I was born in Greene County, Mississippi on November 14, 1929 to Paul and Ruth Ball. My wife, Shirley, the only child of Leonard and Kathleen Navello, was born and raised in London, England.
Shirley and I were married August 19, 1951, a few months prior to my completion of four years in the U.S. Air Force. My last place of duty was at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. Shirley was already employed as a secretary, so it was convenient for us to settle in that area. We were both near our twenty-fourth birthdays and very typical of most other couples our age. At that time, I had no college education but was able to secure employment with a growing consumer finance company in its management-training program. I was well into the training program and was recognized as an outstanding trainee in the company. From the standpoint of financial security, our future looked very promising. But that was about to change.
We both came to receive Christ and commit ourselves to Him October 10, 1953 at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Alexandria, Virginia. When we came to Christ, there was no bargaining on our part, just a complete and thorough submission of our lives to Him. From the time I was seventeen years old, I had known in my heart that there was a call on my life into the ministry. Though I knew very little about the things of God, I knew I was supposed to be a preacher. As soon as I received salvation, the call of Yahweh that had lain dormant in my heart was awakened to permeate and dominate every waking moment of my life and to set in motion a chain of events that continue to this day. The first event to subsequently occur was the awesome, powerful, dynamic experience of being baptized in the Holy Ghost, with the evidence of speaking in tongues...praying in the Spirit...which would prove to be the catalyst that would guide me for the rest of my days.
Then, on a Wednesday night in late spring of 1954, we were at Full Gospel Tabernacle. In the service that night, I stood and quoted a verse of Scripture. That moment is just as vivid in my mind now as it was then. It was one of those spontaneous moments when an unplanned, unrehearsed word of no apparent importance was spoken, yet now all these years later it is evident to me that it was one of the most powerful words ever spoken over my life.
I was seated about five rows from the front on the left side of the auditorium that would seat about a thousand people. Pastor Obie Harrup invited individuals to stand and quote a favorite verse of Scripture. At that time, my knowledge of Scripture was very limited, but I stood and quoted the only verse I knew that could encourage me: “Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it.” That night, I had no understanding of prophecy, or the power of spoken words to shape our lives; I could not have envisioned our lives fifty days into our future, much less fifty-plus years. I was not aware of any great gift of faith present within me and any boldness I might have had would have been born of ignorance of the difficulties lying ahead.
My vague understanding of the call of God began to crystalize, and I began to tell others about it, even those in the office where I was working. Had I known the consequences, perhaps I would have done as Mary, the mother of Yahshua, did: I would have simply pondered them in my heart. But whatever the course of wisdom might have been, the Lord used my talking about being a preacher to move me into preparation for the ministry to which I was called.
Near the end of November, about six weeks after coming to Christ, I was suddenly and unexplainably faced with a decision that would test me in regard to my trust in financial security or in the living God. One of the top executives of the company came to talk with me about this idea that one day I would be a preacher. During the course of our conversation, he assured me that the company was not opposed to my being a Christian, but was troubled by the thought that one day I might leave them to become a preacher, and thus the company would lose its investment in me. He was very careful to tell me how highly the company rated me, and to explain the financial rewards in the years to come. But then he did something I had never known that company to do—I was given this ultimatum: "Either forget the idea of ever being a preacher and commit yourself to this company, or you will be asked to resign effective at the end of the year." I was given one week to make my decision.
Now, to understand the magnitude of that decision, you need to understand something of our circumstances. Like most young couples, married a little more than two years, we were in debt for the things needed to establish a home. We were expecting our first child the first of February, which meant that Shirley would also be leaving her job at the end of the year. Add to this the fact that we were one thousand miles from family or anyone we could call upon for assistance, and you can grasp the seriousness of the choice—would we deny the call of God in order to hold on to the only financial security we knew, or would we acknowledge the call to the ministry and trust the living God to supply our needs.
During the next week, Shirley and I earnestly sought Yahweh by fasting and praying. Our conclusion was that we did not know the how or the when, but we knew Yahweh had called us into the ministry. At the appointed time, I informed the company of my decision and was told I could work for thirty days. So, New Year's Day, 1954, found us with no visible means of support, and no idea of what we would do in the coming days. We were unemployed, in debt, expecting our first child with no insurance, and had no one to turn to for help. But, we believed with all our hearts that we had done the right thing.
