If I Were Tim Tebow’s Pastor- Part 2 (A Retrospective)

When I wrote my post about Tim Tebow last week, I had no idea it would generate the feedback it did. In one sense I’m thankful. It is good when believers can talk about convictions with each other. But I’m also a bit perplexed. It is interesting that the post on Tim was hit so many more times than a post the next day on parenting. That in and of itself is revealing.

I received some comments that were critical of the Tebow piece that included helpful corrections for me. For that I’m grateful. But after a few comments I received through emails, Facebook comments, and Twitter tweets, I want to make a few clarifications and answer a few questions.

First, the title (“If I Were Tim Tebow’s Pastor”) was simply a rhetorical device. The intention was to merely communicate something like, “If I had Tim’s ear.” Yes, the post ended with the comment that I would love to be Tim’s pastor. But that was simply an indication of my affection for him and his testimony. I am not Tebow’s pastor and do not have any criticisms of him (I don’t know who his pastor is). If I had it to do again, I would have framed the post in the perspective of a Christian brother to another Christian brother. If I have offended Tim’s pastor in any way, let me publicly seek his forgiveness.

Second, several people had questions about the nature of a public critique of Tebow without a private confrontation of him. I understand the concern. But I also want to be fair about this. Last year I wrote a book entitled Uneclipsing the Son. Among the positive feedback I also received some negative and critical evaluations. All of these criticisms were on blogs and very public. In fact, I don’t remember ever getting a negative critique of the book through private correspondence. But I’m okay with that. I think if you are public about something that public criticism and debate are appropriate. Furthermore, I do not think that Tim is in sin, so my comments were not intended to be a confrontation.

Third, I am thankful for Tim Tebow’s boldness and witness for our Savior. I hope I was clear enough about this but let me say again that he is a great role model to whom I point my three sons. But just like I wish he would shorten his release when he passes, I wish he would clarify his gospel comments when he speaks. Both of those wishes are for him to be better. I know he has accurate and clear thinking on the gospel. I’ve heard this in extended interviews. I’m not a Denver Broncos fan but when Tim talks about Christ, I am a major Tebow fan. Is there anything wrong with wanting him to improve that witness?

Last, concern was expressed that I am being nit-picky about the theology expressed by Tim’s dropping to a knee to pray after a score. I have every confidence that Tim’s intentions are God-honoring and sincere. I just think it unintentionally communicates that God is in the business of assisting Christians to win football games. Does He? Well, yes and no. Owen Strachan’s answers this question very well in an excellent post in The Atlantic. It’s a great read. And make no mistake; Tim’s comments after the loss to New England were outstanding in his efforts to honor God. Nathan Busenitz’s second post on Tebow does a great job highlighting this.

Thank you to so many who responded to the Tebow post. My thinking as been sharpened by those interactions.

22 Comments on “If I Were Tim Tebow’s Pastor- Part 2 (A Retrospective)

  1. Good follow-up post Rick!

    It is interesting to me how bloggers can get so nit-picky about semantics. I’m glad I turned the comments off on my post on Tebow because I’d probably be getting slammed for saying anything negative about him. But giving constructive criticism isn’t always negative.

    The Bible says in 2 Tim 3:16 that Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correcting and training. If Tebow is a true brother (which I firmly believe he is) then why would he not want constructive criticism from Scripture as to being a more effective witness? On the flip side, how can we as Christians fail to give it to him? I think that is important to remember when these situations arise.

    Again, good follow-up post on the subject. I thought you could have been a little more critical of Tebow’s Gospel presentation, but you still did a good job, and in a loving way. The blogosphere needs more of that 🙂

  2. I don’t think Tebow’s objective was to give his “gospel presentation” within a 15 second post game interview. He is simply giving God the glory when asked how the game went. I think if people researched his lifestyle and things outside of football they would not be as “critical” of his in game witness. Nobody mentions the silent witness that he gives by being the hardest playing person on the field. This man is a beacon for Christ in a Christ-less league. Tebow is simply giving thanks to his Lord and Savior before anything else. I don’t think that is his complete gospel presentation. Tebow obviously lives the gospel which in my eyes is just as much or more powerful than the words he says. Even the unbelieving football fans know what Tebow stands for. I think we should all guard against having a critical spirit.

