When God called Brad Watson to become a senior pastor, First Baptist Vidalia checked off all of the boxes. Watson was recently named pastor at the Vidalia church, after serving as youth pastor/associate pastor at Eastwood Baptist Church in Haughton.
“The first thing was I would watch their on-line worship services,” Watson said. “Immediately, I felt like the worship here is very sincere, it was Holy Spirit-led, the style of leading worship along with the children’s ministry, the youth ministry has a rich history here, really good and very effective. We prayed about it, and First Baptist Vidalia has a dynamic worship, a youth and children’s ministry that’s strong and reached a lot of families.”
And it has clearly been a leap of faith, as Brad, along with wife Leigh Ann and teenage daughters Anna Grace (16) and Makenzie (14), close on their house in Haughton Jan. 30, still looking for a place to live in Vidalia.
The family is currently staying at a lake house on Lake St. John belonging to Pat and Karen Biglane.
“When you don’t have any firm potential places to live, it really is a day-by-day trust the Lord,” Watson said. “We believes He’s going to provide for us. If it was us making all these plans, we would say, ‘Lord, doesn’t it make sense that we have a place to move into as soon as we have to move here.’ But, I’ve learned that our common sense doesn’t even come close to trusting God’s plan.”
Which goes in line with Watson’s favorite Bible verse — Proverbs 19.21.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” he quoted. “It’s always God’s plan that prevails. I trust His purpose in all of this.”
While serving as a youth pastor in Haughton, Watson also served as interim senior pastor on two different occasions.
“Being a senior pastor crossed my mind, but I loved student ministry,” he said. “I always felt like I want to put myself in ministry where I can have the greatest impact, and make a difference in the most lives. I felt the past two years I was able to do that in youth ministry. God allowed me to be involved in some very large ministries with hundreds of teenagers, bigger than most churches.”
Watson joked he heard from several people over the past few years, asking when he was going to grow up and get his own church.
“You get told things like, ‘You would make a good pastor, do you think you will ever make that step up,’” Watson said. “They talk about being a step up, but I never really saw it that way. I was a pastor to 200-to-300 teenagers. People did not understand that dynamic. Not only was I a pastor to those teenagers, I was a pastor to their parents, and I was able to influence those parents and help them to disciple to their teenagers. Another part of it when you are a youth pastor, you are given sixth-graders through 12th-graders, but those kids already look to you as their youth pastor.”
“All these years I was where God wanted me to be and I was making the greatest impact that I could make for that time,” Watson said. “I always thought if I was going to leave that, God has to make it very evident. I will go kicking and screaming. It never was a ministry I was using as a stepping stone to becoming a pastor. It was my ministry and I was committed to it.”
In 2000, Watson was hired as youth pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Franklinton, where he served until 2005.
From 2005-09, Watson served as youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria.
Watson, 46, said his first time serving as interim Senior Pastor in Haughton, he had no desire to become a pastor.
“But the second time very quickly it felt different,” he said. “Before, I felt like I had restraints on me — God saying, ‘No.’ Then all of a sudden I felt this freedom and that God was giving me this freedom to pursue if this is what he wants me to do. I was at least open to saying, ‘God, I will pursue this if you want me to.’ God sent a couple of very specific messages into my life to confirm this is what he wants me to do. When I felt God calling me to ministry, he used two random ladies I had never met before and both spoke to me saying. ‘God anointed you to preach.’ I asked God if he was leading me to pastor a church. He once again spoke to me through that random lady saying I need you to preach.
“He just continued to solidify that calling in ways when I was the interim of God saying, ‘I’m going to do this through you.’ In an eight-month period we were able to baptize 36 people and have the highest attendance in the history of our church. That was not me, that was God affirming to me that He wanted to use me for His kingdom — to go pastor a church and use my gifts for leadership.”
Watson has a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theology Seminary and bachelor of arts in religion with a minor in sociology from Louisiana Christian.
During his second time as interim senior pastor, Watson led staff meetings, staff retreats, committee meetings and other organizational duties.
“I was intimidated by that,” he said. “But the Lord showed me He had me. I gained a lot of confidence then that God wanted to use me in that role.”
And Watson knew that role meant seeking a church to pastor.
“The first thing when I was just kinda looking at possibilities where God could lead me I would look for churches looking for pastors and I would watch their on-line worship services,” he said. “Networking with people I knew who knew this church and area I learned very quickly that it is a very strong church. With a really good reputation around the state. That’s what led me to keep pursuing it.”
Watson’s father, Charley Watson, served as worship pastor at Maplewood First Baptist Church in Sulphur.
And Watson said when he and his family arrived in Vidalia last month, it all affirmed what he was seeing.
“Once I came and began getting to know people, meet and talk to people it became even more evident that this was the type of people I want to come to pastor and people I want my family to be ministered to by them,” he said. “It’s a very loving community, very family-friendly.
Watson said his goal is to lead a disciple-making church.
“I’ve always served in ministry under the theme that churches should be disciple factories,” he said. “I’ve always organized my ministries around that. We’re called to do the Great Commission, go and make disciples of all nations. That would be the ultimate mission we’re here to accomplish.”
But for the present, Watson said this year he is focusing on Jesus.
“Let’s put our heart, our attention and focus into who He is and following Him,” Watson said. “He is going to lead us to specific goals in ministry. This church over the last few months baptized a number of people. They are reaching the lost. There’s a strong Sunday School and Bible study groups here. There’s a strong group of believers who are growing in Christ and who have a strong desire to do missions. and want to be a part of that.”
Watson, who grew up in Sulphur, is an avid fisherman, which is ironic considering he is currently staying on Lake St. John.
“Coming from East Texas, I had a lot of great places to fish,” he said. “I haven’t tested the waters yet, but I will very soon. It’s a shame I’m living on a lake right now, but don’t even have my fishing pole. Right now we’re living out of suitcases. Leigh Ann and the girls have been so supportive. They feel a call here, too. They feel this is also their mission field where God has led them. If they didn’t feel that way it could been real hard making this kind of move at this time. We are already seeing some of the vision God has unfolding for us. There is a lot of momentum building. And it’s not only the church, the people of Vidalia have been so supportive of us, as well.”