As soon as the announcement came that Tim Tebow was moving to the New York Jets, leaders at Christian City Church Manhattan began brainstorming about how to deliver an invitation to the NFL’s most outspoken Christian.
"It would just be wonderful to have him," said Anthony Cecutti, who envisions the quarterback speaking to the men’s group he leads at the Midtown church.
Jets fans may be torn about Tebow’s surprise acquisition from the Denver Broncos, but New York’s evangelical Christian community has far fewer reservations.
"This is a big deal," said Bojan Jancic, senior pastor at the East Village-based CityLight Church.
Pastors in Denver and New York said Tebow has inspired Christians to be more expressive about their faith. The spotlight of the country’s media capital, they said, could begin to change the perception of New York as a singularly secular town.
Not known as a top-tier quarterback, Tebow nonetheless captured the nation’s attention in his second year with the Broncos. He led the team to the playoffs with a series of come-from-behind touchdowns, leading many to wonder if he did indeed have the Lord on his side.
The son of Christian missionaries, he continued to do aid work in the Philippines. He inscribed Bible verses on black patches under his eyes. His prayers on bended knee sparked a craze. And he drew national attention for his antiabortion commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl.
His move comes soon after the sensation caused by Jeremy Lin, the Knicks point guard who thanked God in self-effacing media interviews as he shot to unexpected stardom. New York — not generally considered a center of religious fervor — suddenly has found itself home to two of the country’s most prominent Christian athletes.
But some church leaders cautioned that Tebow may not have the same impact in New York that he had in Colorado. For one thing, New York, along with its brethren in New Jersey, can be a tougher audience.
In New York state, 11 percent of people identify themselves as evangelical Protestants — less than half the percentage in Colorado, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That figure is 12 percent in New Jersey and 26 percent nationwide.