'The Little Preacher' Samuel Green is a 7-year-old spiritual sensation
Bodies hang on the walls in the back room of attorney Bentley Conner’s Center Street law office.
Twisting trunks, arching waists, snakelike spines and curling chests bend with the classical contour of the female physique revealing the outer shell of life.
At age 5, he stood in the pulpit at Birmingham's Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church wearing a pinstriped vest and tie while a woman sitting beside him wiped her eyes and waved her hands as he preached his first sermon called “Double For Your Trouble.
It was about Job, a man who lost everything, continued to have faith in God despite his trials and was eventually given more than he lost by God as a reward for his devotion.
“Job had nothing,” said Samuel Green, speaking confidently to a captive audience that vocally affirmed his message. “He lost his land. He lost his animals. He lost his sons and daughters. But do you know what job did? Job fell to his knees and began worshiping to God saying, ‘The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' After all these bad things happened to Job, still he praised God.”
At age 6, he spoke to an audience like a professional evangelist at Roebuck SDA Church in Birmingham while preaching about Daniel and the lion's den. When his earphones malfunctioned, falling around his neck, Green carried on as the technician readjusted them.
“Daniel was placed in an unusual position,” said the little boy. “He had to decide whether or not he was going to be faithful to the king or God. Although the position he was in may have been unusual, it was not a hard choice for Daniel to make, because he had trust and faith in God.”
Clinton native Justin Patterson, 24, first saw the little preacher on YouTube after a friend recommended that he watch. Then, the youth leader of Bolton's Brownsville Missionary Baptist Church and senior elementary education major at Jackson State University, decided to go see Green in person.
“My first impression of him when I heard was, ‘I know this is unreal,'” said Patterson. “I couldn't believe someone so small had so much to say and give to the world. He talked about Job (and) gave a clearer aspect about Job that I didn't even understand from older preachers and ministers.
“You'd be amazed at what this little guy has in him. I left feeling that, even though he was so young, I learned something. I left seeing the blessings of God in him and wanting to see more of him in the future.”
Samuel Martholomew Green, who is now 7, was named after Samuel in the Bible. It is also the middle name of his father, Chicago native Louis S. Green III, a retired surgery assistant who once worked at River Oaks Hospital.
His mother, Louisiana native Joann Green, 52, a medicare coordinator, did not expect to have another child. Her oldest son, Cedric Walker, was 21 when Samuel was born on July 6, 2005, in Jackson, and she often said if she had another baby, she would pattern his life after the biblical Samuel. Hannah, Samuel's mother, was so proud of her son, she dedicated him to God, and Joann did the same, reading scripture to the baby when she tucked him in at night and when he woke.
His grandmother began teaching him songs and nursery rhymes at 12 months. He began talking at 14 months, but was usually quiet and did not show signs of becoming a public speaker until age 3 when he learned to read. During children's story time at Berean church, he confidently read a book about the creation story to other children without flubbing.
One morning in 2011, while Joann was doing early morning devotions with a women's ministry prayer teleconference, Samuel joined her and sat quietly listening. When the conference call ended, the lady on the line asked for a volunteer to pray, and 5-year-old Samuel recited The Lord's Prayer to the others. Impressed by his keen memory, the woman invited Samuel and his family to visit her church in Birmingham and speak to a crowd of young people. That's where Samuel delivered his first live sermon “Double For Your Trouble” from the book of Job.
“I think that this is strictly a gift from God,” said Joann Green. “I am not a public speaker, and my husband is very bashful. He did not grow up around pastors. We are just a very spiritual family. This is very unique, and sometimes, we are just amazed at some of the things Samuel says. We know without a shadow of a doubt that it is strictly from God.”
Samuel, who lives with his family in South Jackson, has preached at more than 50 churches since May of 2011. He has his on public access television show on Jackson's Comcast Channel 18 called “Samuel M. Green presents The Simple Truth” that began airing every Sunday from 11-11:30 a.m. last October, offering scriptural messages and interviews with others about their Christian mission or spiritual walk with God. Samuel recently began taping six Christian shows called “Tiny Tots for Jesus” for Three Angels Broadcasting Network, a Christian media ministry based in West Frankfort, Ill. His parents set up a website at samuelmgreen.com showcasing his talents, and lately they have been inundated with calls.
“This is very serious to little Samuel,” Joann said. “No acting at all. He gets his inspiration from reading the word of God, Bible stories and being in a spiritual environment. His messages are powerful Bible stories that tell how our Lord has our back and how he always keeps his promise.”
Standing at 4 ft., 5 in. tall when he addresses crowds in churches across the Southeast, Samuel said his first memory is reading that creation story to other children when he was 3.
