Two young boys are spreading the word, but whose word is it?
Oct. 12, 2007 — -- Seven-year-old Samuel Boutwell is an outgoing and well-spoken second grader. He loves to play with his dogs and play soccer, but he loves something else even more.
Samuel is a Baptist preacher at a church in his home town of Brookhaven, a small town in southwestern Mississippi. He also preaches outside in front of the local Wal-Mart, and has preached on the road in Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Washington D.C., and the streets of New York City.
Like many, Samuel said he became a preacher after he was "saved" by Jesus -- he just happened to be 3 years old at the time. "After I got saved, I knew I could try to reach more people to try to get saved," Samuel said. His sin against God? Disobeying his mom. And so the boy turned to Jesus.
When asked to describe God, Samuel said, "Can you show me a building that didn't have a builder, could you show me a painting that didn't have a painter? Because nobody made God. He just exists." Samuel is home-schooled and fed a steady diet of Scripture, but his father, Kendall Boutwell, a born-again lay preacher himself, said the idea of preaching was all Samuel's.
Soon after he was saved, Samuel said God spoke to him by helping him come up with things to preach about. "When I asked to preach, right when I think I can preach, God gives me something right there," he said.
Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and preacher and a professor of religion at Barnard College, wondered if Samuel's words truly come from divine inspiration. "Is he merely parroting some line…that he gets from a parent, or from a minister, or is it something that comes from the wellspring of the soul?" Balmer asked.
Balmer is the author of a dozen books on religion (his next book, "God in the White House: A History -- 1960-2004," will be published in spring 2008). He said that kids simply don't have the life experience to preach. "I believe that one's calling as a minister arises out of the crucible of one's experience…and there's a certain maturity that comes with that, a certain understanding of the faith that comes with that."