The Baptist church is a Christian denomination that dates back to 1609 in Amsterdam. The pastor at the first Baptist church was a English Separatist named John Smyth. Primarily seen to be founded out of the disagreement with Puritans (Protestant) beliefs over adults only baptism (which Smyth believed in), there is also a views that says it developed from an extension of the Anabaptist traditions or that it existed since the time of Christ. The first Baptist was established in the USA, in 1639 by Roger Williams.
Currently, the Baptist denomination is said to have 43 million followers worldwide at the turn of the 21st century, and the Baptist World Alliance claims to have more than 150,000 congregations with a total of more than 37 million members. However there are associations, the Baptist denomination gives the power to the local and individual church to make decisions on things such as religious hierarchy, leadership, and decisions outside the main Baptist beliefs. Because of this autonomy, Baptist churches usually function as a non-denominational churches unless associated with a particular association.
There are two main denomination associations in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention (also known as the Southern Baptist Church) and the American Baptist Church (also known as the North American Baptist Church). The Baptist denomination primary holds a congregational governance system, that aside from some core beliefs, gives the power and decisions to the individual churches. The Baptist church also recognizes only pastors and deacons as religious leadership (opposed to, say, Priests in the Catholic religion).
The Southern Baptist Convention started in 1845 in Georgia. With currently over 16 million members, the Convention refers to the denomination itself and the annual meeting it hosts. The Convention sponsors about 10,000 home and foreign missionaries, covering 153 nations of the world.
The American Baptist Church claims 43 million members around the world with 5,500 congregations in the United States.
There are associations out of the United States, such as the Baptist World Alliance (BMA). The first Baptist World Congress (meeting) was in 1905 in London, and formed BMA. The BMA currently claims to have 210 Baptist groups as members, which means over 47 million members worldwide. The membership reaches 200 countries.
Because of its worldwide reach and profound influence over the past century, people often recognize Baptist churches for their beliefs in baptism by immersion. Baptists are known for their teachings that all believers have the opportunity to have a one on one relationship with the Creator God through the intercession of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. If you are searching for a church body that believes in freedom from sin and security for eternity, the Baptist church might just be the place for you.