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Todd Unzicker calls Southern Baptists to be people on mission for Christ

Todd Unzicker, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, preached the convention sermon at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting June 14 in New Orleans. Photo by Sonya Singh

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Todd Unzicker reminded his listeners of what binds Southern Baptists together. Unzicker, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, preached the convention sermon Wednesday morning during the 2023 annual meeting.

“Our convention exists to be a movement of churches on mission together because God desires more worshipers of the risen Son, King Jesus,” Unzicker preached.

He talked about the need for prayer, suffering, salvation in Christ alone, for all peoples, and about worship. He asked his listeners to consider what they do in light of what God is doing.

In 1845 Southern Baptists organized to send missionaries, plant churches and train the next generation of leaders, Unzicker said.

“At the end of the day, I believe this room is here today to send missionaries, plant churches, and train up the next generation,” he said. “We are on mission together. … With 3,500 unreached people groups, our best days are ahead of us.”

Some people say the SBC is in decline. Some peddle fear. But consider John on the Island of Patmos and his vision as described in Revelation 5, Unzicker preached.

“This is an earthquake of a passage. It is a passage that will take your breath away. … This vision is for us today because we believe that this is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, all sufficient Word of God.”

Verse 3 says no one was worthy to open the scroll, not angels, nor Old Testament patriarchs, nor Billy Graham …, Unzicker preached. “No one, and John is left with the painful realization that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. … Maybe in these cultural times of distress, we’ve simply forgotten about the One who is worthy?”

Verse 5 speaks of the Lion of Judah; verse 6 of a Lamb. “What we learn is when our King came to conquer He didn’t do it with power but by laying down His life,” Unzicker preached.

He read Revelation 5 verses 8 through 11, but stopped after the first few words of verse 12 to talk about football.

“Instead of imagining thousands cheering for a little brown ball, imagine thousands from the nations worshiping the King,” Unzicker preached before continuing to read through verse 14.

“Being on mission together means we better be people of prayer who are willing to suffer for the name of Jesus, the sake of the lost, and the worship of the One true God.”

About prayer: “God not only hears your prayers but delights in them. They are a pleasing aroma to Him. … If we are going to be on mission together, then our prayer lists need to reflect this reality.”

Unzicker said he believes in and has seen the results of healing prayer, but, “My question is, are we praying more for saints to stay out of heaven than we are sinners to stay out of hell? … Our evangelistic methods will only be effective when we pray with the heart of God for the lost and cry out to Him for a great harvest of souls.”

Prayer shouldn’t be a last resort, but a primary strategy, Unzicker said. “Maybe what the world needs now, maybe what we need now, is hearing from God, calling out to Him instead of airing our own opinions.”

About suffering: “Jesus said in this world we would suffer for His name’s sake,” Unzicker preached. “Suffering could take different forms for us. There could be, and likely is, suffering in the form of government and cultural persecution coming. While we pray and work to see this not happen, we know that this is not uncommon to the church of Jesus Christ. … We know we must be prepared.

“Most likely suffering could also mean making difficult changes in our churches and how we do ministry,” Unzicker continued. “We must be willing to set aside our preferences, programs, politics and past to focus on God’s purpose, to ask the question ‘what have we not done to reach a changing world for Jesus?’”

About salvation through Jesus alone: “Brothers and sisters, we should unapologetically build consensus around our doctrine. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a blessing to this convention, not a burden. But we should always beware the ‘urge to purge.’ If we should break fellowship with one another it should be with tears, not cheers.”

Unzicker’s words turned personal: “I’m afraid some of us in this room live more for the Convention than the mission. What if we spent half the amount of time tweeting and posting on Facebook and spent that time sharing the Gospel, soul winning? What if we spent half the time reading and reacting to the daily airing of grievances and, instead, we got serious about making disciples?

“Why are we letting our Convention get sidetracked by and influenced by those who ignore Ephesians 4:31-32 when it says to put away bitterness, short tempers, anger, shouting and slander?”

Unzicker shared several scriptures – Ephesians 4:32, John 13:34, Romans 12:10 and others –  to show what the love of Jesus looks like.

About all peoples: “God is going to win for Himself believers but not just from America and Europe. Not just people who look like most of us. …

“God will destroy racial pride,” Unzicker preached. “He sent His Son to die for people of all nations and all tribes. This isn’t a political issue. This isn’t a social issue. It is a Gospel issue, a ‘blood of Christ’ issue. This isn’t ‘woke.’ This is wonderful!

“Our God is multiethnic, multi-linguistic and multinational. A mind-boggling distinctive of Christianity is the unprecedented unity that created peace not only with God and man but with one another.”

About worship: Revelation 5 is “one big worship service,” Unzicker preached, “where one day there will be no more tears. No more sin. No more sickness and death. No more factions. No more exaggerations. No more fear-mongering. No more divisive podcasts. No more abuse. No more racial pride. No more systemic injustice. No more gender confusion. No more politics. No more lawsuits. No more amendments. No more disfellowshipping. 

“My fellow Baptists, from this day to that day of Christ’s return, may we be a people who are on mission together.”