Baptist History

Image of a Baptism at Mosaic Baptist

Mosaic Baptist Church is a part of a movement of more than 850 Australian congregations committed to serving together with the vision of impacting our communities for Jesus Christ.

This vision is expressed in a myriad of ways in local, state, national and international contexts.

More than 100,000 people make up our family across Australia.

Baptist churches have been around for over 400 years and one of the primary reasons we developed as a separate group within the Christian Church is because we are absolutely committed to the idea of freedom.

We believe every individual believer is free to access God and serve Him in his or her own way (within Biblical lines). Baptist churches are often very different from each other.  Some are very traditional, others very radical, and others are somewhere between.

We have no Prayer Book, no bishops, and no hierarchies. We are committed to each church being free to shape its own style, language and ministry.

But there are many things we share in common such as believer’s baptism, local church autonomy (self-governed), the priesthood of all believers, and  congregational government.

While each local church is autonomous, we voluntarily link together with other churches to form a Baptist Union in each state, that together form the Baptist Union of Australia.

We have fraternal links through the Baptist World Alliance with more than 110 million contributing to the worldwide Christian family which now numbers 1.6 billion.

Most Baptist churches link with the wider Baptist work which includes missions (Global interAction), aged care ministries (Baptist Community Services), aid and development (Baptist World Aid), theological education (Morling College) and other ministries.

Baptists work with other churches so that together we see our world won for Christ.

A Brief Account of Baptist Beginnings

(An abstract of a presentation by Rev Roy Henson at a meeting of the Association of Baptist Churches of the ACT held in February 2009.)

Four hundred years ago a group of English Christian exiles in Amsterdam, Holland, formed themselves into what may be termed the first Baptist minded congregation.

From this meeting of about 40 people in 1609 has emerged the world wide Baptist movement of the twenty-first century, which claims a membership of well over 100,000,000.

The principal figures were John Smyth and Thomas Helwys. They lived at a time when the Reformation was exercising the minds of many in England and there emerged the twin streams of Puritanism and Separatism.  The former was by far the stronger movement, which aimed to reform the Church in England from within.

The lesser stream saw the need for a new church, free from the traditions of the past and based on the teachings and example of the New Testament.

Smyth, like many others, was a puritan to begin with, but eventually moved to become a separatist, and gathered around him a following which called him to be their leader in 1606.

Under Church laws promulgated in 1604 by King James 1, all such independent movements were banned, and their adherents were made to leave the country. It is said that some 300 priests left England in the same year, mostly to settle in Holland where religious freedom was allowed.

Smyth and his followers not only found religious freedom in Holland, but also the opportunity to meet and discuss with other groups on the question of what was the nature of the true church as revealed in the New Testament.

This inevitably led to the question of baptism, and they soon reached the conclusion that the New Testament model restricted baptism to believers.

Once convinced of this, “Pastor and deacons laid down their office.  The church disbanded or avowed itself no church and all stood as individuals, unbaptized.

All being equal, Smyth proposed that Helwys their social leader should baptize them, but he deferred to their spiritual leader.  Smyth therefore baptised himself, then baptized Helwys and the others.  Underwood points out “in this manner in 1609, the first English Baptist Church was founded.

It was a church of baptised believers, but they were not baptized by immersion but by effusion. The water used was contained in a basin. [Smyth] took a handful of water from the basin and poured it on the head of the person he was baptising.

Probably the water was also applied to the forehead by gentle rubbing to symbolise the idea of cleansing”.

Bruce T Gourley identifies the following convictions which were held by what he called “the original freedom fighters” :

  • freedom of conscience
  • religious freedom for all persons
  • separation of church and state
  • freedom from creeds
  • the individual’s free access to God

It is appropriate that in celebrating the events of 400 years ago we reflect upon these principles of freedom, and reaffirm our own conviction that they are still valid in the 21s‘ century.  At the same time, we recognise that the Church is a “work in progress”, and we must not allow ourselves to become prisoners of the past.

We believe that “the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His word.”

To recognise freedom of conscience requires us to respect those whose consciences lead them to different conclusion from those held by us.