Five years later, Terry is an ordained minister who preaches almost every Sunday at True Gospel Deliverance Ministry, a 20-seat nondenominational storefront church that his grandmother founded in 2000.
“They say, ‘How can you be a preacher when you’re so young?’ ” said Terry, now 11. “But when they listen to me, they’re shocked.”
“God just put his Spirit upon me,” said Terry, who wore a baby blue suit with matching snakeskin shoes, the kind of outfit he usually wears on Sundays. “He said, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.’ But he didn’t say how old you had to be or anything like that.”
During the week, Terry attends fifth grade at Liberty Elementary School, plays Uno with his friends and attends choir practice. Terry, who said he earns A’s and B’s in school, reads the Bible every day in addition to studying theology through classes offered by an online university.
But Terry said he was happiest when preaching.
“When I’m in the pulpit, it’s like something turns over me,” he said, “and I just turn into a man of God. And when I’m out of the pulpit, I just turn into a speechless kid.”
Terry sat in a living room decorated with three posters of him in his Sunday clothes and bearing the words “Little Man of God.” Sitting on a large red and gold couch, he tapped his shoes against the floor and explained how he prepared for his sermons.
He does not write anything down, he said. He simply reads the Bible the day before the service and waits for the Spirit to move him. “I don’t plan to say those things,” he said, “but when God gives them to me, I say them right away to be obedient.”
Turning the pulpit over to a youthful minister like Terry is not unusual in black churches not overseen by a central body, said Prof. Christine Gudorf, chairwoman of the religion department at Florida International University.
In these churches, she said, age is not an issue, and seminary training is not necessary.
“It’s God who chooses the minister, and the Holy Spirit gives charismatic gifts, especially gifts of preaching,” Professor Gudorf said. “The community recognizes that gift and confirms the person in a ministerial role.”
Terry and his twin brother, Todd, who plays drums in the choir, were born prematurely on Nov. 19, 1997; their grandmother, Sharon Monroe, recalled that as a newborn Terry had to be connected to a heart monitor. After their parents broke up, the boys were raised by their father and grandmother.
Ms. Monroe said that when Terry was a baby, she would sometimes give sermons while carrying him in her arms. One day, when he was older, she recalled, Terry climbed into her seat on the pulpit and chanted, “Go, Grandma, go!”
After Ms. Monroe heard Terry preaching in her bathroom, he told her he wanted to be a minister. She decided to give him the chance. He gave a test sermon at her church, and then she ordained him.
Ms. Monroe said she had had a vision in which a child joined her at the pulpit. “I never thought it would be Terry because he was so sickly,” she said. “But Terry has a certain thing about him.”
Cynthia Spokes, a Bible studies teacher at Terry’s church, said she had been instructing him for two years and was impressed with his questions and his insistence on taking adult classes.
“It’s just amazing to watch this child give a sermon,” Ms. Spokes said. “He moves me. He just lifts me up.”
The most powerful experience Terry has had as a minister came during a sermon when, he said, he healed a young man who had an injured foot. As he prayed for him to be healed, the man stood up and walked without the aid of his crutches.
“That was the first time I healed someone, and from then on I asked God to give me the power to heal people,” Terry said, adding that laying hands on worshipers with ailments was something he did regularly.
Terry has traveled beyond Florida to deliver sermons, including twice at Tiaise Temple Ministry in Allentown, Pa. The pastor there, Donna Morgan, said Terry appealed to adults because he inspired them to transcend their perceived limitations.
“People listen to him and say, ‘My God, look at what the Lord can do when we are willing to be used by God to speak his message,’ ” Ms. Morgan said.