By Joe Conway
DENVER—Any athlete who has been sidelined wants to get back into the game as soon as possible. KaRon Coleman lived that truth when he played for the National Football League’s Denver Broncos and now he’s doing the same as a church planter.
Coleman, who is starting a church in Denver’s Aurora community, experienced his first major sideline incident in the Mile High City in 2002. After three seasons as a running back for the Broncos, an injury ended his football career. But it only accelerated the vocation he knew he would pursue when his playing days ended – church planter.
While playing football at Stephen F. Austin State University, Coleman said he felt a strong 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 says his experience in Houston planting Fort Bend Community Fellowship was great, but he and wife, Jasmine, sensed a call to serve in a place with greater need. They thought Denver might be that place.
Coleman experienced his share of diversity, from overcoming the absence of a father in his home growing up, to graduating college undrafted by any NFL team. Coleman used the latter experience to make himself a free agent the Denver Broncos could not pass up. Coleman enjoyed his years with Denver and was a solid offensive contributor.
The former experience, life with a single mother raising children alone, gave Coleman the added 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 diversity 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.
“We felt God leading us to a post-Christian context,” said Coleman. “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,” said Coleman. “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. 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. Both changes are aimed at better connecting with people’s lives.
“We are attempting to build the church organically,” said Coleman. “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.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.