A church I attended at one time had a preacher whose sermons seemed to take an awfully long time to come to the point. As someone who had previously preached regularly myself, I was of course pulling for the guy, wanting to sense that he was connecting well, but it wasn’t always easy to stay hopeful.
The thought crossed my mind that preachers should either be given or (maybe better) to give themselves a quota of words they could not exceed in delivering a given sermon. This would dictate that every word used unnecessarily would at least potentially be at the expense of a word that was needful. A good way of respecting not only language but the attention spans of our hearers. Whether preachers or not, we can all benefit from discipline in the both the volume and the variety of words we use.
Now, I wonder if something like this might help us? A link from one of my favorite blogs (Instapundit.com) tells me that some clever soul took the time to use a tag cloud to look at the speeches by Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin at the recent GOP convention, right here in St. Paul. You can read the whole article, but the basic idea of tag or word clouds is “to represent a frequency count of terms in a given piece of text, providing a clue to the importance of certain ideas.”
If it helps shed light on campaign speeches, would it also work (dare I ask) on sermons? At least one website, http://www.sermoncloud.com , seems to be doing a roaring business, not only as a gathering point for sermons (in text, audio, RSS, etc.) but in sleuthing out the language by using tag clouds.
A question worth pondering: would I be more eager to try this out on someone else’s sermon, or my own?