An 11-year-old boy ordained as pastor last month in Maryland insists that it was God who called him to ministry in a dream, and he has the full support of the church he has been leading for the past month.
"A lot of grown-ups will look at me like I'm just a joke and I need to sit down," says Ezekiel Stoddard, pastor of the Fullness of Time Church in Capital Heights. "But what they need to realize: It's not just me just getting up for fame and everything. It's for me to minister the Gospel. That's what God inspired me to do."
Those close to the 11-year-old young preacher told The Washington Post that they are fully supportive of his ministry, despite criticism from some who wonder if a child can truly understand and preach the Gospel.
"What a sad story this is. Children being forced to become Pulpit Pimps or a gospel version of the Jackson Five. Imagine the future flock they will fleece of at least 10% of their earnings as well as countless number of 'love offerings,'" wrote Nblud8 in the comments section of The Washington Post.
"Yes, listen to the insights of an 11-year-old to tell you how to live your life. Religion really does make people stupid," added guyinmd20906.
Stoddard's mother insists, however, that her pre-adolescent son does indeed have insight to share with believers.
"Ezekiel really studies the Bible,'' said Adrienne Smith, his mother, who is also a minister. "He will cross-reference, and he will go deep into the Scriptures."
"God can use anybody; why not a child?" added David Warren, a member of the choir that performed at Stoddard''s ordination at Fullness of Time Church, which occupies a former Capitol Heights warehouse and is headed by his stepfather.
Stoddard claims that he knew God was calling him to do something special in his life when he was as young as 8.
"God said, 'You are going to lay hands on the sick and preach to the poor,'" he shared of the dream he had. "He said, 'Son, you are going to be something -- Ministering the Gospel and running souls right over to Him."
"To be called by somebody is very special, because that somebody is Jesus," he added.