“The real meaning of the creation story is that we should try to be like who we are and not like someone else because God made us, just like Adam and Eve. He made us exactly the way he wants us to be,” he said while sitting in The Clarion-Ledger office across from his mother and Beverly Curry-Coleman, his after-school teacher and the woman who helps him prepare his lengthy sermons.
“My favorite thing to preach about when people have lost their things, like in these days, is Job because Job lost everything, and he got back double for his trouble, so I believe they'll get back just like Job did,” said Samuel, a third-grader at College Drive Seventh-Day Adventist Christian School in Pearl, who loves going to the park, playing basketball, soccer, dodge ball, volleyball, freeze tag, camping, going to JSU sporting events, movies and Chuck E. Cheese's.
He's a good kid, but he isn't perfect.
“He gets in trouble for not following direction as he is told,” said Joann. “He'll get in trouble for not staying focus at school. He will sort of day dream. And sometimes, he gets in trouble for leaving his toys around not picking up and putting things away as he should. Most of the time he is a well behaved kid.”
Samuel skipped kindergarten and entered first grade at age 5 because he was so well prepared. Math, reading and spelling are his favorite subjects.
“I just can't get over spelling,” he said. “I love it.”
A love of language comes in handy when reading the Bible and pondering spiritual messages.
“It's in my mind, and my teachers transport it onto paper, and I learn it from there,” Samuel said. “But the words, exactly on the paper, are what I said,” he added with a pause. “Well, sometimes it's hers,” he said, referring to Coleman. “Sometimes it's mine. But I don't want to take all the credit away from her.”
When asked to give us a sample of his latest sermon, he didn't hesitate.
“Who did it? God did it. And I won't complain,” he begins. “You know what I wonder? I wonder why people always find a reason to complain? Well, let me share this with you. One person may complain about the trees being too tall. Another person may complain about the trees not being tall enough. Someone may not be happy with the weather: ‘It's too cold.' ‘It's too hot.'
“Then you have those who complain about the rain: ‘It's raining too much.' ‘It's not raining enough.' Let's not talk about the food. ‘Why do we have to eat healthy?' ‘Why can't we just eat some candy?'
“Then, the most thing I think people complain about are people. ‘Why is she so fat?' ‘Why is he so short?' ‘Why do they talk like that?' Then they start complaining about what God has blessed them with. ‘I don't like my nose.' ‘I wish my hair was longer.' ‘I wish my eyes weren't so big.'
“Well, you know what I wish? I wish people would stop complaining because, who did it? God did it. Yes, God created it all. Genesis 1:1 states that: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.'”
Curry-Coleman, a member of Jackson's Crossroads Missionary Baptist Church, operates a home school for children 2 1/2 to 5 years old. She met Samuel when he was 13 months.
“My first impression of Samuel was ‘He is too young to be sitting in my classroom,'” she said. “He was not only not old enough, but he looked to be about 10 months. He was so tiny.”
She helps Samuel prepare his words and said it usually takes him about three days to memorize a 15-minute message.
“I do not refer to them as sermons,” she said. “I write inspirational messages for Samuel, and I began doing this as a request from his mother. Whenever Samuel is asked to speak, I allow him to tell me what story in the Bible he wants to share with the congregation. Once the story has been selected, I write the message. Samuel, then, reads it and decides what changes he wants to make. If he wants to add anything, he will just do that when he is giving the message. Then, there are times we do not write at all; we just discuss what he will present. However, all of his introductions he does before he begins his messages, I write them for him.”
Curry-Coleman said most of Samuel's messages are about “God's grace and mercy and how much he loves us.”
“He likes to share his message so everyone can understand God's love,” she said. “Samuel enjoys telling about people in the Bible to let people know, whatever they are going through, someone in the Bible has already been through it. Some of his messages include the story of Job, Daniel, Queen Ester, Daniel and the lion's den, Jonah, Abraham, God's signs that he is real, and giving God all the credit.”
Brandon, Jackson, Pearl, Raymond, Bolton, Natchez, Goodman, Hazlehurst, Crystal Springs, Belzoni, Columbus, Decatur and Flowood are some of the places Samuel has shared his collaborative messages. He's also spoken at churches, adult day cares, youth rallies, birthday celebrations and neighborhood block parties.
“The response from the crowd is usually a gasp of amazement,” Curry-Coleman said. “They are surprised to hear him speak with such clarity, and I think they are really surprised by the fact that he gives his message without notes.
“I have seen pastors actually be speechless once he is done. They know he is not putting on an act or trying to imitate another preacher he has seen on TV or at church. I have witnessed little children who just wanted to shake his hand after he finishes his messages. Parents say they made sure they came so their children can see how wonderful he is and hope he will be able to inspire their child or grandchildren. After service, they stand around just to get a picture or his autograph.”
