As a lifelong student of rhetoric, I’ve always had a fascination and fondness for preachers. I’ve spent many years studying their manners and methods in order to learn how they are able to communicate to large groups in a way that feels intimate and familiar.

For instance, one of my favorite pastors spent an entire year preaching about sin. Each week he’d rail against backbiters, slanderers, hypocrites, perverts. And each week I went home feeling the message had been meant just for me. The sermons never failed to stir me, probably because he used the effective rhetorical tool of ending each example of wickedness with “. . . like Joe Carter.”

I even considered becoming a pastor myself since the vocation combines my love of communication with three of my other passions: telling people how they should live, avoiding manual labor, and getting paid a full salary for doing part-time work. But while I may have missed my calling, the experience (i.e., incessant church-hopping) has helped me to develop a keen eye for judging the merits of a minister.

As a way of sharing my my hard-won wisdom I offer eleven surefire ways to know that something isn’t right with your pastor:



1. He’s a founding member of the ecumenical project, “Evangelicals and Scientologists Together.

2. He claims his favorite work of systematic theology is John Calvin’s Institutes of Vishnu.

3. He supplements his income by serving as the chaplain/DJ for the topless bar out by the airport.

4. He proposes moving the Sunday morning service to Tuesday evening because he just got a “sweet NFL package on DirecTV.”

5. His primary reference work is the Dan Brown Study Bible.

6. His favorite hymn is Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”

7. He tells his congregants they are wicked degenerate sinners who are bound for hell if they don’t change their ways—while coaching the church sponsored Little League team.

8. He plans to spend the next month preaching through the Gospel of Judas.

9. His nickname in seminary was Pelagius.

10. He illustrated his sermon series on Song of Songs with a graphic 150-slide PowerPoint presentation.

11. His name is Joel Osteen.

Articles by Joe Carter

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