Gospel Preaching according to NGram

Have you ever asked yourself if the modern church is actually preaching the gospel?  We hear lot’s about evangelism and spreading the message, but are we?  And if so, what message are we spreading?  In Luke 24, we given very clear instructions as to the message we are to preach – Repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.

Repentance – We are to spread our Lord’s message of repentance, which is recognizing sin for what it is (rebellion against a Holy God).  It is a changing of our mind and intention regarding those sins we so gladly pursue.

Forgiveness – We are to preach forgiveness of sins to all who place all trust in salvation upon the finished and sufficient work of Christ, abandoning any hope that our own good works will somehow save us or keep us saved.

That is the message Christians are to preach and it isn’t just found in the book of Luke, it is through the whole New Testament and even the whole Bible.  So is this message being delivered?  One way to answer this question is to look at Christian literature and see if authors have been keeping this mandate from the Lord.  To examine the message of Christian books, we need a tool that can look at all of them all at once and tell us what is being written.  The program that does this is called Google Ngram, which takes a word or phrase and researches how often that word occurs in print, starting from 1800.  After directing Ngram to search for two popular messages, I was given the graphs shown below:

Ngram    Now, the quality of the image isn’t that good (I’m not anywhere close to being an IT expert) but I think the results come through well enough.  The top graph shows how often the message “Ask Jesus into your heart” has appeared in print.  While this message is found nowhere in Scripture, or in the history of preaching and the church, it has soared into use over the last 30 years.  It gets a lot of ink.  A lot!  The bottom graph shows the frequency of the message “repent and believe”, the message Jesus clearly told us to preach.  If you’re thinking, “Wow!  That message seems to have almost completely disappeared!” then your powers of observation serve you well.  In the english language, the gospel message which enjoyed great popularity in the 1800’s is now gone, while an unbiblical cultural message has been made popular instead.

So what is your Pastor preaching?  How about your Sunday School teachers?  What about you?  How would your words graph if a report could be run, and how many of them would be preaching the Gospel message?  Would it be the Biblical Gospel or some culturally popular alternative?  Graphs can sometimes say a lot, and I think these ones do!

If you would like to learn more about the popular “Ask Jesus into your Heart” message, click HERE

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7 Comments on “Gospel Preaching according to NGram”

  1. Robert E. Schoenle Says:

    Hello Joe;

    I need you or someone to answer the following question of mine: ‘If it is necessary to repent BEFORE you believe and receive the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior, how do you know or can be assured that you repented enough?’ Thank you for your courtesy. Your brother in Christ.


    • ChurchSalt Says:

      “Enough” – You are trying to quantify repentance? I will ask you this:
      Do you think water is wet? Do you think it enough?
      The question doesn’t make sense, does it? Of course not! Your view (opinion, position) is that water is wet. Period. There is no quantifying a viewpoint. When God granted you repentance, He enabled you to change your mind and you now view sin as evil rebellion and something to be avoided. That is now your view, opinion or position. Works that follow this change of mind can be looked at as a quantity, but we both agree those follow salvation and are a fruit of it, and so are out of the scope of our conversation.

      Another way to look at your question is this – God changed your mind regarding sin as a whole when He saved you. He also opens your eyes to sin as you go through life, bringing about further opinion changes (repentance). HE is always convicting and bringing about repentance (new viewpoints). Repentance of sin as a category is granted when He gives us both repentance and faith (at salvation), but repentance is now a part of your ongoing life as well, so there is no “enough”.

      No matter how you look at it, you can’t quantify repentance. I think you are still looking at it as a merit (or as a work).


      • Robert E. Schoenle Says:

        Yes I think water is wet. See how easy it was for me to answer that question? All I can say is that there is nothing that can precede ‘belief’ to be saved. All else is an ‘effect’ including repentance. You and I and everyone else only turned away from sinful acts and thoughts AFTER we were saved. You did not do so before you were saved by believing and neither did I. I am well aware that few will ever understand or accept my position on this issue because of the ever constant message of repentance through the years. It is the same with water baptism. The day AFTER the Rapture will be one shocking and sad day for the majority of church attending people who may be classified as PROFESSING Christians whose salvation was based upon something they had done in addition to trusting the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Maranatha!


