The Norman Transcript

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September 13, 2013

First Baptist members teaming up to change the downtown community

NORMAN — Members of First Baptist Church know that God is always at work.

“God is always moving and working and serving and ministering in us, and part of our task as followers is to identify where God is moving and then come along and join him and be a part of that ministry,” Senior Pastor Wade Smith said Wednesday during the MannaFest luncheon the church hosts monthly.

For the last 10 years, the church has moved with God on Sunday afternoons, serving a meal at Food and Shelter, 104 W. Comanche St.

When the church first started serving meals, they were serving about 40 to 50 individuals in a community they refer to as the Friendship Community. Now, there are about 150 to 200 attending the Sunday lunch.

“Over that 10 years, as you grow from that 40 to 50 to 150 to 200 on Sunday, it’s created some growing pains. We’ve seen a wonderful Bible study class that has begun to really reach out to that community,” Smith said.

Those growing pains have now led to questions about the church’s role with the downtown community, but through conversation, Wade said, they now realize the answers.

“We are compelled to deal with this mandate that God is about feeding the hungry. He’s about caring for the poor. He’s about providing food and clothing and shelter for those who don’t have it. He’s about liberating the oppressed, those from addiction and whatever they struggle with,” Smith said. “What we also discovered was that a lot of folks were coming for the food service that didn’t desire the Bible study, they didn’t want to be a part of the worship and were looking for a place for shelter to get out of the weather.

“As we noticed our Friendship Community changing, it really caused us to take the opportunity to step back and say, ‘We really need to look at this and understand what some of the greater problems are.”

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