Baptists We Should Know: John Oncken, 1800–1884

Dr. Mark Rasmussen

Thousands of German Believers turned to salvation by faith alone through the ministry of John Oncken. Oncken was born in Germany, but as a young man he went to England where he accepted Christ as his Saviour. His fervor for seeing people saved led him to return to Germany as a missionary of the British Continental Society in 1823.

Oncken was known for his strong convictions, his insight into the Word of God, and his oratorical abilities. Because of John Oncken’s preaching many were converted, and a powerful spiritual awakening swept through Germany.

Through faithful Bible study, Oncken concluded that baptism was by immersion and only for believers. After he came to this conviction, Oncken was baptized by immersion by Reverend Barnas Sears in 1834. Oncken and six other men who were baptized at that time constituted the first modern German Baptist church, with Oncken as the pastor.

As is often the case when someone chooses to do right, persecution began. The clergy in Germany, the police, and others strove to destroy this young Baptist church. Oncken, who had a spirit of love and firm determination, refused to be silenced.

Oncken’s piety, courage, tireless spirit, and ability to organize helped him to lead his church. Churches across Germany looked to him as a leader and respected his judgment and direction. In 1884, Oncken went home to be with the Lord at the age of eighty-four. Because of his impact on Europe, Oncken has been called the Father of Continental Baptists, the Father of German Baptists, and the Apostle of European Baptists.