  2. Robert E. Schoenle Says:

    A false gospel is one in which you must do “something” in addition to believing in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ [Messiah] for your salvation (Jn. 19:30; Gal. 2:21; Heb. 9:28). The something might have been a necessary part of the instructions God gave to the people living in a prior ‘age,’ but is now considered a ‘work’ in our current ‘Age of Grace’ (Mt. 5:17; Acts 15:1-35; Rom. 13:8-10; 14:5-6; Gal. 2:3, 15-16; 5:1; Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 2:8-16).

    To become a ‘true’ Christian in our current Age of Grace a sinner must first ‘trust’ [believe], in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith alone and nothing else, for their ‘salvation’ (Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9). Therefore, any work done in this current Age of Grace, by a ‘believer’ [Christian] is always to be done ‘after’ their ‘belief’ in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of ‘all’ their sins. Thus, anything done by a Christian is always to be an ‘effect’ of their salvation, and ‘never’ to be included as part of the ‘cause!’

    Some of the ‘things’ that people have been told they must do to be a Christian [saved] in our present Age of Grace is to ‘repent’ [without ever knowing if they have repented enough], be ‘baptized,’ ‘make Jesus Lord of their life,’ ‘speak in tongues,’ ‘give their life or heart to Jesus,’ ‘make a decision for Christ, ‘join a church,’ or ‘have an experience.’ When any of these ‘acts,’ or anything else is done as a way of ‘ensuring’ salvation they are called works [a religious ritual] (Jn. 5:23, 39, 46-47; Rom. 5:1; 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Pet. 1:10). Anyone whose ‘faith’ is based upon a ‘religious ritual’ to ensure their salvation is no different from those people who are believing in the works of other religions! Thus, they may be described as ‘professing’ Christians.

    The ‘Gospel of John’ revealed the Lord Jesus Christ to be God, in a human body (Jn. 1:1-4, 14, 47-51; 2:24-25; 3:35; 4:29; 5:21-24; 6:64; 8:58; 9:35-38; 10:30-39; 11:25-27, 38-44; 20:28-29)! Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only ‘God-man’ (1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:8; 4:10). In his gospel, John ‘never’ suggested, instructed, or insisted that people had to repent, make Jesus Lord of their life, be baptized, speak in tongues, give their life or heart to Jesus, make a decision for Christ, join a church, have an experience or to do anything else in order to be saved other than to simply believe. If any of these acts, or some other thing, were necessary to do in order to be a Christian [saved], then John would have been ‘remiss’ for not including that act or thing with the reason for writing his gospel (Jn. 20:30-31).

    In other words, if the reason given by John for writing his gospel is not ‘all’ that one needs to know in order to be a true Christian [saved], then John’s reason would be incomplete. John simply wanted his readers to know some of the things he had heard the Lord Jesus Christ say and had seen Him do, so his readers might believe and therefore be saved (Jn. 20:30-31). In his gospel, John used the word believe [trust] 60 times. He used other forms of the word believe like ‘believed’ another 40 times. The word repent, in contrast, was never mentioned by John! Thus, the ‘Protestant [under protest] Movement’ was based upon ‘sola gratia’ [grace alone] (Eph. 2:8-9), ‘sola fide’ [faith (belief) alone] (Ro. 5:1), ‘sola Scriptura’ [Scripture alone] (2 Tim. 3:16-17), with the results being ‘soli Deo gloria’ [to God alone be glory]. Is that the message being taught in churches and by religious movements, in our day? It appears not.


    • ChurchSalt Says:

      Hey Bob,
      I agree with the main driving point of your comment as I understand it, that being salvation is through grace NOT works, and that these works often demanded by men can take the form of many different teachings. I would disagree with you on repentance, as that isn’t a work. Repentance is a change of mind, or a taking on of a new viewpoint. To say repentance of sin isn’t necessary for salvation is to not only discard the EXTREMELY clear command of our Lord in Luke 24, but it is to say we may leave our view of sin unchanged when we come to Christ for forgiveness of those sins. This makes no sense. How can I believe/trust Jesus paid for my sins when I don’t even think my sins are bad? If I haven’t changed my mind regarding sin, I certainly won’t feel the need for them to be paid for, right? Without a change of mind regarding sin, there can be no belief. Think of this in a courtroom setting. If someone runs up and tells you that down at the court-house, all your parking tickets and fines have just been paid by a friendly old man. You won’t believe them. Why? Because you don’t think you have been parking badly and getting penalized for it. However, if someone comes up and uses maps, photos and video to show you how badly you park, and all the fines you have accrued, you will change your mind (repent) of your parking habits and come to an understanding of the fines that are currently in your name. It is only then you might believe someone else paid them for you (and that will be some good news, will it not?)

