Patrick Hannah: Teen Preacher

( [email protected] ) Oct 09, 2003 09:15 AM EDT

JASPER, Ala.— “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity”

Though timid and shy, Patrick Hannah of First Baptist Church in Jasper Alabama answered his call to the pulpit at the age of 16.

"When he was a child, he was very shy and withdrawn about meeting strangers," Thompson said. "All of us were afraid he would grow up to be that way. Then he woke up one day and was outgoing."

He stunned friends and family with a confidently delivered, God-inspired sermon, breaking the shy persona he had developed over the years.

“Surprisingly, now we can't turn him off," Thompson said.

Hannah first stood at the pulpit in June, when First Baptist Pastor James O. Newell left for a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.

"I think it is the unique equipping of the Lord at that point and the empowering that comes when the Lord gives the call to us," Newell said.

And though Hannah’s decision to preach was unexpected the church has affirmed him.

"Here in his home church with folks who know him, there is encouragement and willingness to help him make those steps of growth," said Newell.

Newell, who gave Hannah the opportunity to preach, said he himself was given the chance at a young man.

"I can relate, because that's who I was. I am a shy, reserved person, but preaching is something God has called and equipped me to do," Newell said. "You can step out of your personality mold at that point because God begins to work. It's not natural -- it becomes supernatural because of God's empowering."

That same empowerment moved Hannah’s lips as he shared his initial call to full time ministry.

"I heard God saying over and over, 'This is what you need to do; this is right,'" Hannah said. "Now God has chosen to call me and use me, and with God's help I'll talk to anyone right now."

And by answering this call, Hannah says his life has changed. "I've kept in prayer, and my life has been changed by God," he said. "My faith has grown stronger than I could have ever imagined."

Chad Hayes, associate pastor of student ministries at First Baptist Jasper, was working alongside Hannah when he first felt the call and has closely followed Hannah's growth into his commitment to ministry.

"Seeing that process and watching God begin to grow him in that calling has been great to witness," Hayes said. "He's willing to serve, be a student leader and do whatever God laid on his heart to do. He's very passionate about serving Jesus Christ, and it's so humbling to watch God working in his life."

Hayes said he and Hannah watched the videotape together after the sermon to "talk about things he did really well and things he'll learn through experience."

"I can testify that he used to be very shy, very intelligent but reserved in public settings," Hayes added.

Hannah said, "It's been such an incredible journey so far and I can't wait to see what God puts out in front of me to do for Him next."