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J. Scott Horrell

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J. Scott Horrell

Dr. Scott Horrell’s journey took him from small-town life in central Washington to the Caribbean, Switzerland, Brazil, and finally back to Dallas, where he now trains students in theological and missiological issues that challenged him along the way.

His father, director of public health for the region, felt it was important for his sons to grow up in a wholesome community (Ephrata) with a strong church. So, they lived in town and worked on their farm a few miles away. Today all the children are in ministry.

Dr. Horrell came to saving faith under his boyhood pastor, Dr. William Wrighton. Most did not know that Dr. Wrighton had been chair of philosophy at the University of Georgia, taught men like Billy Graham at Wheaton College, was president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, and was a popular conference speaker. It didn’t much matter. His explanation of the gospel was deep yet simple. When the boy went forward, Dr. Wrighton had tears running down his cheeks. He said, “Scottie, I’ve been praying for you.” He had that compassion for many of the children at Ephrata First Baptist Church.

After a year at Seattle Pacific University, Dr. Horrell went with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) to Trinidad and Tobago. The team went door-to-door sharing the gospel and preaching wherever they could, often in the streets. They took little money and trusted God for their food and transportation.

“The Lord did amazing things while we were there. I remember as I was preaching one night, a communist leader with a crowd of youth came up and angrily challenged me. He wanted to fight. I tried to talk to him but we were fairly helpless. Surprisingly, the crowd turned against him, and we were able to move out of the situation unharmed.”

“As you share your faith, you learn your faith. You see the power of God at work as people begin to respond by the Holy Spirit. Often at the end of a day I was elated.”

In the university, Dr. Horrell focused on English and Continental literature which raised philosophical questions. He wondered if Christian faith was simply “an illusion by which we persuade ourselves.” One of his most significant struggles was with the doctrine of the Trinity.

Upon graduation from the university, he served as an interim pastor at a church in Bellevue, Washington. The church was largely white-collared professionals, and he was unprepared and left discouraged.

The door opened to enter L’Abri, an evangelical community led by Francis Schaeffer near Lausanne, Switzerland. His experience solidified his faith as he found intellectual answers yet saw living faith at work. While there, he came to understand and rejoice in the doctrine of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Trinity.

He sensed God calling him to go back to the Caribbean, so he bought a ticket to Trinidad and Tobago from Luxembourg. This time he was alone, but he did the same things he had as a college student, trusting God’s provision as he witnessed door-to-door and preached wherever he could. “The Lord proved His Word to me. Seek first His kingdom and he the Lord will take care of the rest—that was a transforming experience in my life. I could truly trust him.”

After a few months back in Washington, he came to DTS for his Th.M. degree and led the student missions fellowship on campus. In the summer of 1974 he took a team back to Tobago. “One godly woman there had formed a prayer group that had been praying and fasting for me to bring others to continue the work.”

Upon his return to Dallas, he married Ruth, whom he had met at Scofield Memorial Church. Her parents had been missionaries in Brazil, and she was interested in pursuing missions herself. “It all seemed to fit together—we didn’t know the how and where of our future ministry, but it seemed to be the logic of the gospel: If others are lost and we have the answer, how can we not go?”

The Horrells began their language training in São Paulo, Brazil, and then moved to the largest city in the far south, Porto Alegre, to help establish a church. Because Sunday morning services didn’t work, they adapted to the Brazilian culture by meeting Sunday afternoons-evenings in the neutral environment of a central hotel. As non-Christians came and believed in the Savior, people began to grow and get excited about their faith. “Young leaders matured (as did we), and the church soon became self-sustaining. It was the happiest ministry experience of my life, and a powerful lesson in how the church can better be the church.”

Medical problems brought them back to Dallas, where Dr. Horrell entered the doctoral program at DTS.

Returning to Brazil, Dr. Horrell taught at the Faculdade Teológica Batista in São Paulo, (chair of graduate studies), Word of Life Biblical Seminary, Servant of Christ Theological Seminary, and other schools. During this time, he helped launch a theological journal that within three years was the largest protestant journal in Latin America. He edited and wrote others books, in part to help national leaders begin to publish as well. Scott and Ruth became involved with and Scott co-pastored a new church—an engagement really of the whole family including their daughters Rachel and Krystal. “The Lord blessed our years there.”

In the 1990s in Brazil, the Horrells took in abandoned babies, one at a time. Two of them were eventually adopted by Americans, and the family keeps in touch with them.

Dr. Horrell has taught in the Theological Studies department at Dallas Seminary for over twenty years. Favorite areas include worldviews, the Trinity, Christology, angels, anthropology, salvation, the church, and world religions. He teaches as adjunct faculty at the Theological Seminary of Central America (SETECA) in Guatemala, the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman, and the Center for Leadership Development (CDP) in Maputo, Mozambique. Along with returning to Brazil, he enjoys teaching in other parts of the world to strengthen the body of Christ. A fairly regular engagement with DTS students includes pastors’ conferences in Mozambique.

Dr. Horrell and his wife Ruth have eight grandchildren, both son-in-laws are DTS grads and serve in the business/corporate world.