Biblical Studies Major Ethan Bunce Reflects on His Call to Ministry
Ethan Bunce understands that the most effective ministry relies on the Gospel as its source of power. This has led him to share Christ in the most unexpected of places, from a night market held in the church to his local Waffle House at 2:30 a.m. But before attending seminary, completing a residency, and pastoring a church, he chased God’s call as a Grace College student. A biblical studies major, resident assistant (RA), growth group leader (GGL), and student body chaplain, Bunce’s legacy remains embedded in both Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary.
Bunce grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana. As a child, he knew Grace Seminary as the school in Winona Lake where his father taught as a professor. But when high school graduation rolled around, Bunce set his sights on marine biology at a college in Florida.
At the last minute, the school rescinded a crucial scholarship. So Bunce instead enrolled in the nursing program at a local college, seeking a profession that allowed him to regularly support others.
One day, during his freshman year of college, Bunce received a colorful postcard in the mail from Grace College. On it, he spotted the smiling face of his friend from high school.
“How did you make it on the cover of this postcard?” Bunce asked his friend over the phone.
Though the application deadline for the second semester had passed, Bunce applied anyway. Grace not only accepted his application, but the admissions department provided the scholarship money he needed to transfer. So halfway through his freshman year of college, during an unusually frigid January week, Bunce became a Lancer.
At Grace, Bunce continued his nursing studies and settled comfortably into his new life at Grace. In the Lodge, where he roomed, he met a freshman named Jael.
“The first conversation Jael and I ever had was about the Lord and how He’s changed our lives,” said Bunce. “She was amazing.”
His friendship with the Jael would prove life-changing. The two began dating and eventually married in Bunce’s third year at Grace.
Bunce entered his sophomore year at Grace and became a resident assistant/growth group Leader. Halfway through the year, Bunce attended the Conference on Mission chapel.
That day, an author spoke on Matthew 9, in which Jesus declares the scarcity of faithful laborers in an abundant harvest. The speaker spoke passionately, stressing the dire need for faithful, radical evangelism. The message arrested Bunce’s heart. After chapel, he sought out the speaker to ask him more. “Did you mean what you said?” Bunce asked him.
He grabbed Ethan’s shoulders, looked him straight in his eyes, and said, “Here’s the truth, Ethan…” He went on to affirm the harsh, distressing reality of those living without the Gospel. He promised Bunce that if he shared the Gospel of Jesus with others, people would listen. The speaker asked Bunce if he was truly prepared to bring the good news to a dying world.
“I took a moment of self-reflection,” said Bunce. “Could I? Could I present Jesus to suffering, sinful people? Could I actually do it?”
Bunce arrived at an answer.
“I thanked him. I left. I prayed. And I walked straight to the registrar’s office and became a biblical studies major,” he said.
Bunce spent the next three and a half years completing his degree in Biblical studies. His classes changed drastically after the switch, and his biblical studies major exposed him to professors who inspired his spiritual and theological growth. Bunce especially remembers enjoying “Exploring the Bible,” which he took under Pastor Kip Cone, lead pastor of Winona Lake Grace Church.
While earning his degree in Biblical studies, he was also working toward an MDiv. degree through the five-year bachelor’s and MDiv. program. Bunce grew concerned with how he’d pay for his education. He and Jael, then married, prayed for provision so Bunce could finish out both his biblical studies major and seminary degree. Not long after, he received a phone call from Marysville Grace Church in Ohio.
“I had never heard of Marysville, Ohio, in my entire life,” said Bunce. “But they told me that they were looking for a pastor, and someone had recommended me for their residency. If I took the position, they’d pay for my education.”
Bunce couldn’t fathom who had recommended him to a church in a town he had never heard of, much less visited. He and Jael soon learned exactly who recommended him, and why.
About six months prior, Bunce heard of a student who had memorized the entire book of James. Inspired by her devotion to Scripture, he and Jael asked her to record a video for Grace’s Day of Worship. The night of the recording, they welcomed her into their home for dinner and a meaningful conversation.
That student turned out to be the daughter of Marysville Grace’s children’s director. While visiting her parents one weekend, she saw a board in the church containing the names of possible residency candidates. Recalling Bunce’s kindness and preaching ability as student body chaplain, she asked to write his name on the list. Her thoughtfulness secured Bunce the job.
“It just goes to show that the Lord works in amazing ways,” said Bunce. “And that you should always be kind – you never know when your name will end up on a whiteboard.”
Bunce accepted the residency. At Marysville, he joined a church planting team for what would become Bellefontaine Grace Church, about thirty minutes northwest of Marysville. He led worship for Bellefontaine’s monthly services while it was in its initial stages. When the church officially began its weekly services, Bunce completed his residency at Bellefontaine Grace.
The team was concerned that such a young church would not be able to support Bunce permanently after his residency. But by the time he finished the program, the church had grown to 200 people -– enough to provide Bunce with a full-time job.
After completing the residency, Bunce assumed his current position as an on-staff pastor and pastoral elder. He oversees the church’s Sunday morning experience, helping with the worship and tech teams. He also leads the church’s small group ministry and residency program.
Now, the church welcomes around 650 people through its doors every Sunday. Bunce marvels at how the Lord has brought about so many dedicated, passionate Christians to Bellefontaine.
Like the chapel speaker who exhorted him all those years ago, Bunce has witnessed the unparalleled saving power of the Gospel for the dead in sin.
“Here’s what I’m convinced of,” said Bunce. “If you take feeble, weak, humbled people before God, and you train them in the Word of God, two things happen. First, the passion for the mission never fails. Second, the world flips upside down.”