Evangelism with Johnny Hunt

#9 – The Gospel Above All


Join co-hosts Kevin Ezell and Johnny Hunt as they discuss with sending pastor of Summit Church in North Carolina, Todd Unzicker, the strategy behind the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Gospel Above All” focus for the year 2019. What does “Gospel Above All” mean? And how can the Church practice it?

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Announcer:  You’re listening to Evangelism with Johnny Hunt, a podcast from The North American Mission Board that equips you and your church to share the Gospel. Now, here are your hosts.

Kevin Ezell:  Well, thanks for joining us today. I’m Kevin Ezell, here with Johnny Hunt.

Johnny Hunt: Well, thanks for listening today, Pastor. We just want to remind you that evangelism’s the heartbeat of everything we do here at the North American Mission Board. We believe just as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3. The gospel is of first important. So everything we do is all about the gospel, which is why we’re so excited about the emphasis that our president of the Southern Baptist Convention, JD Greer, is placing on the gospel and personal evangelism over the next two years.

Johnny Hunt: JD recently announced the theme of his presidency, gospel above all. Today we’ve asked Todd [Unzicker 00:00:56] from the Summit Church to join us on the podcast to talk about this emphasis. So Todd, thanks for joining us.

Todd Unzicker:  Hey, thanks for having me.

Johnny Hunt:  One of the questions that’s really come to our mind this morning is just how your pastor came to … and our president to this theme, the gospel above all. Tell us the vision that’s behind JD’s theme.

Todd Unzicker: Yeah, Johnny. He really just after fasting and praying, he felt like what is God calling me to lead Southern Baptist in? That was after thinking about it, he said you know what? We have a good gospel doctrine. The baptist state and message, it’s big enough that allows diversity and theological tents, but is narrow enough to keep us united. He said yeah, we got a clear gospel mission. That is to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, to plant churches all over the United States and to see our cities and towns flourish because of what Christ did.

Todd Unzicker: He said really what we want to change is … and make sure we have a good gospel culture. How can we do that? That’s to keep the gospel above all. There’s 15 million Southern Baptists. It is clear that we’re going to have young and old and urban and rural and we’re going to have people all across the political spectrum and different cultures and different ways of doing church. While all of those are important, we want to keep the gospel of first importance, as you said, as the apostle Paul said in First Corinthians.

Todd Unzicker:  So if we can be a people that will keep the gospel, meaning that Jesus lived a life that we could never live and he died the death that deserved. If we can keep the gospel of first importance, then we can assume the best in one another, give the benefit of the doubt, and when we differ, extend grace to the same level that Jesus showed on the cross. That that could revolutionize us as a people, is just to keep the gospel above all.

Kevin Ezell: Well, you sort of answered a second question for me, but one of the major things when we think about how we can take this to different levels throughout the SBC life, whether it’s church association or state convention, what roles do you see each of these playing?

Todd Unzicker:  Well, I think this is the beauty of it, is that whether somebody’s in a church that’s … Shady Grove Baptist Church with 30 folks on a Sunday morning or they’re at Third Baptist Woodstock, this is something for all Southern Baptists. So every church can look at this and say what does this mean, to keep the gospel above all at our church?

Todd Unzicker: I used to be a director of missions, so I know that having an emphasis like this … and I was still in that role … of reminding the pastors Monday morning breakfasts, gatherings, to get together for meetings, that that’s what’s going to unite us as a people is the gospel is coming together to take the good news, to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel. I just think the state conventions … we’re already hearing about several state conventions that are looking at making this their theme. I think this just is a good mantra for all of us to remember as we go forward.

Kevin Ezell: Todd, we’re incredibly grateful for the partnership with you and JD and gospel above all. And Brother Johnny being in sync with that message. We’ve established, as you know, a website, gospelaboveall.com. Actually .com, .org, .net, dot anything you want to put there. But gospel above all so pastors have access to any of the materials. Also we’ll be sending out a who’s your one kit real soon. It’s a part of a gospel above all.

Kevin Ezell: When it comes to the demographic of the SBC, Summit is obviously a megachurch. So often when things come out like this, people say well, megachurches can do it, but smaller churches can’t. I think the beauty of gospel above all and who’s your one and all the parts of gospel above all … that a church of any size, of any location can participate in this.

