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Scott Temple was, more than most, truly “born again” when he embraced Christianity at age 21. He turned away from an unfocused life that included drink and drugs, and embarked on a career path that led him to a high-ranking administrative post with the Assemblies of God.
He related the story hundreds of times in sermons and writings titled “How a Hippie Got Happy.”
Scott, who died Nov. 1 at age 68, experienced his religious conversion after dropping out of college and wandering North America in a van with a friend. As he told it: “We spent seven months on the road ‘trying to find ourselves’ — but we usually found ourselves in trouble.”
After getting his bearings in faith, Scott continued to travel over the next four decades, to every state in the union and several countries around the globe, but with intentional purpose as an Assemblies missionary and leader.
Scott spent his early years on the East Coast, moving to Missouri 25 years ago to become pastor of the Park Crest Assembly of God church in southwest Springfield.
Six years later, he was summoned to the Boonville Avenue headquarters of the Springfield-based Assemblies cooperative fellowship, the largest Pentecostal organization in the world with reported total membership of 69 million, including three million faithful in the U.S. who attend some 13,000 churches.
Until illness hastened his retirement in 2020, Scott served as the AG’s Intercultural Ministries Director and the first Director of Ethnic Relations. He credited much of his knowledge, understanding and appreciation of diverse ethnic cultures to having grown up in New York and New Jersey.
He was the eldest of five children — three boys and two girls — of Don and Grace Temple. Don Temple was an executive with the once-mighty F. W. Woolworth national retail chain and Scott got off to what seemed to be a promising start in New York and New Jersey.
“He was a very, very intelligent child,” recalls his mother, who today resides in Virginia. “He was always interested and curious about things. Most of the time when kids come home from school and you ask them “What did you do?’ or ‘What did you learn?’ the answer is ‘Not much’ or ‘I don’t know.’ But Scott would sit down with me and tell me in vivid detail all about his day, what had happened and what he’d done.”
Sister Gail Dini, who now lives in North Carolina, recalls with a laugh his mischievous side: “As the lead older brother, I remember Scott would gather the others and they would pin me to the ground and put sugar on my face so that our dog Smokey would lick it off.”
She also became aware of Scott’s love of a bold challenge: “When he was in high school, he and a friend pedaled their bikes from our home in New Jersey to our cabin in the Catskills in New York. It was something like 127 miles. That showed how he was adventurous.”
Scott actually spent his freshman year in high school in Pennsylvania, where his father had been sent on a work assignment. There Scott took on another ambitious goal, his mother recalls:
“He was the new kid in the school, nobody knew him, but he decided to run for freshman class president anyway. Do you remember the gas treatment that was popular back then called STP? Well, he borrowed their logo and said it stood for ‘Scott Temple for President.’ He put that logo on flyers, on posters, just all over. And he won.
“That was the way his mind worked. He was very innovative in anything he did.”
‘A little bit of a wheeler-dealer’
Scott also was ambitious. In his teens he tried a variety of jobs, including an early stint selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door that his mother will never forget:
“He went to the house of one of our neighbors and, in order to look like a salesman, he’d put on a sport coat, dress shirt and a tie. While he was doing his demonstration, somehow his tie got sucked into the vacuum, and the woman had to pull out the plug to shut it off. But the family enjoyed the show so much that they bought the vacuum.”
Young Scott tried his hand at other ventures, such as selling jewelry, furnace equipment, Revlon cosmetics, even vacation land in Pennsylvania. “He tried to get Don and me to buy some of that land, but we didn’t — and that annoyed him a lot,” says Grace.
“For a while he sold diet drinks. He owed me some money from different things through the years, and he tried to pay me off in diet drinks. But I didn’t go for that. He was a little bit of a wheeler-dealer.”
Scott completed his high school years back in New Jersey, and was elected president of his senior class. Then he returned to Pennsylvania to enroll in Bucknell University. Officially his major was pre-law. “But his idea was that he was going to be president of the United States,” says his mom. “And we thought he could be.”
However, Scott’s plans got derailed. By his own admission, he brought to college some bad habits he’d begun in high school, ramping up exploits with alcohol and adding a variety of recreational drugs. Then the Watergate scandal disillusioned him intellectually.
“He’d been really interested in political science, and he’d said he was going to be an attorney and work in government,” according to his mother. “But Watergate discouraged him, and he dropped out of school. He called us and said, ‘I’m wasting your money and my time because I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore.’ That’s when he and his friend outfitted the van and started traveling.
“At one point my husband, our son Dean and I caught up with Scott in Banff (Canada). We traveled in that hippie van with him and his friend for a while. That was quite an adventure!”
Heading home after more than a half-year of wandering, the van’s engine blew up in rural Indiana. Scott’s friend deserted him, and he was left with an empty wallet and empty stomach.
Widow’s scripture reading gave him ‘a purpose’
A local widow, Dorothy Minnick, took pity and invited him into her kitchen. When Scott expressed his exasperation with current national and world events and a growing desperation about his own life, Ms. Minnick fetched her Bible and began reading scripture that she said explained the past and present and offered hope for the future.
