JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The day after New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow cancelled a scheduled appearance at First Baptist Church in Dallas, his pastor called for prayer for him and those “hated by the world” because of the stands they take.
Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., is the former pastor of First Baptist Dallas. In 2006 Brunson left Dallas to lead the downtown Jacksonville megachurch, where the Tebow family are members.
Tebow announced via twitter Feb. 21 he would not speak April 28 at the Texas church’s grand opening celebration of its new, $130 million campus in downtown Dallas. “I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day,” Tebow tweeted.
A media onslaught about Tebow’s speaking engagement hit after a New York Daily News headline called Tebow’s appearance a “hate date” and the Huffington Post characterized FBC Dallas in a headline as the “Virulently Anti-Gay, Anti-Semitic Church First Baptist Dallas.”
The pastor at First Baptist Dallas, Robert Jeffress, has been nationally prominent in stating his biblical views regarding marriage, homosexuality, and during the presidential campaign last year, Mormonism, according to the Southern Baptist Texan newspaper.
In a statement to the Florida Baptist Witness, Brunson said the media attacks on Jeffress, the church and Tebow are without merit. “Clearly there is a bias in this country when it comes to evangelical Christianity,” he said.
Further, Tebow’s home church and First Baptist Dallas share the same beliefs, Brunson said.
“There would not be a wisp of difference between the theology of First Baptist Church Dallas and First Baptist Church Jacksonville,” Brunson said. “First Baptist Church Jacksonville holds to the inerrant, authoritative Word of God. We hold to the traditional historic doctrines of the faith.
“We believe in marriage between one man and one woman just as we see in Genesis, reiterated in the New Testament and what every culture for 8,000 years of recorded history has demonstrated,” Brunson said. “While holding up the standard of God’s Word, we love all people because God in Christ has loved us. The forgiveness of God in Christ is available to all.”
Tebow has been no stranger to controversy and has stood strong to promote his views,” Brunson said.
“In the midst of media scrutiny, spin, and relentless analysis, Tim Tebow’s testimony has captivated the faithful, the unbelieving, and everyone in between,” Brunson said. “He has taken bold stands for Christ repeatedly that would have withered the best of us. This is not a person that capitulates. There is a lot going on right now, but Timmy trusts the Lord to lead him and he has committed his life to following Jesus.”
Brunson asked for prayer for the 25-year-old athlete who slips in and out of church whenever he’s at home in Jacksonville.
“We need to pray for Tim. I spoke with Timmy recently, and he still believes deeply in the gospel we all hold dear. As an NFL football player, God has blessed him with a platform to share the love of Jesus Christ with millions. He will address other issues in his time,” Brunson said.
“We need to pray for the good people and pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas. They too have taken a courageous stand for our Lord,” Brunson said. “Christ Himself told us that we would be hated by the world because the world hated Him. These are days to be bold for Christ and to love one another.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, where this story first appeared.)