    On a side note, I’m not quite sure what is meant by being perplexed at why more people read this article than parenting and how that is revealing. I think that is blatant and unnecessary jab.

    • Dallas, thanks for your comments. I too appreciate Tim’s “silent witness” in his work ethic. Good stuff. But I have to disagree with your comment, “Tebow obviously lives the gospel which in my eyes is just as much or more powerful than the words he says.” Though I appreciate the power of a life lived well and above reproach, it is impossible for someone to be converted by looking at a life. The facts of the gospel and need for repentance are not clear from looking at a person’s life. The Good News must be articulated by words (Rom 10:17). And if you think I have a “critical spirit” against Tim, I want to encourage you to read both posts again.

      I’m trying to understand how my comment about the the article on parenting is a “blatant and unnecessary jab.” My intent was to point out that some of us (myself included) have spent too much time and energy on Tebow when there are more pressing and important issues in our lives. Sorry if that was unclear.

      • Rick, I completely agree that words communicate the gospel. But, my point was of the balance of a life matching your message (1 Tim. 4:16). I didn’t mean the critical spirit comment to be aimed at you alone, but at the majority of the people that have commented on your previous post and will most likely read this one. At some point, things start to just become criticism because it isn’t what we think is the best approach. For instance, I would not have connected Tebowing with the prosperity gospel. I see your logic, but isn’t that an unnecessary reach? If Tebow were 16-0 this season, would we say that he should lose a game because we don’t want people to have the idea that God only wants Christians like Tebow to win and never lose? I’m not trying to be sarcastic but I’m just trying to illustrate my point. Regarding the “jab” (maybe a harsh word – my bad), I just thought it was an unnecessary assumption that you threw out. Basically, that we care more about Tebow than parenting. Maybe they were reading the hard copy of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart and stopped to read your article 😉

        To Jared, the article specifically addressed Tebow’s in game actions. If you want to critique his gospel presentation outside of the in game interview then that is fine, but my comments were regarding what the article was written about. I don’t think he would flippantly use his mantra to say that you can have a relationship apart from Christ or anything like that. I just fear that in the Christian community we feel like we need to say more than just the simplicity of the gospel – “Salvation through Jesus Christ”. Maybe you could expand on his off the field interviews or send a link.

        I think it was a very thought provoking article and has obviously generated some very good and also very poor comments. I appreciate your insight and look forward to more discussion.

  3. Dallas Taras:

    I’ve heard that argument several times from many different people. The problem with that thought is I wasn’t, nor were other top evangelical bloggers, talking about those interviews. He has had several off field interviews where he has shared his testimony (which is great, don’t get me wrong), but I haven’t heard the slightest bit of Gospel truth from his mouth, aside from his profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Good start, but not necessarily the Gospel.

    Further, I also think Tebow is a great guy for living out his faith and professing that faith in Jesus Christ. He has sparked many conversations with believers and non-believers alike that has enabled the preaching of the Gospel to go forth. However, Tebow’s mantra is, “it doesn’t matter what you say, but what you do.” While that is true to an extent, we are also called to preach the Gospel as Christians, regardless of whether we are called to be preachers, teachers, or evangelists (1 Cor 9:14). I couldn’t agree more with everything Rick just said in his responding comment.

    Finally, if people are more interested in a football guy than being a good parent, to me that is revealing. People care more about current events outside the home rather than current events in the home. Obviously, Tebow is a hot topic these days, but so should parenting be, amen?

  4. Good response Dallas, very helpful clarifications. I especially appreciate your tone. We could all learn from your graciousness.

  5. Pingback: Tebow (Part 2): How to Lose a Game without Losing Your Testimony | The Cripplegate

  6. Dalas:

    I am trying to reply to your comment only, but I seem to be unable. I apologize.

    Here is what Rick said in the first post regarding Tebow’s “Gospel presentation”:

    “Second, I would encourage Tim to change his rhetoric. Instead of repeating the mantra that “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (which usually goes unexplained), I would love to hear something like “I’m thankful that God has given me the ability to play football, but I’m more grateful He has saved me from His judgment through the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The difference is subtle, but important. I’m glad Tim names the name of Jesus. When he does so, however, talking about why he is thankful would be clarifying. Jesus is to be praised for securing souls, not scoring touchdowns.”

