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.
“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.
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?
“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.
“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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