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Ordination of Atlanta 16-Year-Old Spurs Debate About Qualifications for Preaching

A teen preacher from Atlanta, Ga., was ordained over the weekend in his Baptist church, sparking a debate about what it takes to minister from the pulpit. Jared Sawyer, Jr., 16, who has been preaching for more than half his life, became an associate minister at Center Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta, as reported by The Christian Post. Many offered praise, but others were concerned about his lack of formal training in theology and young age.

Sawyer has been leading his own ministry, Jared Sawyer, Jr. Ministries, for six years. His mother, Sabrina Sawyer, told local media that Sawyer started praising God at age 2, started reading the Bible at age 3 and was baptized at age 5, the same time he told her he wanted to be a preacher. Sawyer also told local media that what he’s been doing “feels right” and was what God called him to do. 

Some commenters, including a Atlanta news official from Marion Morris, feel that there are enough untrained pastors in the world already. “Too many self-proclaimed pastors don’t have sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures,” he said on the social media page of the WSB-TV. “Educational theological background is necessary to teach and preach.”

Other disagree. Andrew McKinney, a Facebook commenter, suggested he could be a great preacher with or without a seminary degree. “I have known many preachers (great preachers) who didn’t go to school to be a minister and preached the Word like it is supposed to be preached … if he chooses to go to seminary, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Sawyer is not the only teenage pastor in this country: 19-year-old Courtney Meadows became pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in White Hall, Ala., last year, and the youngest ordained minister in the U.S. is 12-year-old Ezekiel Stoddard at Fullness of Time Church in Capitol Heights, Md.

Sawyer does plan to attend Morehouse College to study theology and religious studies when he is old enough.

Watch Sawyer deliver a sermon titled “Even Though I Am Young, Send Me” at age 11.

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including churchleaders.com and SermonCentral.com.