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October-November 2023

Forging Ahead


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The Story of Awaken Free Will Baptist Church


From Auction to Altar

By Josh Bennett


I walked into the dusty, fluorescent-lit warehouse. It was nothing special, just a big open room with old, squeaky bleachers arranged in a U-shape. Pallets of random supplies were scattered across the floor, each finding its way to the auction house by way of a semi-truck wreck. I was 16 years old and found myself attending the auction with a friend and her grandfather. He frequented the auctions, buying an assortment of items to later resell at a local livestock auction. I think it was more of a hobby than a job, but he certainly seemed to enjoy it.

As I absorbed all this place had to offer, from the lady at the door registering attendees and assigning numbers to the auctioneer who rapidly and loudly worked his way through pallet after pallet, nothing seemed remarkable. Memorable, maybe, but not remarkable.

Fast-forward 20 years and I found myself back in my hometown looking, searching, and praying for God to provide a location for Awaken Free Will Baptist Church to launch. I was shocked, even hesitant, when our real estate agent suggested we meet at the “Old Southern Auction House.” I knew the building, and it was nothing special. I almost canceled the showing, but we were so desperate to find a place that turning down any potential option seemed a mistake.

Then something remarkable happened.

The moment we walked through the doors, time rewound and stood still. My mind flooded with memories of those old auctions. I could hear the auctioneer calling. I could smell the dusty, stale pallets, and I could picture myself sitting in the middle of the room taking it all in.

Suddenly, something shifted, and I saw the room differently. I could see Awaken Church filling the walls of that old warehouse. I envisioned a sanctuary, a café, classrooms, and offices. In that moment, the old auction house became something more, something remarkable.

In the following weeks, God worked in amazing ways on our behalf to provide the means to purchase the building and renovate it to meet our needs.

When I sat on those old, squeaky bleachers at 16 years old, I never imagined that, one day, God would allow me to plant a church in that very building. If you had told me then what the future held, I would have laughed.

But God knew.

I wonder what He thought that day as I took in the unremarkable setting. He knew the plans He had, He knew the future of the building, and He knew the remarkable things His Spirit would do within those walls. Now, each week, I stand on a stage only a few feet from where I sat on those bleachers and share the gospel.

What an amazing God we serve!


About the Author: Tifton, Georgia, native Josh Bennett is the lead church planter at Awaken FWB Church. He and his wife Ashley have three children: Sawyer, Finn, and Harper. To learn more about the Bennetts and their work, visit


©2023 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists