Following a recent meeting with new Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Unzicker, several African-American pastors from across the state said they are excited about the future of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and efforts to reach all people with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I resonate with the Great Commission, the kingdom perspective and prioritizing the gospel,” said Michael Smith, pastor of First Congregational Church in Raleigh. “That’s why we’re in the convention. The Holy Spirit has confirmed that we are right where we need to be. I’m all in for the church being on mission.”
Smith was one of nearly 20 African-American pastors who met with Unzicker in late July for some dialogue and discussion around the gospel and ministry partnerships. The meeting was one of several that Unzicker has hosted with ethnic ministry leaders from across North Carolina.
“I really appreciated the initiative of Todd to have the meeting,” Smith added. “He listened. He was authentic in saying that he wasn’t able to solve every problem, but we can get going in the right direction.”
Since being elected executive director-treasurer this spring, Unzicker has spoken of a “Revelation 5 vision” for the state convention in reference to the biblical passage that depicts countless individuals from every tribe, language, people and nation gathered around God’s throne in worship.
Recently released data from the 2020 census showed that the U.S. population became more racially and ethnically diverse over the past decade. North Carolina also showed overall increases in racial and ethnic diversity, according to the data.
“Diversity is vital to seeing the gospel made known to all people,” Unzicker said. “As a convention of churches, we’re so much stronger when we work together than we ever could be by ourselves. We want to be a movement of churches on mission together.”
The emphasis of that final word — together — resonated with the pastors in attendance.
“Todd’s focus is on the Great Commission and reaching souls for Christ,” said Randall Hall-Walker, pastor of Freedom Worship Center in Charlotte. “He has a heart for encouraging pastors to fulfill the Great Commission.”
“We came together and engaged in some transparent conversations that built partnership toward a common purpose.” — Jae Richardson
In addition to discussing the future of the convention, the pastors and Unzicker engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about current issues, ministry experiences and more.
“Todd wanted to hear the African-American side of how they view being a Southern Baptist,” Hall-Walker said. “The time went by quickly because everyone was so engaged.”
Hall-Walker described the dialogue during the meeting as “sincere, open, honest and transparent.”
“I felt like we made history with that meeting,” Hall-Walker added. “I feel like it was the beginning of something fantastic.”
Other themes of the meeting included unity and a shared responsibility to carry out the Great Commission.
Jae Richardson, who has worked with the state convention’s African-American ministry for a number of years, said Unzicker cast a compelling vision that the pastors in attendance united around.
“He’s willing to listen to both the realities and the needs within the black and ethnic communities,” Richardson said. “We came together and engaged in some transparent conversations that built partnership toward a common purpose. The pastors were excited about what was said, and they are excited about moving forward.”
Unzicker said he plans to meet regularly with ethnic ministry leaders from across the state and is tentatively planning another series of meetings in October.