(Photo: Reuters/Mark Leffingwell)
A church in central Texas is preparing to host a crowd of over 30,000 for its non-denominational, outdoor Easter Sunday service where New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow will deliver the sermon.
The Celebration Church in Georgetown, Texas, is erecting bleachers on the church's 110-acre grounds, renting 110 buses to pick up the masses from six different locations, and has recruited 1,100 volunteers to run the event, according to local TV station KVUE.
"Obviously it's our Super Bowl," Joe Champion, pastor at the Celebration Church, was quoted as saying. "Easter is the resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate in our faith," said Champion, who is also a speaker with Tebow. "We feel like it's going to be a testimony to the community. We want it to be a family event."
People attending the free-for-all service called "Easter On The Hill" will sit on lawn chairs and blankets. The church is inviting all to "celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with thousands throughout the Austin metroplex on top of one of the highest points in Central Texas."
The pastor clarified the event wasn't just about Tebow. "There will be the sacredness of Easter," he said. "It's not a Tim Tebow show. It's not about a celebrity. There's really only one celebrity that we are going to honor and highlight."
Church spokeswoman Tara Wall told The Associated Press that Tebow told the church about a month ago that he wanted to speak. But Easter was not the original date chosen by his representatives.
Tebow, who was recently traded from the Denver Broncos to the Jets, made appearances in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month and spoke to thousands about his Christian fans.
"There's all this excitement in a game, whether it's playing the NFL or college, with all the hype," he was quoted as saying as he explained why he gets on a knee and prays. "You're going to do good, you're going to do bad and all the eyes are watching you and for me, it's to be able to take a moment to block out everything else and just get on a knee and thank the Lord."
One of the reasons behind "Tebowing," he added, "is because that's a form of humbling yourself. I want to humble myself before the Lord and say thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for letting me play the game I love. Whether I'm good or bad, whether I'm the hero or the goat, whether I score four touchdowns or throw four interceptions, that will still be the same person, honoring the Lord."
Tebow was drafted with the 25th pick of the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. During his college career, the Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida helped lead the Gators to two national championships. In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, Tebow earned the Maxwell Award as the nation's top football player, the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback and the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's most outstanding amateur athlete in any sport.
During his rookie NFL season, Tebow became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for a touchdown in each of his first three career starts. His passion and work ethic has led to his success on and off the field.