Here’s a doctrine with a wide variety of viewpoints. For that reason, you will probably find fewer books that you agree with than in the study of other doctrines. Even among independent Baptists (like me) there is an incredible amount of debate. The debate, in my opinion, is hardly worth fighting over.
When did the church begin? What is the Church? Is it only local? Or is there a Universal Church that is the Body of Christ? Then as you spread out among Christian people, there is the issue of church government. How do we do baptism? The Lord’s Supper? Are denominations acceptable or should every local church be autonomous?
It often starts more fights than it answers questions, but there are places to read to decide what you believe.
Best place to start:
In this case I recommend beginning with the Systematic Theologies out there.
1. Systematic Theology Volume Four: Church/Last Things by Norm Geisler
He writes well and as a teacher of many years he is understandable. He fairly presents differing viewpoints and that is especially important on this subject. I love his 4 volume set.
2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
He supports a form of church government I wouldn’t follow, but he presents it well and you will understand where they come from. I love to read him after Geisler.
3. Christian Theology by Millard Erickson
Presents in a way different from the above two and well worth having. I am glad to have it.
There are others like Charles Ryrie worth consulting too.
1.The Meaning And Use Of Baptizein by T. J. Conant
The nuts and bolts of why we immerse.
2. Baptism: Its Mode And Subjects by Alexander Carson
An influential classic.
3. Understanding Four Views On Baptism, edited by Armstrong and Engle
These Four Views books are awesome to really understand a concept.
4. Understanding Four Views On The Lord’s Supper
There are some helpful material out there. I recently reviewed Believe and Belong by Clarence Sexton. Peter Masters has written some helpful pamphlets and books like Do We Have A Policy For Church Membership and Growth? We need more here.
1. Principles and Practices For Baptist Churches by Edward Hiscox
The first place to look.
2. The Church: Its Polity and Ordinances by Hezekiah Harvey.
A good secondary source.
3. Baptist Church Manuel by J. M. Pendleton
I’ve seen some Baptist churches that made it a higher authority than the Bible! Still, it lets you see what has been believed.