Reformed Baptist Church of Nashville (RBCN)

PO Box 824
1022 S Graycroft Ave.
Senior Pastor: 
Stephen Gambill
Other Reformed
Proceed With Caution

After two years in this church, I can say both positive and precautionary things about RBCN. The teaching and congregational fellowship is good, generally speaking. But the pastoral/shepherding policies are typical of what I have heard of other Reformed Baptist Churches: intrusive and, in some instances, authoritarian.

You may contact me if you would like more details related to my firsthand experience. There are more good things I could say in addition to my reservations and qualifications.

Hope this helps.


What might be some questions that you think would be helpful for newcomers to ask should they visit this church?

That's a good question, Rob. I would recommend reading the website documents posted by RBCN regarding church policies and procedures related to membership expectations. It is better to know what you are getting into with any church before you commit to it.

With RBCN, it might be a good idea to ask about and explore their approach to pastoral counseling and church discipline. For example, the following questions might be included in a prospective member's inquiry:

Does your church have a confidentiality clause or privacy policy related to pastoral counseling?

Do you have a "tell-all" policy where a pastor can discuss personal, confidential matters shared in private with anyone he chooses outside of the counseling relationship?

Have their been any instances where confidential information collected by the pastor(s) when counseling church members was made public without the knowledge or consent of the members being counseled?

Has your church, or other churches like yours (among Reformed Baptist Churches) been cited for exercising authority in a heavy-handed, legalistic or authoritarian way (in other words, for "lording it over the flock"?

What other kinds of complaints have people registered concerning your church or denomination?

Has your church been marked by any scandals? If so, what kind(s)?

How many people or families have left your church over disagreements since its inception? Why did they leave? Would you be willing to give me their contact information so I can get both sides of the picture concerning what it might be like to be in your church?

Have there been members who were disciplined in a one-sided way, where they had little to no opportunity to present their side of the story or for recourse to appeal when accused or ostracized?

Are there any people who have been expelled as members whom you have refused to communicate with or resolve matters with even when they repeatedly appealed to you to reconcile?

Other questions might relate to opportunities for mutual edification, to see if people are encouraged and equipped to participate rather than sit as a passive audience for the pastor to read his sermons to.

Do you have open, participatory church meetings, where members can make edifying contributions (such as in 1 Cor. 14) or are your meetings closed, choreographed and controlled by the pastor?

Is the ministry of the word a congregational duty, activity and opportunity (such as in Rom. 15:4 and Col. 3:16) or a pastor-only activity?

How are you equipping the body of Christ to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-16)? In what ways are your members carrying out the work of ministry in significant and fruitful ways?

How are you encouraging every member to use their spiritual gifts as an active, participating believer-priest (1 Peter 2:9; 4:10)?

Do you permit members to present songs or music as an edifying, individual contribution or sacrifice of praise during your meetings (1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13), or is only congregational singing allowed?

What kinds of opportunities for meaningful ministry are there in your church? How have people discovered such opportunities and participated in meaningful ways since your church's inception?

Is your church "elder led" (where elders make the decisions for the members) or led by elders to achieve a congregational consensus (involving the whole church body in decision-making)?

These will get you started and probably lead to some unexpected answers and surprises.

Hope this helps.



reo4him- thanks for posting this! I don't think all reformed Baptist churches are the same, but there is a branch of them that, in my encounters, subscribes to the authoritarian view you describe.

All the questions you suggested asking are RIGHT ON, and it doesn't matter what church you go to- it's good to ask those kind of questions. Believers need to be in a place where they can grow and mature in Christ and in service to one another. It's a certain type of fear that some pastors have- only expecting their members to be ministered to by their preaching and restricts meaningful contributions from laymen- fearful that it will be uncontrollable and cause problems.

My family was a member of a reformed baptist church for about 12 years. We left about 6 months ago for identicle concerns intimated by your questions. We saw many people leave over the years and I think the concensus of the people who left was much of what you have detailed in your posts.

Stay strong and remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I hope you will find a fellowship where you can receive edification from the body and give it to others as well as you all mutually push one another godward in faith and obediance to Christ.

Sounds like lots of pain lies behind the writing of these words.

Could you please clarify "cited" in the following question?  "Has your church, or other churches like yours (among Reformed Baptist Churches) been cited for exercising authority in a heavy-handed, legalistic or authoritarian way (in other words, for "lording it over the flock"?"  I assume that the police don't cite people for religious differences in the manner of citing drivers for traffic violations.  Perhaps you mean cited as in a research paper?

I can draw some inferences re what you like least about this church.  What do you like most about either Reformed Baptists generally or this church in particular?

Perhaps "cited" was a little confusing. I meant to suggest it might be helpful to ask if people have registered complaints to the leadership of RBCN or others (known by the leadership of RBCN) via individual accounts of their firsthand experiences shared with others.

Or, more broadly, have people expressed concerns or shared bad experiences about other Reformed Baptist Churches known, by RBCN, via personal complaints brought to the attention of those churches, comments shared in other conversations, or even published articles and Internet sites (such as ChurchRater) related to a heavy-handed, authoritarian style of leadership in the church.

Positively, as I mentioned in my first post, the teaching and congregational fellowship is good, generally speaking. Reformed Baptist churches strive for doctrinal purity and careful expository preaching. However, as with each of us, talking-the-talk is one thing; walking-the-walk is another.

May the Lord help each of us do both to His glory and the good of His people!

All quite interesting!  Do you think the difficulties to which you alluded are related to difficulties in Reformed Baptist theology, whether on the Reformed side or the Baptist side or both?  Perhaps you'd suggest a more congregational and less elder-run approach to church polity?  I wonder what ideas you might see as most constructive in response to the mix of strengths and weaknesses that might come to your mind re this case.  I've never been to a Reformed Baptist church myself, though I'm familiar with Reformed and Baptist traditions.

The theology and polity driving the Reformed Baptist approach (and many other traditions' approach) to authority in the church and the relationship between elders/pastors and the congregation is deeply engrained and unlikely to change since they see this as a strength for 'controlling' purity and peace within the church.

This is why my advice has been limited to inquirers and visitors of such churches being aware of it rather than thinking they can or should change it. RB churches are not inviting or welcoming change in this area. Their own advice, like that of most churches, would be to find a different church if one does not agree or cannot cooperate with their beliefs and practices.

My personal journey has led me to identify more with the kind of body life and oversight reflected in the videos produced by this house church ministry:

I take exception with this organization's view that churches should meet in homes as a matter of apostolic tradition. I would say churches may meet in homes, but they may meet elsewhere, too, as long as the accoutrements do not diminish the vitality of New Testament church practices (e.g., participatory church meetings, centrality of the Lord's supper as a unifying fellowship meal, elders as servant-leaders assuming the authority posture of slaves and children in the kingdom of God in leading the entire body to do likewise and work by congregational consensus).

You might find of interest David Garrison's Church Planting Movements: