A revelation of God’s plan for Frank Edward Coleman’s life came via the gentle touch of trembling fingertips. But it was another plan, The Plan, which enabled him to take his most decisive stride down the road to pastorship.
A 13-year-old at Oakland City’s Oak Grove General Baptist Church, Frank was one of about a dozen kids in a Sunday School class which suddenly found itself without an adult teacher.
“After a couple of weeks of just goofing off and watching TV in the youth room, there were several of us that thought we’d like to learn about the Bible,” said Frank, 31, the pastor at American Baptist East.
Frank and two young ladies began standing up and reading scripture in an open forum environment. A couple of weeks later while Frank was reading, there came a knock on the door. Reverend J.W. Creasey, a General Baptist minister in his 70s or 80s, barged in and asked, “Who was just reading the scriptures?”
Frank emitted a sheepish “I guess I was” and was told, “You come out in the hallway with me right now.” Then out in the hall Creasey motioned to another door and said, “Let’s go in this room.”
The teenager didn’t know what to think. “I was like, ‘What are we going in the empty room for? Did I say something wrong or whatever?’ ”
The aged pastor looked Frank in the eye and said, “No, you said everything right.” He reached into his blazer pocket and pulled out a small container of oil.
With trembling hands, he applied it to Frank’s forehead, saying, “I want you to know from this point forward that you are affirmed into the ministry of God. You will not accept this calling for a long time, but when you do, it will be because you don’t know what else to do with your life and you’ll know that it’s the only thing that you have left, the most important thing you have left. It’s going to keep you up at night and you’re not going to know what to do with yourself until you accept your calling.”
At the time, Frank didn’t understand why Creasey would say such a thing.
“There was something about that humble servant of God, that little trembling hand that he had and just the simple gesture of oil on my head,” Frank said. “It was so powerful and I didn’t understand the power behind that moment that it had in my life.”
It was one of Frank’s first defining moments. “Because of my dad, I knew that different people were called in different ways into the ministry,” he said. His father, Frank Allison Coleman, is currently the senior pastor at Ayrshire Valley General Baptist Church in Winslow, Ind. “Everyone knew dad. He was the state trooper in Pike County,” said Frank. “There were two or three other troopers, but back in those days dad would work as a detective in cases and he was pulling people over, but he was also a preacher.”
When you’re a preacher’s kid, being held to a higher standard of conduct is expected. Add in being the kid of a state trooper and it’s somewhat of a double whammy, isn’t it?
“If I’d have been just a preacher’s kid I would have been incredibly rebellious,” said Frank. “But then the policeman side of my dad would have come out and I would never have been rebellious at all because we had this thing called a paddle. “He wouldn’t use it on me too often but I remember there were a couple of times I said or did something wrong. “The thing is, I never saw hatred or malicious intent in my father’s eyes.”
Being a pastor’s son afforded Frank some unique opportunities, like delivering a sermon or two.
“I got to walk in his shoes in ministry even younger than 14 and watched as he did evangelistic work,” said Frank. “Seeing hundreds of people over the course of a week or two come to the Lord, and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘This is going to change the entire community.’ When I hear about someone giving their heart to Jesus, or multiple people giving their hearts to Jesus at one time, I’m thinking, ‘They don’t understand the impact that this is about to have on everyone that stays in contact with them. It changes everything. I love that phrase because Jesus changes everything for us.”
God certainly changed everything for the Colemans in 1986. “My mother was not medically able to have kids but I was that one in a million or one in a billion chance,” said Frank, whose parents were living in Indianapolis and were a bit concerned about potential hospital bills. They had no health insurance.
But the same day Mom learned of her pregnancy, his father found out that he had been accepted into the Indiana State Police Academy. “That meant health insurance kicked in on that day,” said Frank. “The doctor said, ‘I can’t believe that you’re pregnant. You’re unable to be pregnant. I don’t understand this.’ ”
His father preached in Newburgh, Wadesville and Poseyville at General Baptist churches. “He was a trouble shooter so he would come in after there was a big blowup or meltdown and try to rebuild them,” said Frank. “As a state trooper, my dad would arrest people who made bad decisions, put them in a squad car and then he would witness to them.”
Frank recalled the case of an elderly Vincennes man who had a couple of young kids break into his home to steal guns so that they could buy drugs. But they ended up killing him. When Frank’s dad arrived to transport them to jail, the two kids were in separate squad cars, both crying.