Todd Unzicker: Yeah. You hit the nail on the head. This is the sign for all Southern Baptists. When JD was nominated for president of the SBC, when Ken Whitten nominated … that was one of the goals, was he wanted be a president for all Southern Baptists and [inaudible 00:05:00] through it. So all of these tenets that fall under gospel above all, that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the west or the east, to the south, northeast or how big your church is, this is something for every believer, every pastor, every church, association and convention to rally around.

Johnny Hunt: Todd, I know that our president has put together four initiatives within the theme of the gospel above all. They’re directly related to an evangelism emphasis. Tell us about these four initiatives, multiplying churches, go to, who’s your one, undivided church?

Todd Unzicker: Well, Johnny, I’ll start with the undivided church. That is that one of the beauties about Southern Baptist is that we are one of the more diverse denominations in the country, as you know. We need to celebrate that, that we would mirror the culture that, demographically anyway, that we are trying to reach. So with, I think, the latest statistics that I’ve seen out of LifeWay, it’s about 19% of Southern Baptists are non white. But sadly our leadership doesn’t reflect that. It’s not that we just need to have people of color in leadership but … for the sake of just doing that. We need their influence. They have so much that they are offering the kingdom of God that we are learning from.

Todd Unzicker: So what we want to see is this undivided church, that we would be one, that as we think about Dr. Martin Luther King day here at this time of year, he famously said that the most segregated hour was the time between 11 and 12. May that not be so in our Southern Baptist churches and our leadership, that we would be one people of every nation, tribe and tongue here at SBC.

Johnny Hunt: Right. Let’s talk about the go to for a moment. Seems like this is designed to encourage college students to commit two years post graduation to make disciples in strategic cities. So how can pastors build into the DNA of their own churches this type emphasis for the younger generation to begin to live missionally?

Todd Unzicker: Can you imagine the transforming power of almost 16 million college students in our Southern Baptist churches and collegiate ministries, BCM and others like that, if every one of them said you know what? I gotta get a job somewhere when I graduate. Why not the mission of God be the first determining factor in that? So what we’re going to call … with the help of our state execs in NAM and international mission board is you want to call every single college graduate to give their first two years, their first two years to the mission of God.

Todd Unzicker: Whether that’s a church plant in one of our sin cities or that’s going with the journeyman program or some other way through the international mission board to unreached people groups around the world … there are certainly other groups that have things like this, but we feel like with the power of the Holy Spirit and the casting of that vision that God will raise up an entire new generation that is so zealous with a white hot passion for the nations and for [inaudible 00:08:04] doing something like this. We’re just going to call it the go to movement.

Johnny Hunt: That’s awesome. It seems like what we’re going to hear most about in the immediate future is who’s your one. So let’s talk a moment about just exactly what that looks like for the local church.

Todd Unzicker: Yeah, Johnny. This is one of those things when I think about this, I think I know how the Holy Spirit has really orchestrated this because as you know, you didn’t know JD was going to do this, and JD didn’t know that you had done a sermon series on this. But this is something that both of you two, who both have a great passion for evangelism said you know what? What if every Southern Baptist … what if every Southern Baptist said I’m going to pick one person, I’m going to write down their name on a card, put it into my Bible, and I’m going to pray daily for that person. I’m going to intentionally share the gospel with this person. I’m going to intentionally look for ways to demonstrate the gospel with this person.

Todd Unzicker: What if every single Southern Baptist committed this next time in the future to say this is my one. This is the one person that I’m believing in faith that God is going to [inaudible 00:09:04] and obviously somebody said can we only do one? We said no, that’s-

Johnny Hunt:  Right.

Todd Unzicker: Nobody can … neither Pastor Johnny nor Pastor JD said it could only be one, but as we all know, most Christians sadly aren’t sharing their faith with anyone. What if we all started off with one and said you know what? We want to see one person. To be frank, we want to see the baptism numbers further. We believe that God can do that in our generation.

Johnny Hunt:  Yeah, that’s really exciting. The truth is it could be a jump start in every local church. I believe when someone sees that they’re praying for one and their intention, when then see they come to faith in Christ, I believe it’s just going to put fire in their bones to continue to see God move upon the other ones in their life.