There are some who may question whether or not a child of 7 really understands what he's doing and can be a preacher.
Thomas M. Kersen, an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology at Jackson State University who studies religion, said, from a social psychology perspective, he would question the ability of someone so young to grasp the complex conceptual framework and history of what they would be preaching.
“Paralleling Jean Piaget's work on the stages of cognitive development, David Elkind and James Fowler described stages of religious cognitive development,” he said.
For Elkind, Kersen said individuals from birth to around 2 grow to understand themselves and gain a sense identity. From 2 to 7, they are able to discern between religious facts, such differences between denominations, by observing which churches people attend. Around 7 and up, they begin to understand abstract religious concepts, but because everyone develops at their own pace, this may not happen for some until they are in their 20s.
“Likewise, James Fowler wrote that children are generally grappling between mythic and literal concepts while they are in their preteen years,” Kersen said. “Quite often, these children are mimicking family and religious leaders and have little abstract understanding of what they are saying or what the rituals they are engaging in signify.”
Curry-Coleman said she believes it is possible “for a little boy to preach God's words because, after all, the definition of a preacher is a person who delivers sermons, generally on religious topics, although one can also preach any of the components of any worldview,” she said. “Do I feel a child can effectively lead or head a congregation, be a pastor over a church? No, I do not, because being a pastor is a very demanding job. But I also believe that God calls who he wants no matter what their age is.
“I really would not debate on the subject of a child being in the pulpit . . . because most people who believe in the Bible and have read the Bible know that God used children to deliver his words.”
Samuel, who said he doesn't watch other television evangelists for inspiration, said his family has never forced him to preach.
“My family actually didn't make me do it,” he said. “It was my choice. I decided that I wanted to go up there and preach and be a youth inspirational speaker, because that's what I am,” he said.
Stanley Smith, pastor of Crossroads Missionary Baptist Church, the church Curry-Coleman attends, is one of Samuel's mentors.
“Samuel is a highly intelligent person for his age,” Smith said. “I have witnessed him grow in God's word, as well as seen him grow in how he shares his belief in God, while maintaining his childlike ways. Do I see the makings of a preacher? Only God knows. However, I do see him as a spiritual motivational speaker.”
Smith said the advice he has given Samuel is: “Always be sure about what God's word says. Share your faith with others without being overbearing. Trust in God, and believe that you can do all things with Christ. Show love to everyone, regardless of race, financial statuses or religion. And always believe in himself.”
“Whether or not Samuel will be a preacher, I do not know, but I do know he will be a leader,” Smith said. “He continues to inspire me to be the best that I can be, whether its speaking to adults, youth or children. I know that God will do great things through and by Samuel. I am excited about the possibilities that he brings. We will just wait on the Lord to use this young boy as he sees fit, and we not put him in a position of preacher before his time.”
Phyllis Robinson, producer of “On Location TV Talk Show” on Comcast Cable Network Channel 18, met Samuel after watching him appear on a TV morning show. She contacted his mother to request an interview.
“They were briefed on what our conversation would be minutes before the actual taping,” Robinson said. “He responded to questions as if we had been over them in advance.”
She offered him a show.
“I watched, on his Youtube page, some of his sermons, and not only was amazed about his relationship with God and being able to express it so well – his delivery is really above average for a child his age, and he expresses no fear.”
Robinson said she believes a child can be a preacher.
“The God we serve is just that amazing in selecting who he wants to preach his word, and he has chosen Samuel to do so,” she said. “His future is ahead of him. If he continues to preach the word or anything else, he will be able to achieve it.”
His mother, Joann, said she believes a young person can become an evangelist, but they must have a concept of what they are speaking about.
“They need to understand the word of God,” she said. “Samuel enjoys the Bible stories, and he likes to read the Bible. He knows and understands the seriousness of the word of God.”
She said she hopes Samuel will continue “speaking God's word and inspiring people.”
“I feel if he continues to keep God at the head of his life, he will make the right choices,” she said. “His hopes are to continue speaking and to travel to all the different states speaking for God.”
In addition to sharing spiritual messages, Samuel said there's another goal he wants to accomplish. He wants to be a pediatrician.
He later continued with his latest sermon:
“I know there are still people who want to know if I ever get tired of talking about God,” he said, “and the answer to that is no. I do not get tired of talking about God because he is so wonderful, so powerful and, oh, so marvelous. And when I think about all the things God did for us and all his wonderful creations, I cannot help but to think about how much he loves me.
“Now you might be thinking, what can a little 7-year-old boy tell me about God and his word? Well God has been using little children to deliver his word for a long time, and one of those children happened to be named Samuel.”