“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But what if you could take a thousand words and turn them into a picture?” This is what Chris Rosebrough has done in an article entitled “A Picture of a Thousand Words” on Extreme Theology.com.
A word cloud displays the most used words in the largest font size while the least used words are in the smallest font size. This gives a quick visual indicator of word use. Here is an example of a word cloud generated by Wordle for one of my own favorite blog posts: Kyrie versus Gloria:
For comparison purposes, Rosebrough created a “word cloud” picture of four sermons: two from “purpose driven” preacher Rick Warren and two from LCMS Lutheran pastor William Cwirla. The differences were striking.
The largest words represent the theme. For example, Warren’s themes were: “God, life, love, purpose, complaining, people, and things,” while Cwirla’s themes were: “Jesus, Emmaus, Scriptures, hearts, and believe.”
However, the medium size words are equally important because they provide the context. This is where the differences were even more striking. What was clear is that Warren’s “purpose driven” sermons were not about the facts of Christ, but rather they were about “circumstances, family, people, attitudes, and things.” On the other hand, Cwirla’s sermons were about factual events and people such as “Judas, Peter, death, resurrection, priests, and witnesses.”
However, a word cloud can say only so much; in the end, it is merely a visual way to analyze word use and could be abused. For example, a light color on a word may make it look less important and a non-horizontal word is possibly also less likely to be seen.
Here is a word cloud for a famous sermon:
Can you guess who delivered this famous sermon and its title? Kudos to the first person with the right answer.
Ultimately, all true and good sermons will tell about Jesus and follow His great commission:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
— Matthew 28:18-20.