Believer's baptism is an ordinance performed after a person professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and is symbolic of the cleansing or remission of their sins. In the Baptist denomination, baptism plays no role in salvation; it is rather an outward expression of the inward change that has already taken place. Baptists emphasize baptism by full immersion, which follows the method used by John the Baptist. This usually consists of lowering the candidate in water backwards, while a pastor recites the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19.
This mode of baptism is also preferred for its parallel imagery to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. A few Baptist churches allow for baptism by sprinkling as an alternative method for the disabled or elderly, and most Baptist churches will recognize adult baptisms performed in other mainstream Christian churches. Baptism is seen as a public identification of the person with Christianity and that particular church and is often used as a criterion for membership in Baptist churches.
Most Anabaptist churches, Pentecostal churches, Restorationist churches, and non-denominational churches share this understanding of baptism.
Congregationalist church governance gives autonomy to individual local churches in areas of policy, polity and doctrine. Baptist churches are not under the direct administrative control of any other body, such as a national council, or a leader such as a bishop or pope. Administration, leadership and doctrine are decided democratically by the lay members of each individual church, which accounts for the variation of beliefs from one Baptist church to another. John Wycliffe and Uldrych Zwingli were strong influences in the early development of the idea of congregationalism. In a manner typical of other congregationalists, many cooperative associations of Baptists have arisen.
Other congregationalist churches include Anabaptists, Pentecostal, Congregationalist Churches, the United Church of Christ and many non-denominational churches.