The Rev. A. Byron Coleman III talked of a David that battled lions and bears while tending to sheep, and then went on to slay Goliath.
On Sunday, Coleman, the pastor of Fifth Street Missionary Baptist Church, 801 NE 5 Street, mixed an old story and one still developing in a sermon titled “Don't Underestimate Me.”
The final season of the NBA franchise in Seattle, 2007-08, the team was 20-62. In 2008-09, the inaugural season as the Oklahoma City Thunder, only three wins were claimed in the first 32 games. But the Thunder showed some improvement and finished with a record of 23-59.
The next year they earned a spot in the 2010 NBA Playoffs. That season was Coleman's first as a chaplain with the Thunder.
He shares chaplain responsibilities with Cedric Hardimon, whom he describes as a “great asset.”
Hardimon, 31, is now recreation minister at First Baptist Church of Moore. About an hour and a half before tipoff at home games, the chaplains lead the chapel message. Many times the room is full, Coleman, 41, said.
Coleman told his congregation that if they want life to be fulfilling, they have to get over what people think about them and realize that they are God's.
David didn't see himself as underdog, he said.
“We don't need to listen to pundits in our life tell us what they think people are going to do,” he said. “If that be the case, if we had listened to what people said about us, we should have lost in the first round, we should have lost in the second round and we should have lost in the Western Conference Finals.
“In your life ... with the way many people didn't think you were going to make it ... you should have lost in the first round of your life, you should have lost in the second round, you should have lost in the third round.”
Taking it personal
Sitting along the aisle in the second pew was Mary Parish, 37, of Oklahoma City. She's been a Christian for 25 years and “a Thunder fan since the Thunder have been the Thunder.”
“I'm a huge sports fan,” she said, “so I immediately jumped on the Thunder bandwagon.”
During the sermon, she laughed, she shouted words of praise, and she identified with it.
She remembers years back when she sat in church, broken with doubt. Parish had little confidence and felt that when she tried to make gains, there were some who tried to convince her she just didn't measure up.
Parish said Coleman encouraged her through prayer and guidance.
She started working toward and obtained a bachelor's degree at Southern Nazarene University and is now one year from completing a master's degree in Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma.
“I underestimated myself, people underestimated me, but I killed some giants,” she said referring to the message. “I have taken down giants.”
Coleman challenged the congregation to think of how many people underestimated David.
The pastor told those listening Sunday that they stayed focused.
“Look at where you're at now,” he said. “Imagine where you'd be if the folks who didn't like you determined your future. But somewhere in you're spirit you've got to drum up these words ‘Don't you ever underestimate me.'”