    While the fifteen second interview may be implied here, I don’t think it is exclusive from the off the field interviews. There’s also nothing wrong with changing his mantra. Yes, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ is a very good start and a huge praise, but we are called to preach a Gospel of repentance and reconciliation by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, amen? I would merely like to hear that from Tebow once. Then I will be a happy panda.

    Until then, I think what Tebow has done is good, but there are some concerns I would have. And only because you asked for a link am I doing this, since this is usually known as being a troll, but over at my blog I discussed this at length: http://jtbaergen.blogspot.com/2012/01/another-blurb-about-tim-tebow.html

    I apologize for killing the comments there. I didn’t want the hassle while I’m so busy this week. Hope it clarifies what I mean. And thanks for your charitable response! I like good discussion, but not to the point of the I’m right, you’re wrong stuff. If I’m wrong, show me 🙂

    God bless!

    • Thanks for the link, Jared. I have a couple of questions to spark a little more discussion here. I’m going to say that Tebow’s response IN GAME is perfectly acceptable and honor to Jesus. Even though simple, it contains a profound meaning – Thank you to my Lord and my savior Jesus Christ. The implications in that short sentence are massive, therefore, I don’t think we should look at it as simplistic or inadequate in itself. Again, he is not saying “The gospel is … thanks to my lord and ….” So, therefore, it is an adequate response.

      However, from our discussion the main question is now – What is the gospel that Tim Tebow share? (and does Tim Tebow or anyone else adequately share it) My main concern for those of us who know the word very well is that we often want to over complicate the simple message of the gospel. The video of Tebow you posted with Huckabee shows him as saying “I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me from my sins.” Is that simplistic in our eyes? Yes. But that is the gospel in essence, correct? Now, don’t get me wrong. I love digging “deeper” into the holiness of God, the depravity of man, the atonement of Christ which the word gives us. However, I think that we’ve focused so much on the so-called “deeper” aspects of the word that we’ve lost sight of the simplicity of the gospel to sinners. I think it is not necessarily that he isn’t sharing the gospel, but that he’s not using our approach.

      And I agree with you on your last point. It’s not that you, or me, or Rick, or Tebow is right, but that we share and live the gospel in what we say and do. Tim might live a “simple” christian life and just read his bible and depend on the holy spirit to guide him. We might read Johnny Mac, Spurgeon, Sproul. etc and we have this really deep understanding and fancy “isms” for every word. And, it used to be my tendency to think “The gospel can’t be that simple.” But in the end, does what you say point to Jesus Christ alone as lord and savior. I think Tim does.

      Again, I am grateful that we can discuss and be honest about what we think in a gracious way. Thanks for the great discussion, guys.

      • Dallas:

        Amen! I agree with most of what you said. Here’s where I would differ: The Gospel is simplistic, I agree, but if “I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me from my sins.” is the only Gospel that Tim has shared, I would make a case that that’s not good enough (which I have).

        I grew up with this simplistic Gospel mindset. I didn’t come to Christ until I fully understood what Christ had done for me on the cross and why. I, too, had “made a decision” for Christ at an early age, but I did it because my parents wanted me to and for my own satisfaction in a sense. There’s a huge difference in believe the Gospel for your own sake and for God’s sake. You can believe because you don’t want to have to pay the penalty for your own sin, or you can believe because you know you have offended a holy God and are under his condemnation because of that sin, and therefore are in need of a savior. Otherwise you will be separated from Him and His glory forever and then you will pay the penalty for sin. The two concepts of believing for your benefit and believe because it honors God are inextricably linked. The former is quite close to easy-believism where you can just pray a prayer because you fear hell and then you have you fire insurance. That is exactly how I grew up and that is exactly what I believed until two years ago before heading to Resolved conference.

        So while Tebow’s little testimony is great, it would have been much better if he had shared the full Gospel as intended. Which includes the Law of God against sin, the holiness of God, the death and resurrection of Christ (which should include the appeasement of God’s wrath against sin, the transferring of His righteousness to our account, and the removal of all our sin–without the big theological terms), and a call to repentance and reconciliation. That would be a full Gospel presentation.

