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Video: Hallelujah! Pint-sized preacher wows churchgoers

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    >>> back now at 7:43, with a pint-sized preacher. kanon tipton was just 21 months old when he first took to the pulpit at his family's pentecostal church in mississippi. now the 4-year-old internet sensation is set to be featured on a national geographic special. we're going the talk to kanon in a moment, but first, his story. out of the mouths of babes has new meaning in the digital age.

    >> when kanon did what he did that night preaching, my wife just started videoing and we put it on youtube, called a few of our friends and said, hey, look what kanon did. it just got over 4 million hits. so absolutely shocked us and was amazing. it was all sdernaccident, but thankfully we did capture it on video.

    >> very overwhelming. we put it on apostolic live and they shut down the website, people trying to view it.

    >> who was on the platform with you?

    >> daddy.

    >> what were we telling you, preach, kanon , preach.

    >> yeah. i'm preaching.

    >> you were preaching. he's been labelled the world's youngest preacher. and that intrigues me, something that we've never dreamed. it feels like a fantasy world that we're living in.

    >> reporter: kanon 's family says he doesn't preach on queue, only when the spirit inspires him. now 4 years old his evangelical enthusiasm also has a message.

    >> i love you. i'm preaching about -- i'm preaching about holy god . the main church, the needy church of pentecost, of pentecost. what we can do for the one lord.

    >> and 4-year-old kanon is with us now along with his parents, pastor damon tipton. we'll ask qanon a couple of questions in a minute. but damon, how do you explain this gift, this ability to stand in front of crowds and preach?

    >> well, one word comes to my mind, and i believe it's phenomenon. i really believe it's a phenomenon how in what kanon does. it's very unusual. i've never seen anything like it. even being his parent, so it's quite something.

    >> you, of course, are a preacher. you're the son of a preacher. he grew up in church. there will be some out there watching this who is saying he's just 4 years old, started at 21 months. is he mimicking? do you think he's mimicking what he hears or do you think this is a calling?

    >> i think it is a -- i think it's a little bit of both. i think, you know, yes, children absorb whatever you put in front of them. most all of his life, all of his life thus far is, you know, he's been around the ministry, church, and, of course, he is mimicking. but i do feel like the hand of god is on him in a special way.

    >> candy, do you think he understands what he's saying, the words that are coming out of his mouth?

    >> yes, ma'am, to a degree, i do. yes, ma'am.

    >> he started when he was 21 months, i imagine he's evolved in your understanding more and more of the words he's saying. is that right?

    >> he's learning. yes, ma'am.

    >> kanon , can i ask you a couple of questions?

    >> yes, ma'am.

    >> why do you like to preach?

    >> just like my daddy preach.

    >> just like your daddy, yeah. are you ever nervous up there with all of those people or do you like to stand up there?

    >> i like to stand up there.

    >> yeah. how do you decide when you want to preach?

    >> because i -- because i'm more capable.

    >> you do? you do. so like father, like son.

    >> yes, and like grandfather. so he is third generation preacher. he certainly is. we're very proud of him.

    >> do you ever find yourself surprised by what comes out of his mouth?

    >> absolutely. some things that you really can't put together, and others, which i think is part of the phenomenon, in the anticipation of the audience is the fact that he -- when he says some things that has substance, savannah, it really captures the audience. a little child like this would be saying that.

    >> before i let you go i have to ask you. you know there are going to be people out there who say at this young age, whether it's a gift or whether he's just mimicking you, maybe he's too young to be standing in front of crowds. how would you respond to that?

    >> well, i think everybody has their own opinion. the bible does say train up a child the way it should go. when they get old they will not depart from it. all that we have done is involved him in church and he himself have taken upon this passion. and so, you know, we're not pushing him. we don't have an agenda. we don't travel with him.

    >> you don't mind if he's a preacher or not?

    >> no, not at all. if the lord's will in his life takes him to a different direction, i'm fine as long as it's in god's will.

    >> kanon , thank you so much for coming on. nice to

TODAY contributor
updated 8/16/2011 9:06:25 AM ET 2011-08-16T13:06:25

Kanon Tipton is a preacher who has become a YouTube sensation, brought congregations to their feet, and appeared in a television special. Yet he still has other challenges ahead — like starting the first grade.

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Dubbed the “world’s youngest preacher,’’ the 4-year-old from Mississippi has galvanized audiences in person and online, where videos of his energetic sermons have been viewed more than four million times. He is merely the latest in line in his family, precociously following in the footsteps of his Pentecostal preacher grandfather and father.

Tipton and his parents, Damon and Kandi, spoke with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie in the studio on Tuesday about Kanon’s rare gift, which will be featured in a special called “Pint-Sized Preachers’’ premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.

Off the pulpit, Kanon doesn't preach on command. But when the mood strikes him, he works the microphone like an old pro.

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“One word comes to mind, and I believe it’s ‘phenomenon,’’’ said Damon. “I really believe it’s a phenomenon in what Kanon does. It’s very unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it.’’

Kanon was just 21 months old when he ambled onstage as his grandfather was finishing up a sermon. Kanon grabbed the microphone and began talking in baby gibberish, imitating a preacher's mannerisms and cadence.

Kandi videotaped the scene and posted it on a streaming website called Episodic.com. The video got so many hits, the site crashed, she told TODAY. The couple posted more clips of Kanon on YouTube, figuring it would amuse their friends, and it soon went viral.

In his tiny suit and tie, Kanon has continued to preach, rousing audiences to their feet with his messages about “the red-hot revival.’’

“The Lord is here tonight — and his name is Jesus!’’ he proclaims in one clip. “There’s only one God.’’

“It really captures the audience — the fact that a little child like this can be saying some things like that,’’ his father said.

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From mopping his brow with a handkerchief to whipping off his miniature jacket as he works up emotion to jumping up and down in excitement, Kanon has all the mannerisms of a fervent preacher.

“I like to stand up there,’’ Kanon told Guthrie. “Because I just see my daddy preach all the time.’’

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Is he just imitating his dad's mannerisms, or could Kanon truly mean the words he's preaching?

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“I think it’s a little of both,’’ said Damon. “Yes, children absorb whatever you put in front of them (and) all of his life thus far, he’s been around the ministry. Of course he is mimicking, but I do feel like the hand of God is on him in a special way.’’

Because Kanon is so young, his parents have limited the amount of interviews they let him give. He does not preach for an entire service.

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“I think everybody has their own opinion,’’ said his dad. “The Bible does say, ‘Train up a child the way it should go, and when they get old they will not depart from it.’ All that we have done is involved him in church and he himself has taken upon this passion, and so we’re not pushing him. (We) don’t have an agenda. We don’t travel with him.’’

If Kanon’s proclivity to preach doesn’t even make it out of middle school, that's OK with his mom and dad. If the pint-sized preacher grows into a teenage-sized baseball player, they can live with it as long as he continues to believe.

“If the Lord’s will in his life takes him in a different direction, I’m fine, as long as it’s in God’s will,’’ Damon said.

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