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7:08 PM / Thursday April 9, 2020

13 Mar 2020

Alawfultruth: From probation agent to the pulpit

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March 13, 2020 Category: Commentary Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Pastor Jerome Coleman and wife Rev. Kimberly Coleman

Jerome Coleman presents as a calming influence and a man of deep thought at first. And while all of that is true, there are many layers to this powerful leader, who carries himself with a humility that is not always seen in today’s society.

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His journey to the pulpit where he now serves as the Pastor for First Baptist Church of Crestmont (FBCC) came about in an unorthodox way — through a parolee. 

Pastor Coleman was a parole officer for over seven years, before becoming the assistant to the Eastern Regional Director; then, became a parole supervisor of a unit. 

He was kicking doors in at night looking for parole violators, arresting them, conducted their hearings, and determined whether they should go back to prison as he moved up in rank.

At this juncture, he was a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church where Dr. Charles Quann, the lead pastor, asked Pastor Coleman to become an executive minister.

When Pastor Coleman was asked if he was a minister the entire decade he spent at the state board for probation and parole, his answer was no. In fact, he was not in the church at all.

Pastor Jerome Coleman and wife Rev. Kimberly Coleman

“It was a parolee named Carlos Johnson, who came in one day and said to me, you don’t treat us like other parole agents and you treat us with respect.”

His reply to Carlos was this– “You are a human being — you have done your time and you are out of prison. My goal is to help you complete your parole, not send you back.”

Johnson was so convinced that Pastor Coleman was different in a good way that he brought Pastor Coleman a set of VHS  tapes, “ Power, Money and Sex” — a men’s conference by  Bishop TD Jakes — to watch.  Pastor Coleman threw the tapes in the trunk of his car with no intentions of watching them, but Johnson kept asking and insisted that he should.

One rainy day he decided to watch the tapes, and it was right there in his living room that everything changed and he found God. 

Pastor Coleman realized while watching those tapes that he was taking everything in his life for granted — even being able to breathe and go to work daily while ignoring God, and had never said so much as a thank you.

Quite simply, he had his “Damascus” moment in his house, and he was saved through a parolee in his living room! It was a clear indicator to Pastor Coleman that God can use anyone, and it is something he tells his congregation in hopes that they would fully grasp it.

First Baptist Church of Crestmont (FBCC) in 1928.

From that point on, everything accelerated. He began at Salem Baptist Church, where he and his wife helped to grow the Sunday school. 

They transitioned from Salem Baptist to Bethlehem Baptist Church, where Pastor Quann embraced them and asked Pastor Coleman to teach Bible study on Wednesdays. A year later, Pastor Coleman was asked to be a full-time minister. He left parole, and became a minister on a permanent basis. Nine months later, he would find himself shifting again.

There he was, comfortable as an executive minister at Bethlehem Baptist, when he was asked to be a guest preacher at a church in Willow Grove that had no permanent pastor in place. They wanted to see how he would do there.

Pastor Coleman preached, but didn’t hear anything for a while, and went on about his routine. When the call came that he was being considered for the position and that he was one of two candidates being considered, he realized that this was a real possibility, and sat with his wife to discuss his next steps. 

Pastor Coleman was comfortable at his current church, making great money and was second in command without all the responsibility of being the lead pastor. Complacency almost got him to say no — but Quann and Coleman’s wife, Rev. Kimberly Coleman, pushed him to see the process through.

Needless to say, not only did he become the pastor of  the First Baptist Church of Crestmont (FBCC), Coleman and his wife both worked tirelessly as a team to support and enrich the ministries within the church with their devoted messaging of growth and unity.

FBCC as it stands today

Pastor Coleman knew there would have been some growing pains for him and the congregation. He spent the next two years learning and growing with them.  He even changed his style of preaching to connect with them on their level as a working class congregation.

His advice to any new pastor is this — “Do not go into a new church and change anything. Learn, love, watch and listen for the first two years, because while you may have a vision, moving too quickly causes churches to split down the middle with people taking sides and pastors being locked out.”

His uncle once told him, “When you love people, you don’t have to take the reigns, they will give them to you.”

That is what happened to Pastor Coleman at First Baptist. When he and his wife arrived, the average attendance on a Sunday was close to 90 people. They are currently at 400, and they have two services instead of one.

Adding a Livestream on Sundays helped immensely for those who were infirmed or traveling, and the church saw an increase in the offering. 

Pastor Coleman insists that he is not interested in having a mega church, and said that research backs him on this — that people want to worship in a place where they feel at home, with a familiarity that isn’t often found in larger congregations.

The other crucial thing that Pastor Coleman implemented is an annual audit of the church, so the membership is aware of how the money is spent.

As Pastor Jerome and his wife, Rev. Kimberly Coleman approach another year of being in the ministry of educating and elevating the lives of people, it is remarkable to see how the journey from parole agent to lead pastor in the pulpit was predestined and truly in divine order.

Disclaimer: 

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.

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