CLARKSBURG, Md. — After serving four decades in pastoral ministry, Tim Simpson retired. He served as the pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Glenwood from 1982-1992 and then was called to Greenridge Baptist Church where he served 27 years as the senior pastor. Members of Greenridge Church had a celebration dinner to honor Simpson and his wife Carol on June 5.
On Sunday morning, May 29 the Pastor of Administration and Worship Paul Davis and Lead Pastor Mark Brunke casually interviewed Tim. There were plenty of laughs, touching moments, and challenges issued by Simpson to the beloved congregation he served.
Addressing the Greenridge family, Tim said when he and his wife Carol arrived in 1992, Clarksburg was starting to grow. “There was a fence, and there were cows where one of our parking lots is now,” he said with a smile. “We’ve seen significant growth.” He shared about leading the church, removing pews from the sanctuary, adding chairs, and opening up opportunities for dinners, plays, and family nights. Later they purchased four acres on the south side and used the area for parking space and a house for offices. They built a multi-purpose activity center in 2007. The church grew, and the faces changed, becoming more ethnically diverse. “The nations are here, and I think Greenridge has navigated that very well,” he said.
The Lord has taught him about ministry through the years, and Tim shared about evangelism. “You can’t just read about evangelism. You do it every day. It’s one of the hardest things to do, and it’s the most important. It takes time, and you have to build relationships with people to share the gospel. Can three of us knock on doors and lead someone to Christ? Yes, but statistically, it’s unlikely. You have to go to baseball games with them, have them on your back porch, care about them, and ask the Lord to give you an opportunity to share the gospel. He said, “Evangelism has been frustrating, but we’ve learned it happens best in the context of friendship.”
Tim also emphasized leading by teams. It empowers gifted men and women. “It’s calling out the called and encouraging them to lead and use their gifts. Then we become encouragers and resources for the work they’re doing.”
Another aspect he highlighted was the church’s commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and missions. “We learned it’s not impossible to be Southern Baptist in this county (though he acknowledged Southern Baptists make up about 1 percent.).” Tim said the church has had a strong SBC identity built into its DNA from the very beginning. Even when money was tight, they supported missions. “We still found a way to be generous givers to the SBC, its partners, and SBC missions”
Tim also said that there are benefits for pastors who stay at churches long-term, “You get to do some fun things with people. You get to lead them to Christ, baptize their kids, do pre-marital counseling with them, celebrate graduations, and conduct funerals. There’s a really cool blessing staying with a group of people for a long time. It’s a rare thing for someone to stay 30 years. And that says a powerful thing about you and the congregation (together) working through all of the transitions,” he told the congregation.
Reflecting on highlights, Tim cited leading a neighborhood home group for the past 13 years. “It was life-giving as we watched the lightbulbs come on in their heads. Half had never owned their own Bibles, never read one out loud. They’ve grown so much to hear them pray for each other now is fascinating.”
Tim also said he loves the church’s ministry to single moms and the hungry and poor. “We know how to say no if we think we’re being conned, but you all have been so generous and persevering. You don’t just go the second mile, but the tenth mile.” He also said he’s proud of the church’s pro-life emphasis “We must stand up and defend life. I think it’s the single most important ethical issue of the day.”
Another highlight was the church’s mission trips to Mexico. Tim served as an International Mission Board (IMB) trustee and has a tremendous heart for international missions. The IMB had challenged churches to minister to unreached people groups, and under Tim’s leadership, Greenridge picked southcentral Mexico. Tim, who went on the first vision trip, said the Lord gave one of his friends a vision to reach a village way up in the hills, about a four-hour drive into the mountains to a remote valley to share where there was no gospel witness, working with a people who spoke Nahuatl. “It felt like we stepped into the book of Acts.”
Tim is very pleased with a pastoral transition that he said couldn’t have been smoother. It came about naturally. The church had hired Paul Davis as the pastor of administration and Mark Brunke as the pastor of worship. The men began working together as a team and preaching collaboratively. Tim said Mark and Paul are well-trained academically, gifted by the Lord, and very humble and that the three struck up a meaningful friendship. “I had a lot of fun working with them. The more I gave them the better they did. The pastoral team got strong quickly.” They began planning together and sharing the pastoral duties.
The men began to consider a transition in 2019. “I had projected I would be turning 65 this year. The three of us started thinking about what it would look like for the church if the leadership transition came from within. They began developing their profiles, considering their strengths, what they enjoy doing and what they don’t, and then designed a plan with the elders and congregation.” In July 2021, Brunk became the Lead Pastor. Simpson stepped into a secondary role, advising and supporting the men.
During the interview, one of the lighter questions was about where Tim predicts the Baltimore Orioles will be in five-ten years. Tim quipped, “probably still rebuilding.”
As far as the church, Tim said, “I hope and expect that the spiritual, emotional, biblical culture here will be the same or better. But, Nothing would make my heart happier than 30, 40, or 50 baptisms a year.
Simpson challenged his congregation to learn to motivate each other to share the gospel and follow Jesus better.
Emphasizing this “singular issue,” Tim said, “If I don’t get this right, and you don’t get this right, then nothing else we do has any kingdom value. It is so important that you and I have a personal relationship with Jesus every day. Your quiet time might look different than mine, and your service might look different than mine, but we need to have a deep-hearted, passionate love for Jesus and know that he died for us and know that he was raised for us. We have to know that personally. And then the other thing is that we need to get busy doing personally, and as church members, what springs out of us naturally.”
For example, “If you wake me up and ask about my love story for Carol, I’ve got it. I can tell you the whole story. And I’m still madly in love with her.”
“What I want for me, and I want for you, that every day we are madly in love with Jesus so that whether it’s on the metro, at a soccer game, or the grocery store when the Lord presents you with an opportunity you’ve got it. It’s not about Greenridge or being Baptist or Catholic or Lutheran. It’s about Jesus.”
Tim also challenged the congregation to be personally involved with missions — locally or internationally. “If you’re not personally involved in giving some of yourself once a month to missions or being part of a mission, then you’re really missing out.”
“This church was an outgrowth of Clarksburg Baptist Church in the early 1970s… We’ve always had a commitment to Jesus and the Word and loving people. If you could crack open our DNA, that’s what’s in it.”
Tim and Carol will travel and spend time with their family. They have three sons, Eric and his wife Nicole, with their three children in Sykesville; Adam and Hannah and their three children in Virginia; and Jeff in Washington, D.C., who is on staff at an Anglican church.
They’ll also take time to think, pray, and rest. “I’m sure the Lord will ask me to do something later as a volunteer.” Our hearts are very grateful for all the Lord has provided.”
In addition to his pastoral roles, Tim Simpson has served as a past president of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D); the BCM/D General Mission Board (GMB); the GMB administrative committee; chairman of the recent BCM/D executive director search committee; and a first vice-chairman of IMB’s board of trustees
Sharon Mager is a BCM/D communications specialist/reporter.