JASPER, Ala. (BP)–Retired pastor J.B. Thompson holds dearly to two images of a grandson — one, a small boy timidly crouching behind his legs, the other, a young man standing tall behind the pulpit.
Patrick Hannah, 16, of First Baptist Church, Jasper, Ala., preached his first sermon in June. His time in the pulpit broke the shy persona he had developed over the years. He stunned friends and family with a confidently delivered, God-inspired sermon, Thompson said.
“When he was a child, he was very shy and withdrawn about meeting strangers,” Thompson said.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.”
One of Hannah’s former teachers told his grandfather after the service if someone had told her Hannah would one day preach, she’d have never believed it. “Now we can’t turn him off,” Thompson said.
First Baptist Pastor James O. Newell, who asked Hannah to step in while he was at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, said the change in Hannah can be explained only by the call of God on his life.
“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.
Hannah’s decision to preach was unexpected, but the church has affirmed him, Newell said.
“Here in his home church with folks who know him, there is encouragement and willingness to help him make those steps of growth.”
Newell’s pastor gave him the chance to preach when he felt the call to full-time ministry as a young man, and he wanted to pass that opportunity along.
“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.”
In his sermon, Hannah said his call to full-time ministry came first while working with children during a ministry outreach in 2002, then later became “clear as a bell” as he prayed for clarification.
“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.”
Hannah’s decision to commit to full-time Christian ministry falls in line with a heritage of men who also followed the call — his great-great grandfather Broox W. Thompson and great-great grandfather W.R. (Will) Thompson, were also Alabama pastors.
Hannah admitted he was shy before his call but said his faith helps him speak without fear.
“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.”
It is a typical occurrence in the mentor-type relationship the two have shared.
“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.”
Grace Thornton writes for The Alabama Baptist. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TEEN PREACHER.