The Norman Transcript

September 13, 2013

First Baptist members teaming up to change the downtown community

By Shana Adkisson
The Norman Transcript

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.”

So, after several weeks of discussion, the church has now partnered with Food and Shelter again to offer Kingdom Ministry that will begin this Sunday.

The idea of the ministry is to seek the help of other churches in the downtown area and provide a dinner at Food and Shelter at 4 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of the month.

“We have been talking with other downtown churches and trying to create a Kingdom Coalition and find folks that would be willing to walk with us. Food and Shelter has been very gracious and generous and eager to partner,” Smith said.

Smith expects that on the first Sunday of the month, there will be a spiritual focus or seminar and on the third Sunday, the church will open its clothing pantry for those in need.

“We’re excited about doing this. We’re excited about partnering with some other churches. I’ve talked to three pastors between downtown and Campus Corner over the last weeks that are struggling with some of the issues we are with the changing downtown community,” Smith said. “We don’t want this to be a Baptist thing as much as we want to be just a place where we can gather to encourage each other in our faith and have a place to connect and network and have some conversation as it relates to the Kingdom of God.”

Food and Shelter Executive Director April Doshier also was at Wednesday’s lunch.

“This has been, I think, a beautiful process. I think this is how our community should work together. When we see an issue, it doesn’t turn to one person to solve the issue, but we’ve joined forces and created something that is probably going to be more widely affective than any one of us could have done on our own,” Doshier said.

For more information about the project or to partner with First Baptist Church, call 321-1753.