North Carolina ministry leader Todd Unzicker challenged Southern Baptists not to let divisions and distractions prevent them from being unified around reaching others with the gospel because Jesus is worthy of worship. 

North Carolina ministry leader Todd Unzicker challenged Southern Baptists not to let divisions and distractions prevent them from being unified around reaching others with the gospel because Jesus is worthy of worship. 

In delivering the convention sermon at the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting on Wednesday, June 14, Unzicker exhorted messengers in attendance to be “on mission together,” a theme he’s been extolling since being elected executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in May 2021.

Unzicker opened his sermon with an overview of his personal testimony and thanking Southern Baptists for their impact and influence in his own life, saying he and his wife, Ashley, are products of Baptists at their best.

“Thank you,” Unzicker said. “What this convention set out to do, we are a product of. This convention was founded to send missionaries, plant churches, and train up the next generation. You have done that for Ashley and I. We have seen that firsthand. It’s why we are here.”

Despite working as a sportswriter covering the nationally ranked University of Georgia football program, Unzicker said he found himself at an ultimate low after a life of addiction, fornication, lying, cheating and stealing caught up with him. While contemplating suicide early on the morning of Sept. 25, 2004, Unzicker said he saw a Bible and cried out to the Lord, recalling the words that many faithful Baptists had spoken to him during numerous gospel conversations through the years.

“I just looked up and prayed the only sinner’s prayer I knew,“ Unzicker said. “‘Lord Jesus, save me! Save me and I’ll do anything you want me to do, and I’ll go anywhere you send me.’”

Baptists began investing in Unzicker, and he immediately began sharing his faith, serving through disaster relief and going on a short-term mission trip. Less than a year after trusting Christ, Unzicker quit his dream job, sold his house and became a full-time missionary overseas. Unzicker met his wife on the mission field, and he went on to earn degrees from a Baptist-affiliated college and seminary, become a director of missions in Florida and serve as a missions pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham before being elected to lead the work of N.C. Baptists.

Unzicker based his message on Revelation 5, which depicts a vision by John set around the throne of God. The scene opens with God holding a scroll in His right hand that symbolizes judgment on sin. When an angel asks “who is worthy” to open the scroll, a slain lamb representing Jesus steps forward to take the scroll, ushering in worship and praise by every creature throughout creation.

“This is where we’re all going to be,” Unzicker said. “This is our destination…. So what are we going to do from this day to that day?”

Unzicker shared five characteristics with messengers about what it means to be on mission together based on the passage.

First, Unzicker told messengers that we must be people of prayer, pointing to Revelation 5:8 which describes bowls of incense that represent the prayers of the saints.

While acknowledging the need to pray for various burdens, challenges, sickness and strife, Unzicker challenged messengers to pray with the heart of God for the lost and cry out to Him for a great harvest of souls.

“If we are going to be on mission together, then our prayer lists need to reflect the reality of Revelation 5,” Unzicker said. “…My question is are we praying more for saints to stay out of heaven than we are sinners to stay out of hell?”

Second, being on mission together means being people who are willing to suffer.

“We know that God saved the world through the suffering of His Son, and God said that in this world we would suffer too,” Unzicker said.

Third, being on mission together means proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ for salvation by showing and sharing the love of Jesus.

Unzicker pointed to Revelation 5:9 that referenced those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, along with other passages.

“Brothers and sisters, there is a very beautiful and difficult fact in Acts 4:12 that there is no other name under heaven by which men are saved except the name of Jesus,” Unzicker said. “And all saving faith is focused and found on the Son of God.”

Fourth, Unzicker said being on mission together means reaching all peoples with the gospel.

“Who is here in this passage, and who is John talking about?” Unzicker asked. “All peoples. God is going to win for Himself people that don’t just look like you and me.”

Fifth, being on mission together leads to worship, Unzicker said.

“We do all of this because we want to see the worship of Jesus Christ go from this place to every place on earth,” Unzicker said. “And we get to do that on mission together…. Our convention gets to be a movement of churches on mission together because God desires more worshippers and because Jesus is worthy.”

Unzicker became the 12th individual from North Carolina to deliver the convention sermon during the SBC annual meeting, joining  T.H. Pritchard (1875), J.W. Carter (1890), Henry W. Battle (1908), T.W. O’Kelley (1913), J. Clyde Turner (1941), R.C. Campbell (1950), Ralph A. Herring (1960), Carl Bates (1963), Lewis A. Drummond (1992), Al Gilbert (2008) and Danny Akin (2013).