The episode, Scott would later recount, “gave me a reason to live, a purpose to life.” He re-enrolled in school, this time at AG-affiliated Valley Forge Christian College (now University of Valley Forge) to pursue a degree in ministry.
“We were very skeptical of it at first,” his mother admits. “When he’d come home, he was on fire. You couldn’t say anything to him that he wouldn’t turn into a biblical verse.
“But Scott had been into so many things from a young age. He always threw himself into something, and then after a while it would die off. We all said ‘It’s going to be over as soon as he gets through this phase.’”
His sister Gail agreed: “For me, it just seemed like it was Scott’s latest ‘flavor of the month.’ He had sold so many different things that I was like, ‘OK, so now he’s selling Jesus.’ I figured it was just a fad.
“Like Mom said, he was on fire. My fiance and I, if we saw him coming in the front door, we would exit the side door. Because he just would not stop preaching.”
In time, the family realized that Scott’s newfound faith wasn’t merely a fad or a phase.
“And I am so grateful that it wasn’t,” says Grace. “He altered our lives. It was through him that the life of everyone in our family was changed.”
‘It was the flavor of a lifetime’
Says Gail: “It turned out that it wasn’t just a flavor of the month — it was the flavor of a lifetime.”
Soon Scott was granted the favor of his lifetime: He met a young woman named Susan.
He’d spent the previous summer, between his sophomore and junior years at Valley Forge, on a short-term missionary assignment to an AG outpost in Nigeria. Back home in the States in the fall of 1980, he was scheduled to tell of his African adventure at a Sunday evening service at an AG church in New Jersey.
An older friend of Susan’s had been impressed by Scott when he met him earlier, and he urged her to come hear the young ministry student speak. Susan was reluctant — until she experienced a mysterious sensation that told her she should go and “meet my future husband.”
“I was attracted to him,” she discovered upon seeing and hearing Scott speak from the pulpit that night. “He was very interesting, he had a lot of stories to tell, he was a happy guy. And he was cute.”
Scott would often tell his version of that night appearing before a congregation of mostly senior citizens: “I looked out and saw a brown-haired beauty amid a sea of gray heads, and I knew instantly that I was going to marry her.”
The courtship wasn’t traditional, Susan says. “I was living in New Jersey; he was going to school in Pennsylvania and didn’t have a car. He’d get a ride and be dropped off somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike, and then he’d have to call someone to come rescue him.”
Nonetheless, the following summer Scott asked Susan for her hand in marriage.
“Of course I said yes,” she recounts, “but he would always say that I took a month to answer him because he asked me just before midnight on June 30 and I answered just after midnight — July 1.” The wedding took place in August.
Following his graduation and credentialing in 1982, the couple moved to Lewisburg, Pa., to help establish a new AG church there. They spent the next year handling youth work at the church.
Next came a year-long missionary stint for Scott back in Nigeria, this time with a wife and a young daughter, Katie, in tow.
“We were in what they called ‘the bush behind the bush,’” says Susan. “It was way, way out, and very primitive.” So with Susan pregnant with their second child as they completed the African assignment, they decided to head back to the U.S. to have modern medical care available as daughter Amy was born.
The (radio) show must go on
Scott pastored AG churches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey through the remainder of the 1980s and into the ’90s. The Temple brood grew to number four daughters and one son. A favorite family story involved the birth of their fourth child, Christine Temple, who today is executive editor of the Springfield Business Journal here.
In addition to his traditional pastoral duties, Scott hosted a program on a New York radio station. It became apparent that the arrival of Baby Christine was fast approaching on the same evening that Scott’s weekly broadcast was scheduled to air.
While Scott and Susan still were at home, he frantically tried to get a special phone line strung into a delivery room at the hospital — “I guess so he could preach over the air with me groaning in the background,” Susan says with a chuckle.
Christine apparently grew impatient, and the birth occurred in the home in an upstairs bedroom before Susan could be transported to the hospital. After mother and new daughter belatedly were taken by ambulance to the hospital to be checked out, and Scott was assured that both were doing well, he scurried off to the radio station to do the program.
“And everyone in the tri-state area who tuned in that night heard all about the birth of Christine,” Susan says.
In 1997, Scott was lured to pastor at Park Crest Assembly in Springfield after some top AG officials had heard him speak at a conference about ethnic diversity in church life and learned that his congregation in Englewood, N.J., was one of the most diverse in the nation.
“We had so many nationalities represented there,” Susan says. “Jamaican, Armenian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, African, Italian — every color of skin. Our church suppers were like eating at the United Nations.
‘Only one race — the human race’
“It was like heaven is going to be. There is not going to be a white section, a black section, and so on. Scott always said, ‘There is only one race — the human race.’”
In addition to sending missionaries around the globe to convert and tend far-off flocks, the AG welcomes immigrants who come to live in the U.S.
“But often they don’t feel comfortable going to American churches,” Susan notes, “because you worship from your heart, and it’s hard for them to sing English hymns when worshiping from their heart. Some who come here were pastors in their home countries, but they weren’t ordained in the Assemblies and they don’t have credentials that are recognized in this country.”
So, after six years at Park Crest, Scott moved across town to AG headquarters.