“Dad got in one squad car and said, ‘Why are you crying? The response was ‘Because of what we did to that old man. It wasn’t supposed to go down like that.’ Frank’s dad said, ‘You have a debt to pay to society, but God can forgive you for what you did.’ My dad led that kid in the sinner’s prayer and he gave his heart to Jesus in the back of that squad car on the way to prison.”
More than once, the young man wrote Frank’s dad from prison, telling him, “I just want you to know that I’ll always remember the conversation we had in the back of that squad car and that Jesus is the center of my life. Thank you.”
“It’s tough to be a Christian in those situations because you tend to see so much bad,” said Frank. “But in the midst of horrible sin, a light shines through. God just needs a light and a light breaks into the darkness. And my father was that light to so many families, witnessing while holding peoples’ hands while they take their last breath at an accident scene or interacting in the life of fellow officers.”
Frank needed a light to break into his own darkness in 2004-05. He was extremely overweight (330 pounds) and stuck in the depths of a video game addiction to games like Halo and Call Of Duty.
“I was making so much money playing on-line video games that I was paying for my college education outright with what I was making,” recalled Frank. “Play long enough, you have an account, you level a character up, then you go on eBay and you sell the account. I was selling accounts for $700 or $1,000 apiece.”
The price paid was far too high.
“I’d spend four or five days at a time with no sleep, destroying my body. It’s highly competitive and the only way to get good is to practice a lot, like with sports. I was drinking two four-packs of Red Bull a day to stay awake,” he said. “I’d drink coffee and consume Expresso beans by the handfuls to stay awake. Then I’d crash and sleep for two days at a time. I’d wake up with slight atrophy in my legs from being completely numb from not doing anything. It was horrible. I was just an ugly dude. I stunk, was socially inept, wasn’t confident and didn’t think I was worth anything.”
Frank testified to the strength of the addiction.
“A game that I will never touch again is World Of Warcraft. It’s one of the oldest on-line video games. I saw families shattered and people moving in with people who had paid for their subscription to this on-line game. Video games are more addictive than heroine. The about of dopamine released by the brain is higher than a heroine addict.”
Four years later, on June 6, 2009, Frank married Leagha.
“I was still into the video games but Leagha had kind of taken me away from it because I loved her so much. She distracted me from it,” said Frank. “But it was when I first saw the ultrasound of my son Isaac (now 5) that I realized something: I’m 330 pounds; my back hurts; my knees hurt; my feet hurt. I’m not going to make it to 40.”
At the time, Frank was working at the Rescue Mission downtown when Scott Wineinger, the director at Camp Reveal, walked up to him and said, “I can tell you’re struggling with something. I want to tell you about The Plan.”
The plan was to read the sound doctrine of Titus 2.
“I came home and I looked at my wife and said, ‘Honey, I realize what I need to do.’ ” He admitted to being unloving, a poor listener and uncompassionate. “I realized what I needed to do for the sake of my God and my family. I sat down with her that day and I read Titus 2 through and she teared up and said, ‘I’m glad that you finally understand what it means to be a man of God.’ She was so patient and kind with me.
“I write Titus 2 out, the entire chapter, every day. I’ve done that for the last 2 ½ years.” Titus is also the name of the Coleman’s four-month-old baby.
Raised in Petersburg, Ind., Frank graduated from Pike Central High School in 2004. He started college at Oakland City, transferred to the University of Evansville for 2 ½ years and then finished his bachelor’s degree at Oakland City. He’s currently attending Oakland City’s Chapman Seminary and is about halfway through a 90-hour Masters in Divinity program.
He is thankful for his first four months at ABE.
“Every member here at American Baptist East is making me a better person and a better pastor,” said Frank. “That’s how I know I’m walking in His will. I’m building relationships and am incredibly blessed.”
Frank lists his hobbies as Cincinnati Reds baseball, music and Star Wars. “There is a ton of theological meaning behind almost every character in Star Wars,” he said.
He has no siblings.
“I’m an only child, but there are two guys that I consider my brothers. Jared Pleuss and I are very close and very blunt with each other. And Dr. Donn Tiu Tuomg, a doctor at St. Mary’s, along with his wife Erin, have always been there for me, my wife and kids.”
Pastor Frank is excited about ABE’s future.
“We have a ton of love and hospitality. They’re our strongest traits,” he said. “I want to expand off of our strengths so we can get what it means to love God and love others. Then we’ll grow stronger together and united as a church body.
“And when a community sees that a church is united, that’s attractive to the world because the world is full of chaos, is not united and does not work well together with others. For a church to do that, it sets them apart from the norm. That’s exactly where we want to be.”
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