Dr. Witmer Retires from Crossroads

February 20, 2014

Rev. Dr. Timothy Witmer, Professor of Practical Theology, recently retired from his position as pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Upper Darby, PA after 27 years of ministry there. Dr. Witmer will continue to teach at Westminster in addition to his teaching, preaching, and writing ministry.

Below, we have included highlights of the summary of his entire 35-year ordained ministry reported at Dr. Witmer’s farewell celebration on January 11.

Though having been raised in a Christian home, it wasn’t until he attended West Chester University that Tim trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. As his college years came to an end, God’s calling to the ministry became evident. He spent six months working in a warehouse after graduation as he considered God’s leading. At the urging of friends, he attended a winter term course in January of 1976 at Westminster. While a student at Westminster, Tim took his first ministry position as part-time youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Downingtown beginning on January 1, 1974. As his years at seminary came to a close he became convinced of the Lord’s calling to pastoral ministry and that the PCA was the denomination in which he would like to serve.

He came under care of the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery of the PCA in the Spring of 1979 and began a full-time role at Berith (now Springton Lake) Presbyterian Church on July 1, 1979. He was ordained and installed by a commission of the Mid-Atlantic presbytery on November 11, 1979. While serving as Assistant, then Associate pastor he began ministries to teens, college students and single adults. He also began outreach ministries and supported senior pastor Stuart Sacks in numerous other administrative roles.

In the Fall of 1986 the pulpit search committee of J.R. Miller Memorial Presbyterian Church reached out to him see if he would be interested in being considered for the position of pastor upon the retirement of Leo Karlberg. While meeting with the search committee he suggested that they consider changing the name of the church from JR Miller Memorial Presbyterian to Crossroads Community Church. The rationale being three-fold: Upper Darby is a transportation Crossroads through which thousands pass on their way to work every day; Upper Darby is a Crossroads of the nations with immigrants settling here from all over the world; and last but most importantly, the purpose of the church is to meet people at the crossroads of life with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The congregation voted to call him as pastor and to change the name of the church to Crossroads Community Church. He was installed as Pastor on December 14, 1986 with James Boice as the preacher for the occasion.

His first sermon series in 1987 used CROSSROADS as an acrostic basis for the foundation of what was to come (it was textually based, of course!). Revitalizing the church required the addition of children’s ministries and Tim’s wife Barbara began the Pioneer Clubs ministry that February. The church began to grow and revive as other vital ministries were added including evangelism training, TEAM, and ESL. Children’s ministries continued to grow as Vacation Bible School and an alternative to Halloween were added.       

Tim’s concern for reaching the nations in Upper Darby led to the establishment of the cross-cultural ministry and the first international friendship dinner was held in 1993. The first Freedom in Christ Sunday celebrating our ethnic diversity and unity in Christ was held on July 4, 1993.

In the opening days of 1999, Tim expressed the church’s concern for unborn children with a phone call to Joan Boydell (the Director of Amnion at the time) to ask about working together to establish a crisis pregnancy center in Upper Darby. That call was made in January, their board was excited, and by October of that same year sufficient funds were raised at the Amnion Banquet for a down-payment on the Garrett Road property where the center still serves and thrives. This partnership led to the church receiving Amnion’s First Church Partnership Award a few years later.

Westminster alumni and former interns have served alongside Tim beginning with Jim Flom (M.Div. ’90), followed by Dan Seale (M.Div. ’93), and most recently David Van Meerbeke (M.Div. ’94) who has served with Tim since 1999. Dave was called with his pastoral care gifts in mind as Tim, with the blessing of the church, joined the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.

Crossroads celebrated its Centennial in the Fall of 2008 with Sinclair Ferguson preaching. Pastor Tim led the growing congregation through a $1.4 million building project which was dedicated in the Spring of 2011which added a large welcoming narthex, offices, nursery space, and additional classrooms.

In 2009 the American Planning Association had their national convention in Philadelphia and they offered a “diversity” tour to Upper Darby so that members could see the impact of ethnic diversity. The first place they visited was Crossroads Church. In Tim’s remarks to the group he said, “Where is a community to find the stability needed to weather the drastic changes in our neighborhoods through the decades? What is it that overcomes fear and prejudice? What is it that can bring about unity in the midst of all of this diversity? The love of Christ has overcome all of these obstacles because it changes people from the inside out, transforming people and then families one at a time.” Just this year, on behalf of the church, Tim accepted the first “Champion of Adult Literacy Award” from the Delaware County Literacy Council.

In 2010, his first book, The Shepherd Leader, was published and has taken the example of Crossroads’ shepherding elders to hundreds of other churches around the world. It has just been announced that the book will be translated into Chinese for publication there next year. In 2012 his burden for healthy families was expressed in the publication of The Shepherd Leader at Home.

Tim has always been concerned about mentoring and training men for ministry. In addition to Jim Flom, Dan Seale, and Dave Van Meerbeke, he has also encouraged the development of current staff Pastor William Jarwood (from Liberia) and Pastor Shibu Oomman (from India). There were also interns named Chris Kennedy, Matt Covalle, Michael Francis, Stephen Lu and now Mason Good and Zach Groff.

Together with his concern for shepherding the flock, expository preaching has been the hallmark of his ministry, having preached more than 1500 sermons covering most of the books of the Bible, including verse-by-verse exposition of 28 complete Bible books.

But this summary cannot be concluded without saying that Tim “married up!” His helpmeet and best friend in life and ministry, Barbara, has been the perfect complement to his ministry. Her selfless attitude of service and beautiful voice have blessed the congregation through the years.

In conclusion, when Tim’s family arrived at Crossroads, his desire was to see this church revitalized, grow, and make an impact in this community. The Lord has done it through his people for His glory. The church has grown to include first generation immigrants from 23 nations. Tim’s desire is to continue to train aspiring pastors and leaders as they prepare to lead, feed, and protect the flocks entrusted to their care. As his favorite benediction says “To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us. To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus though all generations.”