A Great Commission DNA: Partnering on Mission Together
November 09, 2022
In the following article, Todd Unzicker, Southeastern alum and Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, shares how Southeastern’s passion for the Great Commission fuels its spirit of cooperation and motivates intentional ministry partnerships.
When Jesus saved me eighteen years ago, he gave me a heart for the Great Commission. Six days after I became a believer, I started telling others about him and my new faith. One month later, I snuck my way onto a disaster relief team, donned a yellow shirt, and got to work. That next year, I quit my dream job as a sports reporter and moved to Central America to serve as a missionary.
The Holy Spirit transformed my heart and gave me a passion for the day that we join with every tribe, tongue, language, and nation on earth and say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” However, it was Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary that God used to refine this passion. God sent me to Southeastern to show me the sufficiency of Scripture in the Great Commission.
When my family relocated to North Carolina in 2012, we did so for Southeastern. I had been serving as an associational mission strategist in Florida, where I met Dr. Danny Akin at, of course, a missions conference. It was his invitation that led us to Southeastern — he was abundantly clear that the seminary wanted to train students to serve the Church with a heart for the Great Commission.
That aligned with what I believed the Lord had called me to and drew me to complete my degree at Southeastern. I knew there were a lot of good seminaries, but I could tell Southeastern was a Great Commission seminary. Throughout my three years there, I only found evidence of this reality.
As I have spent time with churches and associations across the state over the last year and a half, I have seen time and time again the fruit of Southeastern’s unwavering commitment to the Great Commission. The faithful partnership between Southeastern and our North Carolina Baptist churches is undeniable.
As I have spent time with churches and associations across the state over the last year and a half, I have seen time and time again the fruit of Southeastern’s unwavering commitment to the Great Commission.
Most Southeastern students come from NC Baptist churches. The International Mission Board reports that more overseas missionaries are sent from North Carolina than from any other state convention. Five of the top ten sending churches in the country are from our state. Some of the most prolific church-planting churches in the U.S. are located near Wake Forest. This is the fruit of Southeastern’s faithfulness to the Great Commission.
There is a renewed zeal for church planting and sending missionaries among our NC Baptist churches. I believe that comes out of the symbiotic partnership that our state convention shares with Southeastern. They partner with us on things like hosting conferences, equipping leaders, and supporting associational mission strategists. For example, when the seminary partners with us on the Go Conference, which is attended by thousands of college and graduate students from NC Baptist churches, they are helping us raise up future missionaries, pastors, and church planters.
From mobilizing students for missions to sending our very best to other states for leadership positions around the country, Southeastern’s Great Commission DNA is showing up in Louisville, New Orleans, and elsewhere. The mission-focused spark that was lit in Wake Forest is turning into a flame across the United States.
In North Carolina, “on mission together” is more than our slogan. It is who we are as a movement of churches. Cooperation is vital to our Great Commission efforts as Baptists because Jesus said that the primary way a lost and watching world will know that we are his is through the way we love one another. There is no better way to love one another than what we see in Scripture: when we cooperate together to make disciples of all nations.
Cooperation is vital to our Great Commission efforts as Baptists because Jesus said that the primary way a lost and watching world will know that we are his is through the way we love one another.
My friend Paul Chitwood, president of the IMB, says that when the Great Commission is first and foremost in what we think and talk about, Baptists are at our best. We see NC Baptists at our best when we partner with Southeastern to become a movement of churches on mission together.
I am thrilled to see, every day, the fruit of Southeastern’s Great Commission focus and faithful partnership. I am so grateful Dr. Akin recognized our common heart more than a decade ago and invited me to study there. I believe the impact of his leadership and vision will be seen for generations to come.
The calling God gave me to serve NC Baptists through the state convention is similarly rooted in what the Holy Spirit laid on Dr. Akin’s heart twelve years ago, when he first extended an invitation to Southeastern. The Lord was already forming in me a Revelation 5 vision to see our churches live out his “Plan A” to reach a lost world. Southeastern’s partnership with NC Baptists in training up laborers still sharpens our Great Commission focus today.
May God continue to bless the efforts of Southeastern and NC Baptists as we partner to see the gospel advance in North Carolina and beyond and more fully become a movement of churches on mission together.
Join in prayer with NC Baptists this upcoming year as they launch their “Praying for the Nations” initiative. To find out more about this Great Commission prayer focus, visit PrayNC.org.