      I understand how you think of the word repent, and I suspect you have that understanding because of the way it is used in modern times. The vast majority of preachers use it to mean “stop doing bad and start doing good”. While this is the fruit of repentance, it isn’t the meaning of repentance. If we take the modern use of the word and stick it into Scripture, it indeed is made to look like works-righteousness. If the proper definition isn’t used, it can lead to a LOT of confusion and in-fighting. Repentance (true repentance) is also clearly taught in Scripture as a gift from God (2 Tim 2:25, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18). This new viewpoint regarding sin comes from God, and stays with a believer throughout life. this is why many good teachers teach the Christian life is a “life of repentance”. I recently wrote about the meaning of the word in a more thorough manner (click HERE).

      Like I said, I agree with the main driving thought of your comment, I would just encourage you to look into the definition of repentance a little more. To leave it out of the Gospel message takes away any explanation for the atonement offered by Christ. If sin isn’t recognized for what it is, the Cross simply doesn’t make any sense.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Another good article on repentance can be found HERE


      • Robert E. Schoenle Says:

        Hello Joe;

        You will have to argue with the apostle John about repentance since he did not deem it important enough to even include the word or the act in his evangelizing gospel. The point I hope you are able to grab unto is that the ’cause’ of salvation in our present age of ‘grace’ can only be by solely ‘believing’ in the finished work of the Lord Jesus for our salvation. The ‘effect’ of that salvation will lead to having a ‘change of mind’ [repentance] regarding sin and our ‘identifying with the death, burial and resurrection’ of the Lord Jesus’ [baptism] (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Did you notice that there is no mention of repentance by the apostle Paul? When the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist said to repent [have a change of mind] they were speaking to a Jewish audience living in the age of ‘law.’ The same is true for Peter when he told his Jewish audience who were living as though it was still the age of ‘law’ to ‘repent [have a change of mind] and be ‘baptized’ [be identified with the Lord Jesus] (Acts 2:38). If you are thinking you are saved because you repented, how are you able to be sure you repented enough? Cause and effect! Please think about it!


        • ChurchSalt Says:

          Hey Bob,
          Usually when people disagree online it’s just an avenue in which those involved scream at someone with no real concern for their welfare, and no thought whatsoever to what the aother party is saying. I have to admit, while you and I have disagreed in the past (and again now) I have never felt that our discussions were of that type. I sense you hold your position sincerely and challenge others out of a jealousy for Christ and His work, as well as for the souls of others (I hope I am right). I truly hope that in our back-and-forth you understand that I mean no insult or personal disrespect. That being said, on with the back-and-forth. I only have a few points for you to consider, and humbly ask that you do:

          1) Point from Scripture – Your argument is from silence. There are many things that some Biblical books mention and others don’t. Your focus on John’s silence while avoiding the clear command in Luke puts the one book in higher authority than the other. The Biblical books are to be accepted, studied and believed as a whole. No argument from silence (on any subject) can nullify clear teachings found elsewhere. In Luke 24, Jesus commanded us to preach repentance. You may not welcome it, but He did.
          2) Point from logic – To have no repentance before belief/trust is to trust Christ for something you don’t even know exists. How can one believe sins are paid for when one doesn’t even recognize sin and its’ consequence? How can a person who embraces sin as good believe someone else paid for it because it is bad? It makes no sense, and it creates a disconnect between the sinner and the Cross. It turns Good News into Nonsensical News.
          3) Point of fact – Repentance is a change of mind, and changing one’s viewpoint can hardly be called a work. This change of our sin-loving mind is a gift from God, not something we can work up from the inner depths of our deceitful hearts. It happens at the time of regeneration and is part of what happens when God saves a man (see Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36). It is a work He does, not the believer.

          As far as your general thoughts on cause and effect I say “Amen”. Works of any sort come after true salvation, and do not contribute to it at all. When the dust is kicked up from our dialogue, I must confess that I simply turn to Luke 24 and see where Jesus clearly commanded to preach repentance and go from there. Those truly accept Him as their Master, and if the Master commands it, who am I to question it? I will simply listen, believe, obey, and try to figure out the nuances on the way.


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