KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BNC) — Gospel preacher Steve Higginbotham admits it might be a pet peeve or a scruple of his, but he gives his reasons why he believes Christians ought not to use the phrase “grow the church.”

In an article entitled “We Don’t Grow the Church,” on his site, Steve wrote that whenever he hears the phrase, it’s like the “grating sound of fingernails going down [a] chalkboard.”

Steve Higginbotham

Steve, who works with the Karns congregation, first appeals to the restoration concept of using Bible words for Bible things, though he didn’t specifically identify it as such.

This principle is rejected by such distinguished denominational scholars, such as J.I. Packer, who wrote that the suggestion to return to biblical words and language is “specious and the objections to it seem unanswerable” (Bible Words [1981]: 13). But Christians who follow the New Testament as their guide for work, worship, and walk see the principle taught in Scripture. So Steve starts out with it.

Nowhere in Scripture can we see this language employed.  Weren’t they interested in church growth in the first century?  Of course they were.  But never do you read of Paul talking about how he “grew the church at Ephesus or Corinth. Peter didn’t write of the success of Pentecost by saying he had grown the church to 3000 members in one day. On the contrary, what we read is that Paul planted, Apollos water, but God gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6) which brings me to my next point.

Steve also deals with the problem of attributing to man what is the work of God.

Though Steve doesn’t trace the origin of the phrase, his article points up the problem of using denominational materials, from which this and other language comes, and repeating their concepts without fully passing them through the biblical sieve.

Steve’s whole article can be read at this link.



  1. I was just thinking. Do we know how God gives the increase? He does so when the gospel is taught and one obeys it. It is God’s power unto salvation; thus, God gives the increase. No man can give such an increase. Yet, we must understand how God does it. It is his seed, the gospel; when taught and obeyed God has given the increase!

  2. The saying “Bible names for Bible things” sounds good on the surface but when we realize we are really saying “Contemporary American-English translations of Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew names for Bible things” it loses some of its appeal. It is even worse when we use Jacobean English translations of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew names. It is better that we think in terms of Bible concepts rather than worry about exact terminology. Just say “we want more people in the church and more people in each of our congregations” and let it go at that.

    1. Bible things in Bible ways keeps us scriptural. I am bilengual, fluent. “Go and make disciples” is not “Go and make churches.”

      Ken Hargesheimer

  3. hmmm just wondering, I am a Christian church/ Church of Christ missionary in Taiwan, and follow the posts when I can. Yet here is my issue, I don’t read in the Bible, many things we say for instance “we speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent”, or read anywhere Bible things in Bible ways etc. Are the principles there, sure. Do I agree with your article that we do not grow the church God does? Absolutely! I just am convicted that we find ourselves guilty of the very thing we accuse others of

    1. We should speak from the Bible and quote Deut. 18:17-22, Gal. 1:6-10, 2 Tim. 3:14-17 and Rev. 22:18-19 in order to keep people from doing the wrong thing in worship(Mark 7:7) or teaching/preaching(1Tim. 4:1-3 ; 2Tim. 4:3-4).