Brenton Winn broke into Central Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas on February 28, 2019. This was after he relapsed from faith-based recovery program, was high on methamphetamines and angry at God for his relapse into addiction.
The 23-year-old’s actions ended up destroying $100,000 worth of church property. He broke cameras, laptops and anything else of value he could get his hands on.
Winn didn’t pick Central Baptist for any particular reason, all he knew was that he was furious with God, and was desperate to lash out his rage at the building that represented God.
Winn was raised in a God-fearing home, but as a teen he turned to drugs as a way to cope. “Before I knew it, I had a full-blown drug addiction. From the time I was 16 until a few months ago, my life was nothing but chaos, suicide attempts and brokenness.” Winn revealed.
However, that night which was ‘the worst night of his life’ turned out to be the turning point and start of God’s powerful redemption on Winn’s life.
In 2016, after completing a two-week recovery program, Winn stayed clean for a year and even got a job. However, his downward spiral into relapse started when in September of 2017 when his cousin committed suicide. Soon, he was homeless, hopeless, and full of anger toward God.
Winn was facing up to 20 years in jail for his crime, but the senior pastor of Central Baptist, Don Chandler, decided to forgive and guide the recovering addict to the light.
“You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church. Had we not shown some grace to him, everything we’ve talked about and encouraged, would have gone by the wayside. It was simply the right thing to do. This was not a hardened criminal. This was a young man who had made some mistakes. He was on drugs and alcohol when he did what he did. But he was redeemable.” Pastor Chandler said.
Pastor Chandler met with the prosecutor and said that he and the church would like to help with Winn’s rehabilitation instead of getting him punished for what he had done. Luckily, the judge on Winn’s case, also happened to be a board member of Renewal Ranch. He gave Winn the option to either go to jail for up to 20 years or complete Renewal Ranch’s 12-month Bible-based recovery program.
Winn opted to go to Renewal Ranch. Only six months into the program, he gave his life to Christ.
The ministry’s executive director reveled, “Our goal of this program is to make reproducing disciple-makers for Jesus Christ. I tell people, my goal is not for them to be abstinent of drugs and alcohol. I want that for their lives, but my main goal is for these men to fall in love with Jesus. Through that personal love relationship, there’s freedom from the bonds of addiction.”
Speaking of the moment he got saved, Win said, “I gave my heart to Christ that night. I used to think it was a coincidence [that I chose to break into the church that night], but now I call it confirmation that God is real, and He answers prayers. What was weighing on my heart was that I needed a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
6 months later, Winn stood in a baptismal pool at the same church he broke into, as Central Baptist’s associate pastor of ministries, Mike Lefler, baptized him before the congregation. “We’re challenging our members to continue praying for this man because his story is not over. And that’s true for every one of us. God is still working a beautiful story of grace in every one of our lives.” Pastor Lefler said.
Now Winn, realizes that his decision to break into that particular church was no coincidence. “As I’m starting to understand how God works, I’ve realized I didn’t pick the church that night. God picked me. If it had been any other church, I think I’d be sitting in prison right now.” he said.
Winn’s story is incredible proof that a personal relationship with Jesus can transform anyone, regardless of how far they’ve fallen. God’s love is eternal and cannot be changed by our transgressions.