Looking for a job became my job, but that was made difficult because of another decision we had made. We had decided that we would relocate to Lakeland, Florida (we were living in Arlington, Virginia), where I would enroll in Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God that fall and begin preparing for the ministry. Finding another job would have been easy except I felt in all honesty I should tell the interviewer I had plans to go to college and so I only wanted to work for six months. That admission had a way of concluding each interview.
About a month later, an interview with a railroad company came to an end the same way. That time I did not walk out. I appealed to the gentleman that he needed someone to work, and I needed a job. After thinking it over briefly, he hired me. I went to work as a railroad brakeman in a large freight classification yard, working the extra board, which meant I worked mostly nights, weekends, and holidays, often working three shifts within a thirty-two hour period. I worked a lot of overtime. The result was that I earned twice the money I had earned on my previous job, and that enabled us to accumulate (rake and scrape is more accurate) enough to make our move at the end of the summer. Again, what the devil meant for bad, Yahweh turned to our good.
We were in Lakeland for six years, being schooled in the doctrines and tenants of the Assemblies of God. I was a student in the classroom, and to anyone who would listen, I was a teacher under the shade trees on the campus lawn. In addition to attending classes, I worked and provided as best as I could for my family, which by now had increased with the births of our second and third daughters. Going on little sleep and lots of commitment, I soon began pastoring my first church in Lakeland.
After I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southeastern College in 1958, and with honors from Florida Southern College in 1959, we left Lakeland and moved to a city near Merritt Island, Florida to pastor a small church. The actual name of the city was Angel City, which was inappropriately named because it was really a difficult place to pastor. Needless to say, we did not stay in Angel City very long.
After the two situations in Lakeland and Angel City where we had poured all that we had without much apparent success, we were a young family in need of a place and a people where we could enter into a time of a rest and refreshing. In 1960, Yahweh provided that for us in the city of Talladega, Alabama—and a people who made up the congregation of First Assembly of God—a people who received us and loved us, and we loved them. The six years with those people provided us with many wonderful and pleasant memories. It was a great place to raise a family, which by now had increased with the birth of our fourth child, a son.
In 1966, we accepted the invitation to pastor Hayden Road Assembly of God in Tallahassee, Florida. It was here that I began to receive the revelation about the importance of praying in the Spirit. This unveiling revelation would be the key to opening up the purpose that lay ahead for me and my family.
In many ways, the years from 1954-1969 were the hardest years of our lives, but today, Shirley and I would tell you that they were vital in the process of shaping us into who we were to become. The call of God still rang loud and clear in our souls, and it kept me pressing on, through the long hours working various jobs to support my family, nights of not enough sleep, and difficult days of pastoring. But it was worth it all, to follow the call.
Following the call is what led me and my family to Panama City. In 1969, I accepted the invitation to fill the position as pastor at Dirego Park Assembly of God. The early years in Panama City were a continuing battle, a struggle as to who would be the leader of the church: me or the people. Drawing on the revelation of praying much in the Spirit, I had learned how to war in the spirit and not in the flesh. It was my lifeline; without it, I would not have survived. My journey out of the darkness of religious doctrine began, one small step at a time. Gradually, Holy Spirit began to bring the bits and pieces together to form a bright, clear, detailed picture of Yahweh’s plan.
By 1980, I had finally become recognized and received as the leader of the church as it was at that time. But in fact, I had never expected to be in Panama City a long time. Like every other denominational preacher who tried to do a pretty good job, I had just hoped it was a stepping stone to something bigger and better. My thoughts were of moving to a large metropolitan area to put down roots where I could build something for the future. However, as I was giving serious consideration to going elsewhere, the last sentence of this chapter of my life was being finished. The page was being turned; a new chapter was about to begin.
In August of that year, 1980, as Shirley and I were driving down a long Arkansas highway, Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me, telling me to make a commitment of my life to the work we had begun in Panama City. That day, I did what I had preached to others again and again: I simply heard the voice of Yahweh, and obeyed. I came back to the people of Dirego Park Assembly of God and laid out the three-fold vision that I had been given: Evangelize Bay County, Build a great church, and Build a base from which to touch the world.