        However, and this is what I said in my blog post, Tebow shared a tiny bit of his testimony that was so simplistic that it may not have any saving efficacy. While it does lead people to Christ for salvation, which I expressed my gratitude for, he could have said much more. Instead, he talk about me, myself, and I, and about what I did to accept and now I live and my faith… There were way to many self focused comments. And then 30 seconds later, he went back to talk about football. He could have said way more than that. To make sure that wasn’t my only example, I sited several interviews where he did the same thing.

        So I think my concerns in that are valid. That testimonial may be beneficial somehow, but we should never simplify the Gospel just because we are afraid of what others might think or because we think that is all they need for salvation. We can’t save anyone; no one can. Only Jesus Christ can! Therefore we need to be much more specific in presenting the Gospel besides “pray this prayer,” amen?

        I hope that was a gracious response. I am glad we are at least talking this through without bickering or slamming anybody. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m glad for the influence of Tim Tebow and his devotion to Jesus Christ!

  7. You should have stopped after your apology. Why Try to justify what you just apologized for? Critiquing one’s theology is one thing but don’t think you could ever imagine being in Tenows shoes. A little support from Christian leaders is not asking much. Why not write about other Chrisyian athletes you disagree with?

  8. Rick:

    Also, if I’m wrong somewhere in my theology, since you’re a pastor, please feel free to correct me. I wouldn’t want to say anything that is against Scripture.

  9. Jared, we both would agree that the “fire insurance” is not the way to present the gospel. We would also agree that it is God who is prompting and regenerating the heart to believe at the time of salvation that allows you to say “Yes, come into my heart”. I guess my main point is this. We can always present the gospel in a more clear and complete manner. Sometimes I think “Man, I nailed that! You have to understand” Then I get the blank stares. Can he say more at times? Yeah, probably. But that doesn’t always happen. I think the “self focus” comments were just about his book. His book is probably not about how to have a relationship with Christ, but just a book about him and his life. I just think that we might be pulling stuff from interviews where he is not specifically addressing “This is how you come to know Christ”.

    Coming back to the simple approach. I think we can assume that people won’t understand the gravity of their sin unless we give the full theological approach and that we need to explain the doctrine of hamartiology for them to TRULY get it. I think we can clearly say “Christ can save you from your sin” and people will understand. Now, again, I would probably go more in depth than that, but that can be enough for someone to realize their sin. I have not heard an actual full gospel presentation from Tebow. Testimony and the gospel are different when telling them. Depending on the teaching we’ve been under, we might say you should really try to weave in the aspects of the 4 point gospel (God, Man, Christ, You), but some people just give a narrative of how they got saved. That is okay.

    I think we know where each other is coming from. My approach would be to say more, but I can’t knock the guy for not doing what I would do in every situation. I’m sure that he goes into more depth when sharing the gospel at the prisons and when he goes overseas. Going full circle 🙂 I was just not into saying that Tebow should change the way he says things because that is what we would do. The only way I’d change it is if he preached a different gospel other than Jesus Christ. In the instance of Tebow, I don’t think it is an issue with clarity but with our predefined thought of how the gospel should be delivered.

    • Dalas:

      Most of what you said I completely agree with. For time sake, though, I will point out some things that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with.

      “His book is probably not about how to have a relationship with Christ, but just a book about him and his life. I just think that we might be pulling stuff from interviews where he is not specifically addressing ‘This is how you come to know Christ.'”

      Two things here. How could you write a book about yourself without talking about Christ, if He is truly everything to you that you say He is, right?

      Also, my point is that I have never seen him address how to come to Christ. I also don’t think wording the previous quote like that does any good. “Tell us more about your faith” says the interviewer. “Well here’s how you come to know Christ.” says Tebow. That would be a pretty bad way to present the Gospel, especially since that isn’t what the interviewer asked you. But you can, however, share your testimony (yes in a narrative way) while including plenty of Gospel truth that would lead others to Christ. Huge difference between here’s my testimony (while including some Gospel truth), and I know you asked me to share my story, but here’s how you come to Christ. The later seems kind of annoying and rude in an interview, the former accomplishes answering the interviewer and preaching the Gospel through your testimony.

      Further, waiting around for this profound opportunity to specifically address how to come to Christ is not what we are called to do. He has had several opportunities to be an effective witness by preaching the Gospel and he has blown all of those chances.