“It became Scott’s job in the national office to make it easier for those pastors to get credentialed here,” Susan continues. “He went all around the country helping them form fellowships organized around ethnicity and language, so they can be comfortable in their worship and they can have a voice and go to the presbytery and have a vote on how things are done in the AG.”
At Scott’s Nov. 18 funeral, held at Bread of Life Church, a Slavic fellowship located on County Line Road near Rogersville, two dozen immigrant leaders of U.S. fellowships spoke via video of Scott’s influence and impact. Ethnicities represented included Arabic, Chinese, Ethiopian, Fijian, Filipino, Ghanain, Haitian, Hmong, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Myanmarese, Native American, Nigerian, Romanian, Tongan and Vietnamese.
Dennis Rivera, who succeeded Scott at AG headquarters in 2020 after Scott was diagnosed with the brain disease Lewy body dementia, told the funeral gathering that Scott’s seemingly contradictory background ironically prepared him for his church duties.
“Scott’s personality and character from his early years as a free-spirited hippie were redeemed because Scott was willing to go wherever the Lord would open the door. His life in ministry could not be contained or limited to just one focus. Scott was shaped and prepared for ministry that crossed borders, boundaries, cultures and languages.”
Daughter and father found common ground
Daughter Amy said “it was an interesting ride being Scott Temple’s daughter,” and that in a roundabout way she benefited from Scott’s youthful uncertainties and experimentations:
“My dad and I struggled to connect. I think he saw a lot of himself in me, and it scared him. He was traveling the world professing his hippie conversion while I was striving for hippiedom.”
Amy said that as she became a parent herself, her perspectives changed. She and her father found common ground, and they were close in his final years.
“When I use the ‘Old Man Filter’ on Snapchat, I see (what looks like) my dad’s face staring back at me,” she added. “So I never have to look too far to see my dad in myself.”
Scott’s sister Gail has a vivid memory of Scott inspiring her to join him in being “born again.”
“I really wasn’t interested too much,” she recalls. “As kids we went to Sunday school, but it was just something we had to do. It wasn’t inside my heart. It was never my own personal conviction.
“But in October of 1979, Billy Graham was on Phil Donahue’s TV show. Scott and I were sitting in the den in my house watching it together. When commercials came on, Scott would reiterate what Billy Graham had said, and he asked me questions. By the time that show was over, I was converted.”
In recent years, as Scott’s health failed, Gail initiated a search for a video copy of that pivotal program. She finally was able to obtain one from the Graham organization. “And this past April, Scott and I were able to watch it again together and relive that moment. It is such a special memory.”
Handed out 16,000 Bibles in Red Square
A cherished memory for Scott’s and Gail’s mother is the time that Scott took his parents with him on a mission expedition to Russia where, amid the annual May Day celebration, they helped Scott hand out 16,000 Bibles on Moscow’s Red Square.
“Scott even got some Russian military men to help with the distribution,” Grace marvels. “It was wonderful to be part of that. It was an amazing day, an unbelievably rewarding trip.”
Daughter Christine also was able to accompany Scott on a foreign mission trip.
“It was important for him to include us in his ministry. I went to China with him in 2005 when I was 14. And that was really cool. You can’t always fully appreciate stories you hear about your parents when you’re a kid — but I got to see it firsthand, which was really amazing.”
Similarly in this country, Christine says, she “heard the name Scott Temple praised at churches we’d visit on family vacations. I could see that he made a true impact on people’s lives.”
Gifts ‘that will never fade’
At the Nov. 18 service, Christine listed a half-dozen “gifts that I received from my dad that will never fade:”
“Travel — My dad taught me to live adventurously and to fully appreciate different cultures.
“Beauty — Both my parents loved to watch sunsets. I got many calls that said ‘Go outside and look up.’ No two sunsets are the same, and my dad taught me to never lose that sense of awe.
“Joy — It’s literally my middle name. My dad taught me to embrace life with laughter and joy.
“Heritage — What a heritage I have from my dad: Norwegian, Scottish, Swedish and English. My grandpa traced the Temple genealogy back to 716 A.D. to Leofric the Third, who was married to Lady Godiva. With my dad’s emphasis on (racial) reconciliation, it’s so fascinating to me that his great-grandpa was a Yankee from Vermont (married to) the daughter of a Confederate soldier.
“Storytelling — My whole life I’ve heard my dad share amazing stories from his life and his ministry. I’m now a journalist privileged to share my own stories and the stories of others. My dad taught me the value of listening and sharing.
“Faith — My dad taught me to not waste this life that I have, to be a blessing to others.”
One family member present at the service who didn’t address the crowd was Scott’s mom. However, Grace later revealed two main thoughts she might’ve shared:
“One is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that is so like Scott. Einstein said ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as if everything is a miracle.’ And that was Scott — everything was a miracle.
“And on Scott’s 60th birthday, I wrote ‘Sixty years have passed, and what I love about Scott is that he’s never lost his wide-eyed wonder. He’s still a babe at heart. He loves life, he loves his family, and he’s still in awe of God’s creation. I think that sums up Scott.
“The stars, the moon, little things like a plant — he is in awe of all of it.’”