Johnny Hunt: Now, how about multiplying churches and bringing this challenge to our denomination?

Todd Unzicker:  Yeah. The idea is that as … Kevin, you and I have talked a lot about the small percentage of churches that are actually sending. So what we’ve said is hey, if the first step in sending and planting churches is a cooperative program, what if every church … make sure that every church is giving to their cooperative program, or maybe giving more. Maybe step two was giving more to lottie and Annie. Then some churches need to take that next step in sending missionaries, whether that’s short term trips or do a vision tour with NAM in one of the sin cities.

Todd Unzicker: I was in New Orleans yesterday and seeing what God is doing with a group of pastors. You could just see that fire. Whatever it is that a church is in their journey, what is the next step that they need to take? Because God’s plan A for reaching a lost world was the local church. If we really believe that and the population growth, we’ve got to plant more churches. New churches are reaching a new generation and new folks who would never come. So what we want to see is not only here in the US, but around the world, we want to see new churches planted, not by addition but through multiplication.

Johnny Hunt:  You know Todd, we’re thankful for you and for JD, but his term is only two years, if he gets reelected, which it looks like it’s trending positive there. So if he does, this is something that it sounds like … and you have designed it in such a way … it’s something that we’re … our hope is that the theme will last well beyond JD’s term as president.

Todd Unzicker: Yeah. As Johnny, you’ve been a past president, the only real authority in a Southern Baptist convention is you run a two-day business meeting, and you appoint a committee on the [inaudible 00:11:35]. That’s the real authority, but we look at this as a [inaudible 00:11:41] is that if we really keep the gospel above all, that we focus on an undivided church that is evangelistic, that wants to plant other churches and is trying to mobilize the next generation, that in Christ, that’s our great hope for the future. So hopefully this would be a tone that whoever was president of the SBC, they would certainly take these elements and keep moving forward.

Todd Unzicker:  These are all … we look at it as basic New Testament. Nothing new here, but certainly getting back to what the early church was known for and turned the world upside down with.

Johnny Hunt:    Yeah, I think that’s going to happen. Well, we sense that God is up to something. Let me ask you a question, Todd. Do you sense there’s an openness to the gospel in today’s culture?

Todd Unzicker:  I really do. I think that people are more spiritual now than ever before. When I … Johnny, as you know, I spent time in Athens, Georgia, and came to faith there when I was 28. There were a lot of people seeking spiritual things in Athens, Georgia.

Johnny Hunt:      Yeah, from all we study, that’s exactly what we’re hearing, that there’s more openness today than we’re willing to give the culture credit for.

Todd Unzicker: Right, right. I think if we just demonstrate the gospel and we declare the gospel, that it is the power of God and his salvation. There was a generation before me that wanted to return to the inerrancy of God’s word because they believed in its power. For me, I’m 43 and I’m certainly bearing fruit of that. I just want to declare it and demonstrate the gospel to my neighbors and to my friends and to my family and to a whole new generation.

Johnny Hunt:  Well, let me ask you, what would you say to a pastor who’s struggling when it comes to emphasizing personal evangelism? Is it a good time for that pastor to get on board?

Todd Unzicker: Well, absolutely. The first thing, my wife, she gets cold in bed. The first thing that she gets cold it seems like is her feet. She will put those feet over to my side of the bed to warm them up on me about [crosstalk 00:13:43]-

Johnny Hunt: Hey Todd, Todd, this is PG podcast.

Todd Unzicker:  I’ll keep it PG. Ashley would kill me if I went any further. But I think that’s the … that reminds me of the first thing that seems to go cold in a believer’s life, and that is their zeal for evangelism. I believe that pastors … this first thing is just to say hey God, who’s your one? If there are 47 thousand pastors in the Southern Baptist convention, what if every pastor just take one person that they were going to believe and intentionally share the gospel with coming up this next year? 47 thousand new believers professing Christ through the waters of baptism would be revolutionary in our churches this yeah.

Johnny Hunt: Right. Well, Todd, man, thanks so much for joining us today. We really appreciate your time and look forward to the days ahead with gospel above all. Pastors, for more information about gospel above all, check out www.gospelaboveall.com. As always, email us at evangelism@nam.net if you have any questions related to evangelism. We are so grateful for you listening today.