Grace Church of Tallahassee
By Cole Brown, Spring 2016
Religions have been around forever; the changing, morphing, and creation of different religions can be seen all throughout time. Even within Christianity, we can see that there are several different denominations, like Methodist or Baptist, which believe in specific things to that denomination. Being that this church, the Grace Church of Tallahassee, is a non-denominational Christian church, the main focus of their teachings is reading the Bible verse by verse and having a literal interpretation of its words to learn how to uphold the authoritative Bible. While referring to themselves as a ‘Bible Church’, the current Senior Pastor says that they have some similar beliefs of many of the big name Christian denominational churches, such as Methodist and Baptist, but that their philosophy is a little different because they do teach verse by verse from the Bible, include history context, and place emphasis on the Greek and Hebrew. By this, they are basically trying to get back to the point where the Bible is what is being taught and is the authoritative voice of the religion. Since this church is a non-denominational church, it has a much different history than some bigger denominational churches that go back a very long period of time.
While in school at Dallas Theological seminary, the founding pastor, Dr. Gene Jenkins, realized that he wanted to open a Bible Church in a university town. Because of this dream and a visit to Tallahassee, Florida, Dr. Jenkins and his wife began to pray about it. Then, Dr. Jenkins was offered and accepted a job as a chaplain at a nearby Apalachee Correctional Facility in 1970. As he began a new life in Tallahassee, Dr. Jenkins began to make friends and other contacts in the area. Along with this new career, Dr. Jenkins also began to host Bible studies with families in the area while still keeping his dream and beliefs close by.
This led Dr. Jenkins to establish the Grace Church of Tallahassee in 1971 and hold the first service on Easter. While the first service was held in the chapel of a local funeral home, the congregation quickly outgrew that chapel and forced the church to move a few times. The church first moved from the funeral home to the YMCA then to the W.T. Moore Elementary School cafeteria. At this time, this church was simply a small group of people gathering in a school cafeteria while studying the Bible. It was during this time period that the church began to come under some scrutiny because some outsiders believed that it was a something similar to a cult. The current senior Pastor, Dr. Rob Bunton, believes that this view of the church was simply because the church wasn’t one of the traditional denominations and at the time there were few non-denominational churches around. So, he thinks that outsiders just didn’t have enough information about the church before giving them the reputation.
In 1980, the church made a big decision that would allow Dr. Jenkins to completely follow his dream. In this year, the church purchased the piece of property from a separate church that was moving locations. After buying this property, the church remodeled it into the church that is still here today. At the same time, Dr. Jenkins also quit his job as the chaplain at the correctional facility so that he could focus all his energy on his dream.
After about 5 years, the church took another big step in its history by adding two members to their family that would greatly impact the church for years to come. The two members that were added are Dr. Rob Bunton and Dr. Jim Canter. Dr. Canter was hired as the worship leader, a position that he still occupies today, while Dr. Bunton was hired as an associate pastor. However, this wasn’t the first or last encounter Dr. Bunton had with the church. The now Senior Pastor of the church, Dr. Bunton, started off as just a member of the church while he attended the church throughout his schooling at FSU. Upon graduation from FSU, Dr. Bunton went on to get his masters degree at the same school as Dr. Jenkins, Dallas Theological Seminary. After getting his master’s degree, he then returned to the church to become the associate pastor in 1985, where he would work his way up to Senior Pastor when Dr. Jenkins retired in 2008.
Along with adding these key pieces of their ministry, Senior Pastor Bunton mentions in our interview that they have also had a few pastoral interns that have worked for the church. He describes these interns as being people who are trained under their staff and then go off to seminary school in order to come back and rejoin their staff. Another two key additions to their staff occurred in 2007 and 2009 when they hired ex-interns Doug Link and Ben Khazaree. Doug and Ben were both hired after they received their master’s degrees from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Doug was hired as the Youth Pastor, while Ben was hired as their Full Time College and Administrative Pastor. I thought that it was very interesting that this church likes to train future members of their staff under current employees before they get their master’s degree; it’s something you don’t always see in churches today.
Today, the Grace Church of Tallahassee has about 250-300 members and is involved with several different aspects of the community. One of the big areas that they are involved within the community is in their college and youth ministry, where they host bible studies for students. Also, the Grace Church is very involved with the Women’s Pregnancy Center, which promotes the Pro-life views of the church. Along with community outreach, the church plans to renovate their current buildings to accommodate more people, while also connecting the two separate building that they own. Overall, this is a small, active church within the community that has a lot of passion in what they believe.
Senior Pastor describing the founding of the Grace Church of Tallahassee
Pastor Bunton describing the community service the church provides.
Pastor Bunton explaining his job as the Senior Pastor.
Bunton, Rod. "Grace Church of Tallahassee." Personal interview. 13 Apr. 2016.
"Church History." Grace Church of Tallahassee, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. <www.gcot.org>