Robert Zimmerman spent much of his life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and is one of three children. His father, Robert Charles Zimmerman, died tragically in a hunting accident while serving as Vice Principal at Carlisle Intermediate High School in November of 1965. Robert’s mother would spend the next five years as a widow raising her three children, while faithfully attending Allison United Methodist Church. In 1970, she remarried a widower with his own three children. Robert’s new stepfather’s career would then lead to numerous moves around the country for the entire family, including six children. It was during the uncertainty and turmoil of moves and transitions around the country coupled with the ongoing witness of his older sister that Robert Zimmerman would come to find a true everlasting anchor of strength and stability in Jesus Christ. Robert accepted the Gospel of Jesus at the age of seventeen and began to experience the dramatic life-changing effects of God’s grace. That relationship to Christ would eventually empower Robert to lead his friends, classmates and inmates to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Having moved back to Carlisle with his family after some years in other states, Robert completed high school and was accepted to Messiah College. He graduated from Messiah in 1985 with a Bachelors Degree in Christian Education and Psychology. He would later obtain a Masters in Divinity Degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, in 1989 while at the same time serving for five years as a local licensed pastor in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Robert’s roots in discipleship and ministry deepened in his twenties as his conversion to Christ took greater hold in his life. His place as a worker in God’s field began with a student ministry to a rescue mission, prison and local churches while attending Messiah College. His first paid vocational role in ministry was a four-year ministry as Assistant Chaplain at Cumberland County Prison in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was under the supervision and nurturance of an ordained United Methodist minister that Robert began to sense a call to vocational Christian service. After college he moved to Attica, Ohio, serving as joint pastor to two small rural churches in the East Ohio Conference of the UMC. While receiving his divinity training he was able to test and sharpen what he was learning within the actual life of parish ministry. Although the years of seminary stretched the limits of his faith and resources, he managed to graduate from seminary with a wealth of experience and all the while remained debt free for his education.
After graduation from seminary Robert went through a period of soul searching regarding his denominational affiliation. He chose to step back from ministry and apply himself to a few other ventures. During that time he began a profitable business (Telecard Dispensing Company of Philadelphia). Additionally Robert worked as a counselor/therapist in a drug and alcohol recovery center. After three years he sold his business and focused again on parish ministry. Robert eventually met with the Executive Minister of the Philadelphia Baptist Association (Rev. Larry Waltz) and with Rev. Waltz’s encouragement and direction he began serving his first American Baptist church, the First Baptist Church of Manayunk.
The following is an abbreviated chronology of Robert’s service history. Robert was ordained in 1994 as an American Baptist minister.
2013-present Westgate Baptist Church
2005-2013 Prospect Hill & Ridley Park Baptist Churches / Yoked
2003-2005 Good Shepherd Baptist Church / Interim
2002-2003 First Baptist Church of Norristown / Interim
1999-2002 First Baptist Church of Philadelphia
1994-1999 First Baptist Church of Manayunk
1995-1997 Recovery Counselor, Philadelphia ARC
1993-1994 Interim Youth Minister, Central Schwenkfelder Church
1985-1990 Attica Circuit UMC Churches
1980-1984 Cumberland County Prison, Chaplaincy
In the variety of ministry/service contexts where Robert has served he has utilized and refined professional/pastoral skills that have been beneficial to others. In each context he has sought to grow, develop, and mature in ways that would make him more effective. Over time he has particularly worked on refining ministry skills in the area of preaching, counseling, visioning, pastoral care, and equipping churches for relevant and effective growth. He is biblically grounded and Christ centered and possesses an open heart and mind. He has a reputation for being very creative, provocative and engaging in his preaching style. He is on a progressive journey seeking to refine his gifts and become more effective. He recognizes that efforts at personal growth are both humbling and progressive. In real estate terms he calls himself a “fixer upper,” implying that there is continued work needed in the renovation of his life and that he does not pretend to have it all together. He humbly accepts that Christian sanctification is an ongoing work and recognizes his complete need of God’s grace and forgiveness along the way.
Robert embraces and affirms denominational life and has served on various regional Ordination Committees within the American Baptist denomination. Additionally he served as a member of the Regional Search Committee when hiring a new Area Minister, and has also been trained in conflict mediation with the American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Robert has participated in the various Ecumenical Clergy Associations in the communities where he has served.
Robert has an adult daughter living in the Philadelphia area. Although Robert has been disappointed by the loss associated with divorce, he has sought to grow through it’s many challenges and heartaches and reach for the redemptive/restorative hand of God / the God of new beginnings and resurrection power. He believes completely that God can and will use both our strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and everything in between to mature us and cause us to grow in His image and likeness.
Robert is an avid naturalist and sportsmen who loves the outdoors and seeks to fully immerse himself in the wonder of creation. His love for motorcycling, bicycling, hiking, camping, boating, travel and other forms of recreation keep him active, healthy, stimulated and creative. His window to the world is enhanced and enriched through his many road trips on his motorcycle or in his Mini Cooper convertible. It is on these road trips and adventures that he is reminded again and again that life is often less about the destination than it is about the wonder of the journey.
It is Pastor Zimmerman’s hope that this website will bring some inspiration and enlightenment to your spiritual journey. Throughout Robert’s life, he has been nicknamed Zimmy. Thus Zimspiration.com. was created. May Zimspiration.com be a source of Inspiration to all who explore this site.
Contribution to this biographical material provided by Rich Schramm:
Former Deputy General Secretary for Communication American Baptist Churches USA
Former Moderator of Westgate Baptist Church
Friend and Ministry Colleague to Pastor Robert Zimmerman