      Yes I agree there are different methods for preach the Gospel, but not to the exclusion of the Gospel. That is not a method. There are many baby Christians who have no idea how to share the Gospel or their testimony. I understand that. Maybe that’s Tebow. I don’t know. But he has said it himself that he became a Christian at some very young age. Okay, then what’s left? There’s only two other options then since he isn’t a baby Christian: either he is in an emerging pragmatic church (which I have no idea what church he is in), or maybe he isn’t a Christian but he thinks he is (as I did 20 years of my life). But, to assume either, when there is no proof and we are not God leaves us at a fork in the road. His approach to his testimony and the Gospel is, in essence, pragmatic. We need to encourage Tim to present the Gospel more thoroughly, and as Christians we need to be careful until then.

      “In the instance of Tebow, I don’t think it is an issue with clarity but with our predefined thought of how the gospel should be delivered.”

      I would make the case, and I have several times, that it is an issue of clarity. I have yet to here the Gospel from Tim Tebow in any way shape or form. What little testimony he has shared does not qualify. There is a certain extent to where we have a “predefined thought of how the Gospel should be delivered,” but this is not one of those instances.

      Sorry about the negative tone. I figured it would be easier to cover the things I don’t agree with rather than talking about everything. As for the rest of your last post, I couldn’t agree more and I’m glad you see the importance of sharing the Gospel along with your testimony. I am also glad we could talk this through as brothers in Christ. Just keep in mind that I still love Tebow and am glad for many of the things he has said and done. Yes I know he has received a lot of criticism, but we still need to test everything by the Scriptures and keep our eyes open, amen? 🙂

  10. Pingback: Bits & Pieces (1/16/2012) | Better Things Ahead

  11. Rick ,
    As an x pro athlete myself I can relate to some of Tebows tendencies to not see the ramifications of how your decisions and actions can impact the spiritual thinking of others. Still, this is why I wish you would have been my pastor early in my carrere . I told a good friend of mine that still plays in the big leagues about your article because I was thankful for it for two reasons . 1) when I was playing I did not substantiate my gratitude and tell people “why” I am thankful for Jesus Christ when I spoke of Him. Your insight was very helpful because just thanking Jesus in general is not
    Enough. It could very essily lead others to have wrong thinking about why you are thanking Him. They could take away that you assume Jesus is your lucky charm that got you where you are. That if u come to Jesus success and fame follow . Hebrews 11 would disagree ! Sadly many of the guys , not speaking of Tebow , that i know snd played with think of Jesus as a nice addition to their allready amazing self. Jesus is the center point of our gratitude but never to be seperated from His finished work on the cross to die for sinners who have no greater need then a sin bearer . So thank you for that insight.
    The second reason I was thankful is because we need to be shepherded to have discerning and accurate thinking , even if you risk being unpopular for rattling around the golden caff. I appreciate Tebow, but I was challenged not to be content with simply endorsing all of a persons methodology just because they are a Christian . In fact the author of Hebrews rebukes us for being content with surface thinking about important biblical issues (Heb 5:12-14) . For Ex: What is an accurate view of Goid’s providence and sovereignty when two Christian athletes compete against one another . A wrong view of this impacts how accuratly or inaccurately people view God. Or how about our need to think about prayer and worship the way God does.. A simple prayer pose only for success spreads a message far and wild that God is on my team only when I have success . That is dangerous ! People could become dissalusioned and confused about worship. Paul says in 1 Thes 5:16-17 that only touchdown prayers are imbalanced . A pro athlete that loves Chris needs to be a careful thinker, as we all do, about what theology you teach people with your actions and words.So thank you friend for risking reputation to shepherd our hearts .

  12. Thanks for words of wisdom Pr. Rick.

    I totally understood you in your first post.
    I also want my children to give glory to GOD both in the easy moments, which is normally easier, but also in the hard times.
    I also want to encourage my children to grow and grow more to be like CHRIST, and not to become relaxed and think they are already doing their best.

    May GOD continue to bless you in your service to HIM.

  13. If I blogged about Tim Tebow, no one would even notice ;). Anyone who knows your heart Rick, knows you wouldn’t publicly (or privately for that matter) attack anyone. I understand what you are saying. Tim would be blessed to have you as a pastor.

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