DENVER (BP) — Any athlete who has been sidelined wants to get back into the game as soon as possible. KaRon Coleman did when he played for the National Football League’s Denver Broncos.
Now he’s doing the same as a church planter.
Coleman was first sidelined after three seasons as a running back for the Broncos when an injury ended his football career in 2002. But it only accelerated the vocation he knew he would pursue when his playing days were over — church planter.
While playing football at Stephen F. Austin State University, Coleman said he felt a call to ministry. “I went to Bible college to complete my degree and later went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said Coleman, who continued his education following his NFL career.
Along the way Coleman married, had five children and planted a church in his native Houston.
Coleman said his experience planting Fort Bend Community Fellowship in Houston was great, but he and wife Jasmine sensed a call to serve in a place with greater need and that Denver might be that place.
“We felt God leading us to a post-Christian context,” Coleman said. “We previously lived in Denver and knew back then it was hard to find churches. However, we had no idea that close to 90 percent of metro Denver residents do not have a personal relationship with Christ. Building relationships has been critical to our church.”
The Colemans moved back to Denver in 2010 and launched Northeast Fellowship in January 2011.
“We started from scratch. Many of the people I knew when I was playing for the Broncos no longer lived in Colorado,” Coleman said. “One of the first persons I met was a neighbor. He saw my son and I out playing catch and he wanted my son to play for his football organization. He was a believer, but the only believer in his family. Eventually we built a great relationship.
“He helped me see the community through his eyes,” Coleman said. “Not only did he help me develop a strategy for reaching the community, most of his family now attends our church. His father, mother, wife and son were saved and baptized in our church. Three generations!”
Just like an athlete sometimes has to mount a comeback after being sidelined, Northeast Fellowship is re-launching this year after coming through some challenging days. The re-launch includes a move to Saturday night worship in a new location, Denver’s Aurora community location. Both changes are aimed at better connecting with people’s lives.
“We are attempting to build the church organically,” Coleman said. “We are multi-cultural, multi-generational and more suburban than urban. Almost all of our members are from Denver. We’ve seen about 75 people come to faith in Christ and have baptized 25.
“One of our greatest needs is for core members who can come and help us disciple new members. Many of our people are new to the faith and we are readily working through their spiritual formation.”
Coleman is familiar with challenges, from overcoming the absence of a father in his home growing up to graduating college undrafted by any NFL team. He used the latter as motivation to make himself an NFL-caliber free agent. Coleman enjoyed his years with Denver and was a solid offensive contributor for the Broncos.
And life with a single mother raising children alone gave Coleman the determination to do something to help change that circumstance for other children. Beyond mentoring and coaching, Coleman has released his first book, “Don’t Count Me Out,” his story of overcoming adversity through faith in Christ and perseverance. He hopes the book will help convince men to live up to their obligations and help children find real hope through the Gospel.
Coleman and Northeast Fellowship are on the Web at northeastfellowship.org. To learn more about church planting in Denver through the North American Mission Board initiative Send North America, visit www.namb.net/Denver.
As to the NFL title game between the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, Coleman told Baptist Press, “This Super Bowl promises to be another great game between two great teams — Seattle with its super defense and Denver with its dynamic offense. I’m an offensive player and I played in Denver so I will have to go with the Broncos for this Super Bowl. It will be a great game, but ultimately I think Denver presents too big of a challenge on offense. However, I believe it will be hard-fought and will come down to the end.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).