A couple weeks ago, you couldn’t go on Facebook without seeing someone link to this plugin that calculated your most-used words. It runs through everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook to determine what words you say the most. The bigger the word appears on the “word cloud” and the more centrally it’s located, the more frequently that word shows up in the things you’ve posted.
While one of our Logos Pros saw connections to how we discover the most-used words in the Bible, this plugin brought up a different question for me: how do Christians use social media? Is it different? Should it be? Can we tell any of that from a word cloud plugin?
Jesus says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Can we tell what the overflow of someone’s heart is from the words they say the most?
I reached out to some local pastors and asked if they’d be bold enough to share their word clouds. There’s a lot of variation, and I’ll share a little about why that is.
Here are the social media word clouds of seven different pastors:
Pastor Kip McCormick has written about leadership qualities, survivor’s guilt, and seeking God’s direction on the Faithlife blog. He’s pastored Cornwall Church’s satellite church in Skagit Valley for the past few years. It doesn’t take a detective to see that he also manages their social media: Kip’s personal account and Cornwall Skagit Valley often share identical posts (Kip, the secret’s out). But Kip also shares his own daily devotionals with a quote linking to his longer reflections, in addition to posting updates about his family, the church, and life (which all overlap).
Kip says he doesn’t have a “strategic communication plan” for social media, and I think that’s probably true for most of us. But the choices we make without a plan can still say something about us.
For Kip, social media is an extension of the never-ending role of a pastor. Everywhere he goes, Kip is part of the body of Christ and a representative of his church—even on Facebook.
But there’s something I want to make clear: if your most-used words aren’t God and Jesus, it doesn’t mean you don’t take that calling just as seriously.
This word cloud is from Pastor Andy Weeda, of Sunrise Baptist Church. Andy was quick to joke about how apparently self-centered he is, but knowing Andy personally, I could tell there was a lot more going on here. My wife and I laughed when we scrolled through his feed, hunting for the first use of “me” we could find. Here’s what we saw:
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
On Black Friday, Andy’s “self-centeredness” showed up again:
“Black Friday deal: message me your prayer requests or add them in a comment below, and I’ll pray for you tomorrow for free! Love y’all.”
The words we use the most don’t always reflect what matters the most to us—how you use words is what reveals where your heart is.
Pastor Tim Knipp of Hillcrest Chapel is fairly active on social media. Frequently, Tim’s posts are announcements about events, lectures, and books he recommends. I’ve listened to a handful of Tim’s sermons, and he always delivers refreshing perspective that reflects extensive preparation and research. It’s no surprise to see that he uses social media to provide others with opportunities to learn more about the topics they’re interested in, or even the things he just preached on, continuing the conversation.
I don’t think anybody would be surprised to learn that this word cloud came from a pastor. And those who know Pastor Paul Triplett of Birch Bay Bible Community Church probably wouldn’t be surprised to see that these are his most used words.
Everything else that Paul talks about on social media is practically pushed out of the frame by Jesus and love.
I dare you to guess what North Bay Christ the King’s youth group is called.
North Bay Christ the King is where you’ll find Pastor Eric Young, and United is where he invites students to go every Sunday night. There are plenty of other words Eric uses often, but the plugin had to shrink them all until you could hardly read them in order to fit the name of his youth group, which, obviously, he talks about more than anything else on social media.
Pastor Pete Williamson, formerly of Oikos Fellowship, has a blog where he shares inspirational quotes, devotionals, and reflections on Scripture. His social media word cloud reflects some of that as well. A quick scan of his Facebook posts shows that Pete shares plenty of things one could expect a pastor to post—including links to articles, encouragement, and announcements. The “cougs” at the center of the word cloud tells us he’s a big fan of the Washington State University Cougars—but if you know Pastor Pete, you already knew that.
Like many pastors, Rhyan Smith is a man of many hats. He’s a coffee shop owner, real estate broker, and pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. This year, Rhyan organized a golf tournament to support mental health services, which explains quite a few of the words that pop up throughout the cloud. If all I saw of Rhyan was this word cloud, I think I’d still be able to recognize him as someone who “loves life” and genuinely cares about people.
Taming the tongue
The things we say on social media can’t possibly give anyone a complete picture of who we are or what matters to us. At best, this is a mosaic that offers a vague sense or feeling of who we are.
But it’s important to recognize that for some people, it’s the only picture they have of us. Social media offers friends and family who live across the country a window into our lives. If that was all they saw of you, would it give them a clear picture?
Probably not. And the thing is, we may be fully capable of explaining ourselves or having a larger conversation about the things we post, but we don’t always get the opportunity to have that conversation. With a handful of characters, you can’t always say everything you need to, but that might be all you get to say.
I think it’s clear that how we use words is more important than what words we use, but are our “personal,” public conversations displaying the fruits of the Spirit, or is there something else coming from the overflow of our hearts (Galatians 5:22–23, Luke 6:45)?
Social media transforms your fingers into an extension of your tongue. We’re just as capable of saying things that hurt, tear down, and damage others in keystrokes as we are when we speak face to face.
If there was a plugin to determine the words that came out of your mouth the most, would your “word cloud” look different than a non-Christian’s? Would a non-believer be able to look at your most-used words and recognize that there was something different about you—even if God and Jesus weren’t in the center stage?
How do you use social media? Share with us in the comments.
* * *
Faithlife groups help you bring your Christian community online. Follow Bible scholars and Christian authors to join conversations about the things that matter most. Share insights with your small group right from your Bible, start discussions about theology, or just keep your family in the loop about what you’re reading and how you’re growing. Create your free account today, and start a group with your church.
Leave a comment