Most at Abilene Baptist Church will recognize the Rev. Brad Whitt as a familiar face when he takes over as senior pastor in August.
Since late March, the 38-year-old pastor hailing from Tennessee has shared pastoral duties with the Rev. Bill Harrell, who stood at the pulpit of the Martinez church for 31 years.
“Abilene has a tremendous reputation, not just in the Augusta area, but across our denomination,” Whitt said. “It’s a powerhouse.”
Whitt was selected by the church’s search committee in March. He most recently served as the preacher at Temple Baptist Church in Simpsonville, S.C., for more than a decade.
Having just purchased a home near Grovetown, Whitt comes to the area with his wife, Kim, and three young children Laura Kate, 5; Jack, 3; and Benjamin, 3 months.
Whitt learned of the opening at Abilene when Harrell gave him a call last year to gauge his interest and ask him to pray about the matter, he said.
“He’s just a solid young man,” Harrell said. “He’s well-prepared, and he’s going to do an excellent job.”
The Abilene preacher knew Whitt through his father, also a pastor, who served with Harrell in the 1980s on the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee.
“He’s a hero of mine,” Whitt said of Harrell. “There’s no way I’ll ever be able to be Brother Bill, but at the same time, I’m going to be me.”
Whitt’s journey to becoming a pastor wasn’t one he initially knew he’d take. Earning his bachelor’s degree in political science and pre-law at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., Whitt first imagined a career as an attorney.
While attending a church service in college, however, he felt God was leading him to spread his message.
Whitt went on to complete studies at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., where he earned his doctorate of Ministry in Expository Preaching.
“It’s quite obvious he’s an excellent preacher,” Harrell said. “I wanted to find somebody that could preach well and could hold down the pulpit.”
Whitt preached at churches in Tennessee and Ohio before taking the position at Temple Baptist, where he brought together a congregation in disarray, he said.
Whitt hopes to continue the strong ministry at Abilene, expand on community outreach efforts and bring younger members to the church like he did at Temple Baptist.
“I think Abilene has the potential of being a church where everybody can come,” he said. “My desire would be to see a grandmother sitting on the same row with her son and grandson.”
As he gets acquainted with the Augusta area, Whitt said he’s already witnessed what makes Abilene so special to him.
“The people are tremendous,” he said. “They have taken to us. They’ve loved us. They’ve welcomed us.”