, I was sixteen-years old and it was in Jamaica in this big, like, cathedral. And with a pulpit that was way raised up, like literally where you're like eye to eye with the balcony.
"And on the other hand, there was the dark side," he continued. "There were the addictions, the internal battle. There was the side I wanted everyone to see: 'It's Preacher Peter! And then there was this other guy. I didn't like that guy. This other guy killed me. See, this guy was addicted. He struggled. He put on a good face on the outside, and then he'd go home and be all alone."
Following the sermon, I had a chance to sit with some of the young adults from Peter's ministry. One member of his young adult ministry described Peter in two words: "passionate" and "authentic." After seeing him deliver his sermon, I could see what she meant.
The way he delivered his sermon recalled one of Michael Jackson's live performances of "Man in The Mirror." The crew literally had to drag Michael from the stage after he managed to extend the song by three minutes, shouting his signature moans and completely consumed by his dance moves. Some would say he wasn't sensible, and that's usually the case when passion takes the stage.
Okay, so I'm clearly exaggerating. But like Michael, Peter expressed a similar surge in emotion. The microphone hooked to his sweater would continuously move out of place when his emotions were at a peak, raising his arms and tightly gripping the edge of the lectern. And each time he was brought back to his sensibility, he seemed a little embarrassed.
"I'm working really hard at this thing," he said in his sermon. "I love it. I love what I get to do and I'm working hard at it. I love the conversations I get to have.... I loved sitting there Friday night after I preached my heart out. And meeting all these guys and girls and encouraging them, I love it!"
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Today, in between the prayers and religious references, I found a guy filled with energy and passion. I found a guy brave enough to share his struggles with a room full of complete strangers, making it a little bit easier for everyone else to open up about their problems, too. And I found someone, like Tim, who everyday serves as a mentor for young adults and children who would be otherwise lost in a sometimes loveless world.
"My Dad always used to say, 'Peter, love is choosing the best interest of another and acting on their behalf," he allowed. "The other day, I got to sit there alongside one of our young adults as she for the first time met her biological father. And I sat there across the table for moral support."