This story was updated April 16, 2021 at 7:51 p.m.
Todd Unzicker, chief of staff at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., has been nominated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) board of directors to become the next executive director-treasurer of the state convention.
The board voted to approve Unzicker’s candidacy by a 57-9 margin based upon the recommendation of the search committee chaired by Noah Crowe, pastor of Peachtree Memorial Baptist Church in Murphy, during a special meeting held today (April 16) at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro.
The board also voted to hold a special called meeting of the state convention on Saturday, May 22, at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem to consider Unzicker’s nomination. Details and registration information will be announced soon.
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 of directors. The bylaws also allow for the opportunity for additional nominations to be made from the floor of the convention.
The position became vacant when Milton A. Hollifield Jr. retired on Feb. 28 after serving nearly 15 years as the state convention’s top executive. Longtime state convention staff member Brian Upshaw has been serving as the interim executive director-treasurer since Hollifield’s retirement.
Unzicker, 44, has served on staff at The Summit Church since 2012. Unzicker has worked closely with the Summit’s lead pastor, J.D. Greear, during Greear’s current tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Prior to his current role as chief of staff, Unzicker led the Summit’s missions and church planting efforts as pastor of sending and as a campus pastor. 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.
“Today was an incredible and affirming day with North Carolina’s best,” Unzicker said after the board vote. “I’m humbled to be nominated as the state convention’s next executive director-treasurer. I look forward to continuing to pray about how we can become a movement of churches on mission together.”
The Summit is the top missions-sending church in the SBC and leads North Carolina Baptist churches in total Cooperative Program (CP) support. The Summit also ranks among the leading churches in North Carolina in total baptisms. According to state convention records for 2020, the Summit reported $673,100 in total CP giving and 392 baptisms.
A native of the Washington, D.C., area, Unzicker is a graduate of the Baptist Bible College of Florida and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to his salvation and call to ministry, Unzicker worked as a sports reporter covering the nationally ranked University of Georgia football program. He and his wife, Ashley, have three children.
The nine-member search committee announced Unzicker as their recommended candidate in a joint statement released on March 29.
In formally recommending Unzicker to the board, Crowe said the search team was unanimous in their support of him after an eight-month process that included evaluating numerous candidates, conducting multiple interviews and spending much time in prayer.
“We respected every candidate whose resume we received, and we prayerfully considered each person’s qualifications,” Crowe said. “We agreed on the top candidates and narrowed the field to the one we believe will lead North Carolina Baptists with biblical vision, compassion, humility and courage.”
Crowe praised Unzicker’s ministry experience, administrative aptitude, people skills and ability to bring others together.
“His leadership skills have been demonstrated on many levels and gained wide respect across the Southern Baptist Convention,” Crowe said.
Crowe added that the committee’s due diligence in recommending Unzicker as a candidate included conducting extensive background checks.
‘A movement of churches on mission together’
Unzicker shared his vision for the state convention, pointing to Revelation 5 as what drives it. He said he hopes to see N.C. Baptist churches become “a movement of churches on mission together.”
“The church is God’s plan A for reaching the lost world,” Unzicker said.
Through what he described as a biblical, regional and personal strategy, Unzicker wants to see the convention “connect churches to relationships and resources that fuel mission partnerships across the state and around the world.”
“In the kingdom of God, there are no small churches,” Unzicker said. “There’s only the Great Commission.”
He wants to see every church have a personal connection with state convention staff “as a catalyst and as an advocate. … We’re going to do together what might be more difficult to do by ourselves.”
Unzicker shared several goals for the state convention which included: sending more missionaries from North Carolina through the International Mission Board; planting more churches; growing diversity among churches; providing greater theological training opportunities for bivocational pastors; increasing disaster relief volunteers through Baptists on Mission; and expanding care for children through local church partnerships and the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
Following Unzicker’s remarks to the board, he spent more than 1 ½ hours answering a wide range of questions from board members on topics that included missions and ministry strategy, CP support, diversity, cultural and political issues and more.
During a separate session, the search team also spent more than an hour answering questions from board members.
“We talked with Todd and asked him some of the tough questions you have asked,” Crowe said. “Many of the questions you asked came straight from this committee first. We wanted to hear his responses and make sure he understood that we need to make sure people know where he stands on issues.”
Crowe and others reiterated that the committee was unanimous in their recommendation of Unzicker.
“We were unanimous, and the Holy Spirit brought us to that place of unity to move forward with this decision,” Crowe said. “It wasn’t a split decision by any means.”
The search team was appointed in July 2020 by then board president Melanie Wallace.
In addition to Crowe, 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.
‘About the gospel’
Board member Stephen Robbins, associate pastor of Elkin Valley Baptist Church in Elkin, expressed his appreciation to the search committee for its work and said he learned more about Unzicker and his vision for the state convention during the meeting.
“I believe a lot in what I’ve heard today,” Robbins said. “The heart of what we heard from the candidate was about the gospel. I feel this would be a very seamless transition from the heart we’ve seen from Milton Hollifield and the team he put together.”
In a letter addressed to board members, Hollifield expressed his support of the search committee’s work and their recommendation of Unzicker. Hollifield served as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist state convention from 2006 to 2021.
“Todd appreciates this convention’s progress and accomplishments in recent years related to a renewed emphasis on evangelism, discipleship, church planting, church revitalization, missions and more,” Hollifield wrote. “His vision for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina would build upon our past and move us into the future.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Austin serves as content strategist and editor at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Liz Tablazon is assistant editor at the Biblical Recorder.)