NEW PALESTINE — Forty years ago, Hubert Nolen had a plan.
It was a plan that included hog farming and making as much money as he could.
Meanwhile, a friend of his went to jail, became a Christian there and after getting out invited Nolen to church.
Nolen said sure. He’d been before. He figured he’d sit in the back, maybe clean out his billfold.
What happened next changed the plan.
Nolen said in that service in January 1976, he felt for the first time that he understood the message being shared. He made a commitment and soon felt God was calling him to be a pastor.
Now, he said he feels another call.
He has stepped away from his 33-year role as lead pastor of Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine to launch of a new ministry, perhaps better described as a network of ministries — the Hope Center.
Nolen has long been inspired by the Dream Center, ever since he heard Tommy Barnett, one of its founders, speak in the mid 1990s at a pastors’ conference in Oklahoma City. The “church that never sleeps” operates in a former hospital building in Los Angeles and offers a wide range of ministries addressing nutrition, addiction recovery, medical care and other needs.
About 18 months ago, Nolen watched a video about the center and felt God was leading him; now is the time to start the multi-faceted Hope Center on the east side of Indianapolis, he knew.
Brookville Road leaders supported the idea.
Nolen said they told him he didn’t have to leave to launch it, but he felt leadership of each church is its own full- time responsibility.
With Nolen’s departure, Kris Sorensen becomes the lead pastor at Brookville Road. Sorensen, already a part of the pastoral staff there, has 14 years’ experience as a senior pastor in two previous locations. Both men say the rest of the church employees are a strong staff who will help make the transition a smooth one.
Sorensen described Nolen as someone full of joy and grace.
“He has a missionary heart,” Sorensen said. “Out of that passion is birthed this desire.
“He leaves a legacy of passion to spread the gospel and reach outside of our walls.”
The vision for the Hope Center is also bigger than the walls of a church. It includes a church, but it also includes a recovery ministry, a round-the-clock prayer center, a school, seminary courses and a church planting center.
Brookville Road was a church plant of Community Church of Greenwood when Nolen became pastor. He had graduated from Bible college in Kansas and was pursuing a master’s degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky when a pastor from the Greenwood church called him about the job. Nolen said no.
Eventually he reconsidered, though, and in 1983, Brookville Road Community Church began meeting in rented space in a Seventh-Day Adventist church on South Franklin Road in Indianapolis.
The sandwich board that members of the new church set by the road was only out on Sunday mornings.
“Even in spite of that, we began to grow,” Nolen said.
The church bought five acres on the western edge of New Palestine in 1986.
It built a building and later expanded it. It planted other churches here and abroad, with the area church plants including Shelbyville Community Church, Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield and Living Streams Community Church in McCordsville.
In the Feb. 13 and 14 services, Nolen preached his last sermons at Brookville Road as senior pastor of the church he helped found.
Greg Ruble, pastor of Living Streams, attended the Feb. 13 service and said it was marked by emotion, especially for those who have been part of the Brookville Road congregation for a long time.
Ruble was once part of that congregation himself. He remembers when he sensed his own call to be a pastor and went to talk with Nolen about it. He said Nolen saw in him what he didn’t see in himself at the time.
“I never would have pastored a church, never would have gotten up to preach a sermon, if it hadn’t been for Hubert,” Ruble said.
“He’s been a great example of a man of prayer and faith in my life. … He’s somebody that God’s going to use.”
Hubert Nolen is looking at possible locations for the Hope Center, considering sites of 100,000 square feet or larger. Possible ministries housed there, in addition to a church, include residential recovery space and a school.
He also hopes the Hope Center site can include a revenue-creating venture to offer partial support for the center and also job opportunities for people getting back on their feet. Would it be a greenhouse, a coffee shop, a bookstore? “A lot of that’s going to have to come from people who have those skills,” he said.
The Hope Center is part of Brookville Road Community Church’s mission budget, and Nolen said there’s interest among some of the other area Community churches in supporting the project. But the projected scope of the center is so large “I need an army of volunteers,” he said.
Nolen encourages people interested to watch the Dream Center video at http://www.dreamcenter.org/about-us/ to get an idea of what the Hope Center might be. Those interested in helping can reach Nolen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Brookville Road Community Church at 317-861-3880 and ask for Nolen’s voicemail box.