I had been given the mandate to build the house of the presence of God, so that His glory would fill all of the earth. But how was a man to set about doing that? The next few years, I had to deal with the pressure of the people resisting change; I dealt with the nagging thought of why can’t we just be a nice church, and at times, I even stared doubt and unbelief face to face. Once again, I did not know the how or the where, but deep in my soul I knew that it was Yahweh who spoke that word to me, and it would be Yahweh who would surely cause it to come to pass.
The work of building the house was more than just a remodeling of the old; it required a complete dissolution of what was, laying again the foundation of the apostles and prophets, so that the house that would be, could stand strong and secure. Gone were the days of being ruled by deacon boards and the vote of the people, forgotten were those times of struggling as to who would be the leader of this house; that was established– it was the man of God.
In April, 1986. In order to more fully pursue the purposes of Yahweh, I, the men on my staff, and The Rock of Panama City officially withdrew from the Assemblies of God denomination and incorporated as The Rock of Panama City, an independent, non-aligned church. We left with a good record and a good attitude. The primary reason for withdrawal from the denomination was to be able to raise up, send out, establish and release others whom God had called into the ministry.
Perhaps the most defining moment for me personally was the day I accepted the truth that I was indeed one of Yahweh’s great men, an apostle in the faith. I realized that I am a spiritual father, and a father’s responsibility to sons goes beyond just birthing and feeding and clothing the sons. My vision became, as a true father after the heart of Yahweh, to establish men in their own houses (ministries), allowing the seed to be planted for fruit that will remain.
After I embraced the office of apostle, my life took a new turn. I was driven to pray even more in the Spirit, and I was instructed by Yahweh to give myself to preaching without studying the Bible. I had to step out from under the taxing burden of religion, oftentimes finding myself in the desert, separated from the crowd, eventually walking away from peer relationships that were fruitless, because, Holy Spirit said, they say and do not do.
And so my journey progressed, day after day, line upon line, here a little, there a little. Yahweh soon began moving me into the most radical revelations I had ever received. It all began with the message of restoring correct order in finances, for the church and for the home. In this message the foundation for Yahweh’s house was laid, with each subsequent revelation being stacked like brick upon brick. The unfolding revelation of Yahweh’s name, restoring the recognition of the five-fold governmental ministry, and preaching that the Kingdom of Yahweh is above and beyond the tentacled grasp of denomination – these were landmark steps into establishing the Ekklesia as Yahweh intended it to be. Along the way, we never built monuments to mark these revelations, never merchandised the unveilings of truth, and never turned the manifestation into an exhibition. New, fresh, oftentimes radical–each revelation became the stepping stone for the next one to come.
I am so very thankful to Yahweh for equipping and enabling me and Shirley to live and move and have our being in Him and the work to which we were called. As long as I live, I will look back upon that moment in 1954 when a twenty-four year old stood and by his spoken word shaped his life to be conformed to Yahweh’s will. Now, these many years later, it is not by faith, but by conviction born of experience that I say: “Faithful is He who calls you, He also will do it.”
On Sunday, January 28, 2018, Nolan Ball and Shirley Ball announced to the congregation at The Rock of Panama City that after over 60 years of service to the work of the Lord (with 48 of those years in Panama City) they had made the decision to retire from active ministry.
Over the past 60+ years, through changes and revelations and teachings, ups and downs and highs and lows, victories won and battles lost, Nolan and Shirley Ball remained committed to the will and purpose of Yahweh. Because of that commitment, a new generation of people have been and are being changed from glory to glory, becoming the habitation of the glory of Yahweh. From Angel City to Panama City, literally thousands of lives have been changed through their life and ministry.
In a world where faithfulness is a rarity, the people of The Rock of Panama City salute this faithful man and woman. Apostle, Miss Shirley - we celebrate the blessing of your impartation into our lives. We salute you for your many years of dedication to the work to which you were called. We are truly thankful for the privilege of being given the opportunity to walk with you as we become those in whom Yahweh’s glory is being revealed.
Apostle Ball himself said it best: "And now, as we have come to this day, I have a conviction and a belief that we – and indeed all of us who are a part of the Kingdom of Christ – were born for such a time as this. Let us go on."
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