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Church: The Baptist Church

How did the Baptist Church begin?


John Smyth was born in Nottinghamshire around 1554. He was fortunate to have received an education at his local grammar school, before attending Cambridge University. In 1594 he became an Anglican priest. He disagreed with many of the Church of England's practices, particularly with regard to reading from the Book of Common Prayer.

He felt that true worship and prayer came from the believer's heart, not from a book that people were made to read. Smyth continually argued with the Church of England until it became obvious that he could no longer stay a member. He finally broke totally from them and became a 'separatist', leaving to live in Holland where he could practice his style of Christianity.

In 1609, Smyth, along with a group of people in Holland, came to believe in the importance of believer’s baptism rather than infant baptism that was the norm for the time. They came together to form the first “Baptist” church. Smyth continued to insist that true worship was from the heart and that any form of reading from a book in worship was an invention of sinful man.

Prayer, singing, and preaching had to be completely spontaneous. He went so far with this that he would not allow the reading of the Bible during worship, since he regarded English translations of Scripture as something less than the direct word of God.

Smyth also introduced two new church leadership positions, that of Pastor and Deacon. With his newfound position on baptism a problem arose for these “Baptists”. Having been baptised as infants, they all realised that they would have to be re-baptised. Since there was no other minister to perform these baptisms, Smyth first baptised himself and then baptised the members of his church.

Today, Baptist churches are found in most countries around the world, with around 40 million members. You can find out more about the Baptist Church in the UK here.