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Student’s heart for evangelism began the day he was saved

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–To this day, Tim Nobles can tell the story of his conversion experience as if it happened last week.

The time. The place. The details.

He was standing on the beach of Hilton Head Island, S.C., listening to his friend, Mike Schaffner, share the plan of salvation. Dusk had fallen over the peaceful ocean, but Nobles, a young college student, had anything but peace in his heart. The Holy Spirit was dealing with him, convicting him of his sin.

Soon, Nobles prayed to receive Christ. Feeling overwhelmed, he fell to his knees.

“I just hit my knees,” he said. “I won’t ever forget that.”

Neither will a handful of people who just happened to be on the beach at the time of Nobles’ conversion. Overjoyed, Nobles ran along the beach, telling vacationers what had just happened. He led three people to Christ. Nobles had been a Christian less than an hour, but he was already fulfilling part of the Great Commission.

An evangelist was born.

“Not only did God save me that night, but he put a word in my heart to share with other people,” he said. “I led three people to the Lord — just by telling them what had happened to me. I was telling them what happened to me 10 minutes ago.”

Eleven years have passed since that night of Oct. 6, 1990, but Nobles has not slowed down. Now a master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the 33-year-old Georgia native is even more committed to evangelize the lost and disciple new believers. He serves as singles minister at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., where the number of active members in his Sunday school class has grown from 42 to 100 during his two years of service. He also fills two other roles in the church — coordinator of the church’s East Campus and coordinator of the East Campus FAITH evangelistic team.

Nobles and his wife, Sondra, also have three children.

“I don’t think I can do any more,” he said, laughing.

Such has been the case from the moment Nobles gave his life to Christ. Since that night on the beach in 1990, he has worked to share the gospel with people in every area of his life — especially his job.

After graduating from the Medical College of Georgia (Augusta) in 1991, Nobles and his wife moved to Warner Robins, Ga. God provided both with jobs. Sondra took a teaching position as a speech and language pathologist in the local school system — even though it was mid-school year. Tim worked as an orthopedic specialist within a local hospital, helping people rehabilitate injuries.

From the start, Nobles viewed his career as a mission field.

“I got a list of all the employees who worked at [the hospital] — 2,163 if I remember correctly,” he recounted. “I began with a highlighter, trying to share the gospel with every employee of Houston Medical Center. As I got to know other Christians, then I would delegate them the emergency room, and they would share the gospel with people in the emergency room.”

This message of non-stop evangelism is one that Nobles still stresses.

“I preach ministering on the job,” he said. “That’s where we’re going to get them [lost people]. Church is for the assembly of believers to worship God. … Evangelism is for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in your workplace, in your neighborhood, at your softball game, at your bowling alley. That is where you share the gospel. That is where you lead people to the Lord. Then you bring them into the house of the Lord to worship God.”

God also blessed the Nobles’ ministry at Central Baptist Church, Warner Robins, where the couple was heavily involved. Their young couples Sunday school class started off with six members but eventually grew to 88. A Bible study for youth grew from 37 to 120. A Wednesday night college class grew from four members to more than 40.

The story was the same at the hospital’s rehab clinic. When Nobles arrived at the clinic, there were only two Christians among 27 employees. When he left, 33 of the 35 employees were Christians.

“The whole hospital seemed to have been evangelized,” he said. “It was so easy to walk around and talk about God. … It just seemed like the mission had come to an end, so I knew that change was coming. We — other believers and I — had shared the gospel with a majority of the people.”

During his final three years in Warner Robins, Nobles had been serving as a part-time evangelist, traveling around Georgia and preaching to high school and college students two to three times per week.

Nobles’ call into full-time ministry came on Jan. 11, 1999, which just happened to be his 30th birthday. He was in his backyard that Sunday morning, using a flashlight to read 1 Samuel. God called, and Nobles answered. He entered the house, then looked at his wife.

“Not a word was said. She just looked at me, got real teary-eyed, and asked, ‘How long do I have to pack?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Nobles knew very little about the world of seminary education, although he did know a little about Southern. The year before, Southern President R. Albert Mohler Jr. had preached at Central Baptist.

“I met him in the hallway and had a conversation with him for about 15 minutes,” Nobles said. “It was a blessing. The very next week he sent me a handwritten letter telling me he enjoyed speaking with me and that he was praying for me. He knew that God had his hand on my life.”

Southern was the only seminary Nobles visited. He and his wife moved to the Louisville campus in the fall of 1999. For two weeks that fall, Nobles used his career training to practice home health therapy. Despite the high pay, Nobles calls it the worst two weeks of his life. He was living out of the will of God.

Without a job in the wings, Nobles quit his job on a Thursday. The following Sunday he met Highview Baptist minister Kevin Ezell, who phoned Nobles the next day and hired him one week later.

Once again, God had provided.

“What we found here was a flourishing ministry at Highview Baptist Church,” Nobles said.

The singles department grew so much under Nobles that it was called upon to form the foundation of Highview’s East Campus, which began services last fall. Ezell asked the majority of the singles to move east, and they did.

At the heart of the East Campus is evangelism. The campus’ sole purpose is to reach that part of the city with the gospel of Christ. The FAITH evangelism strategy is a main ingredient.

“I love the FAITH outreach,” Nobles said. “That’s my heart — discipleship and evangelism. FAITH outreach has been a blessing, because you’re training people to share their faith in a bold manner. It is the lifeline of the church. If you do not train the members of the body of Christ to go out and share the gospel and multiply themselves, your church will not grow. … We’re commanded to go forth and share the gospel.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TIM NOBLES.

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  • Michael Foust