These Anabaptist congregations grew and prospered throughout the Holy Roman Empire, even though they were almost universally persecuted by the Catholic Church.
By the Reformation, Martin Luther's assistants complained that the Baptists in Bohemia and Moravia were so prevalent, they were like weeds.
Some retain a strict autonomy for the local church, while others have more of a denominational structure.
As the organized church gradually adopted new practices and doctrines, the dissenting churches maintained their historical positions. 401, with the fifth Council of Carthage, the churches under the rule of Rome began teaching and practicing infant baptism.
The consistent testimony of the church for its first 400 years was to administer baptism to only those who first made a profession of faith in Christ. As a result, the separatist churches began re-baptizing those who made professions of faith after having been baptized in the official church.
This was called by Luther Rice to address the need of raising funds and workers to carry out the missionary mandate in foreign countries.
Some Baptist churches resisted this missionary emphasis and became known as Primitive Baptists.
During the colonial and federal periods, the Baptist churches prospered and spread, while being only loosely organized as a fellowship.