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98 Church doesn’t loaf around with ‘Bread of life’ outreach

ALVA, Okla. (BP)–There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh-baked bread. Just ask pastor Buddy Hunt.
Every Monday morning when Hunt walks into his office, the aroma of fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves of bread permeate the air.
But even better than the aroma of the bread is the people who are contacted by giving away the loaves, said Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Alva, Okla.
Since Hunt became the church’s pastor last November, he and music minister Charla Parker spend Mondays delivering loaves of bread to those who visited the Sunday worship services.
“It’s a way to let people know we appreciate them visiting our church,” Hunt said.
When Hunt welcomes guests in the Sunday morning service, he encourages them to fill out a registration card by telling them, “We have a gift we want to bring to you.”
He said they average delivering four loaves a week.
“We have driven 132 miles in one day delivering bread,” Hunt mused. “We went 40 miles to visit one home, and they joined the church the next Sunday. They said, ‘If someone would drive that far, they must really care about us.'”
Stickers on the cellophane-wrapped bread, which is baked by 12 bakers in the church, read: “Bread of life. First Baptist Church would like for you to come worship with us this Sunday.”
“It is so much better than just handing out a brochure about the church,” Hunt said.
The bread can also be a witnessing tool, the pastor added He related visiting a young man who was a Catholic but said he wanted to convert to Baptist.
“I told him there was something more important than being a Baptist, and that is being a Christian,” Hunt said. “I started with the loaf of bread, talked about the bread of life and led him to the Lord.”
Hunt said if a visitor to the Sunday morning service works in a business, he and Parker will sometimes take the bread there.
“Business associates will ask about it,” Hunt said. “It helps them to know that First Baptist cares.”
“The church is growing in the area of young adults,” Parker noted. “We had a solid group of senior adults and a good group of college students. But because young couples are joining, our preschool department has doubled in the last three months.
Hunt said the bread ministry, as well as a new outreach and visitation program, has spurred growth at First Baptist. “We average 12 to 17 people visiting in the community every Saturday morning,” he said.
Sunday school attendance at First Baptist is averaging more than 200, the highest in more than 16 years, and the church had its largest worship attendance in 10 years in February. In the first four months of Hunt’s pastorate, the church had 20 baptisms and 31 additions by letter or statement. The church had been averaging nine baptisms a year.
Lois Sense, one of the bread bakers, said there is an excitement around the church.
“Everyone in the church is involved. Even if they can’t get out and do much, they are praying,” she said. “It’s contagious.”
During the month February, the church celebrated four weeks of “Love in Action.”
“The first week, Sunday school members secretly did an act of love for another member,” Huntd said. “That might have been washing their car, sending flowers or candy, free passes to the movie or a free lunch.” The next week, Sunday school members did something for absentees, and then, the next week, for prospects.
At the end of the week, they called and invited them to Sunday school.
“It didn’t take a lot for them to know who did the act of love for them,” Hunt said.
The final Sunday of the month was “Love my church Sunday,” when testimonies of what the church means to members were given and there was a fellowship for those who joined the church in the last year.
Hunt said he is looking at a balanced ministry for the church — “to build a strong Sunday school from preschool through senior adults, a strong missions program (the church recently revived the Royal Ambassador program), a strong music ministry and a strong prayer ministry.”
He said Wednesday nights are focused on what the first church did in Acts — prayer, fellowship and discipleship.
“Revival has come to Alva, and we are experiencing it,” Hunt said.

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  • Dana Williamson