The search committee tasked with finding the next executive director-treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) announced today (Monday, March 29) that Todd Unzicker is their recommended candidate.
The nine-member group said Unzicker is “uniquely gifted to lead North Carolina Baptists into the uncharted waters of the present and future generations.”
In a joint statement, committee members said they conducted multiple interviews and spent much time in prayer during the course of the eight-month search process.
“His leadership skills have been demonstrated on many levels and gained wide respect across the Southern Baptist Convention,” the statement said. “The committee is impressed with Todd’s people skills, administrative experience, and his ability to relate to people of all ages and all cultures.”
“The committee is impressed with Todd’s people skills, administrative experience, and his ability to relate to people of all ages and all cultures.” — EDT Search Committee
The search committee plans to formally recommend Unzicker to lead North Carolina Baptists in a special called meeting of the board of directors on Friday, April 16 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. The meeting was called by board president Matt Capps and BSCNC interim executive director-treasurer Brian Upshaw in accordance with state convention bylaws.
‘On mission together’
Unzicker, a 44-year-old native of the Washington, D.C., area, is currently chief of staff at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, where he has worked closely with The Summit’s lead pastor, J.D. Greear, during Greear’s tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Unzicker played a key role in mobilizing churches with recent SBC strategies such as the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative, the “Go2” collegiate missions initiative and the “Caring Well” initiative to help churches prevent sex abuse and care for victims.
He has been involved in missions and ministry efforts through the Yates Baptist Association for several years. In 2020, he served on a “restart team” created to help review and re-envision the association’s ministry strategy.
Prior to his current role, Unzicker led The Summit’s missions and church planting efforts as pastor of sending and as a campus pastor. The Summit became the top missions-sending church in the SBC and the top Cooperative Program giving church in North Carolina during Unzicker’s tenure as pastor of sending.
Before joining the Summit’s staff in 2012, Unzicker was the director of missions at the Holmes Baptist Association in Bonifay, Fla., and served two years as a missionary in Central America.
When asked about his hopes for the future, Unzicker said he wants to see North Carolina Baptists rally around the Great Commission as “a movement of churches on mission together.”
“The convention exists to serve churches as they make disciples of all nations,” he said. “I want our strategy to be focused on local churches and fueled by local churches.”
In response to news about the search committee’s announcement, International Mission Board president Paul Chitwood praised the group’s work and welcomed the opportunity to work alongside Unzicker.
“North Carolina Baptists have a strong legacy of cooperation for the sake of kingdom advance,” Chitwood said. “As one of them, Todd Unzicker has a strong and genuine passion for mobilizing Southern Baptists for the Great Commission.”
Unzicker graduated from the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Fla., and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He and his wife, Ashley, live in Wake Forest. They have three children: Georgia, JD and Trey.
Prior to his salvation and call to ministry, Unzicker worked as a sports reporter, covering the nationally ranked University of Georgia football program. He says his life was “radically changed” by the grace of Jesus Christ.
“From the moment I first trusted Christ, the Holy Spirit began directing my steps in ways I could never imagine,” Unzicker said. “Within a year, I quit my dream job, sold my house and became a missionary and church planter overseas.”
Steve Scoggins, pastor at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville and immediate past president of the BSCNC, said he “enthusiastically” endorses Unzicker for the EDT role.
“I believe we are entering times that require new and innovative strategies to help us accomplish our mission in our state. The search committee has put forward a tested, visionary leader in Todd Unzicker,” Scoggins said. “Over the past couple of years, Todd was extremely helpful to me in both counsel and actions as I served as president of N.C. Baptists. His work in assisting the president of the SBC and his ministry in North Carolina will give him great insight into how to steer our convention into the future.”
Unzicker has also been described as a “pastor to pastors.”
“He is a gospel man, a Great Commission man, a pastor to pastors, a visionary and a unifier,” said Andrew Ivester, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Durham. “I believe Todd will help us focus on the God-given task at hand while shepherding us through the challenges of our day.”
The Biblical Recorder asked search committee chairman Noah Crowe, pastor of Peachtree Memorial Baptist Church in Murphy, last fall about the characteristics the group was looking for in a new leader. He responded at the time with several descriptors: forward-thinking, missions-sending, someone with the ability to hit the ground running and engage a diversity of cultures across the state.
When asked if Unzicker fits that profile Crowe said in an interview that Unzicker “is uniquely qualified to lead North Carolina in the days to come.”
Crowe said Unzicker possesses a heart for North Carolina, the nations and the local church, and he is personally committed to evangelism, discipleship and the Great Commission. Crowe went on to describe Unzicker as someone who can “unify people” across different ages, races and cultures.
Finding the right candidate
Crowe was named chairman of the search team that was appointed by then board president Melanie Wallace in July 2020 after Milton A. Hollifield Jr. announced last spring that he planned to retire on Feb. 28, 2021. Hollifield served as the state convention’s top executive for nearly 15 years.
Other committee members included: Allan Blume, former editor of the Biblical Recorder; Quintell Hill, pastor of Multiply Community Church in Monroe; Andrew Hopper, lead pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro; Jarrod Scott, pastor of Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale; Micheal Sowers, former state convention staff member and pastor of First Baptist Church of Buies Creek; Jennifer Thoppil, member of Salem Baptist Church in Dobson; Don Warren, member of Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia; and Beth Wooten, a pastor’s wife and member of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville.
Throughout the search process, Crowe encouraged N.C. Baptists to be prayerful and patient as the committee conducted its work, while emphasizing the importance of unity among committee members. Crowe and the committee sought feedback and candidate recommendations from N.C. Baptists and others through a dedicated email address and other means.
After the Sept. 30, 2020, deadline to recommend candidates had passed, Crowe and the team continued to seek input from N.C. Baptists about qualities they believed a new executive director should possess.
Crowe said the committee received a number of quality recommendations about candidates inside and outside the state and spent time prayerfully considering each one before narrowing the list.
During the special called board meeting on April 16, board members will consider Unzicker’s recommendation from the search team. State convention bylaws stipulate that the executive director-treasurer must be elected at an annual meeting or special called meeting of the convention, based upon a nomination from the board for consideration.
The bylaws also state that additional nominations may be made from the floor of the convention.
Editor’s Note: Chad Austin serves as content strategist and editor at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Seth Brown is executive editor at The Biblical Recorder.