Idonis King’s path to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis began with a wrong turn.
It was 2014. It was a typical day for King, who had been out driving. Missing his turn, he saw the stone pillar greeting visitors at the edge of campus: “Concordia Seminary.”
He remembered that he had been praying for God’s direction in his life. King got out of his car, found his way to the admissions office and asked, “What type of school is this?” The admissions staffer explained that he was on the campus of one of two seminaries of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The staff member asked whether King was Lutheran or if he had a bachelor’s degree. While the answer was no to both questions, he wasn’t discouraged. He uttered a quick prayer. Was he supposed to come to Concordia Seminary one day?
“I was just trusting God. He was guiding me,” King said. His favorite verse, Prov. 3:5-6, came to mind: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
With a desire to help, the admissions representative gave King the name of an LCMS church near his home and encouraged him to visit. The path was clear. King headed to Hope Lutheran Church in St. Ann, Mo., where he was welcomed by the now-retired Pastor Tim Ostermeyer, who listened to King’s story, and invited him to church and to catechumen class.
A GIFT OF GOD
Before visiting Hope Lutheran, King had never stepped into a Lutheran church. He grew up attending a church in a different denomination that focused on believers and their ability to not sin — or they would lose their salvation. Faithful followers needed to be saved, time and again. To King, it felt like a no-win, vicious cycle: He was too sinful to grace Heaven’s gates.
But then he learned about Lutheran theology during his catechumen class. “The way Lutherans teach about salvation — that distinction of knowing that grace saves me versus what I can do — is what brought me to Lutheran theology,” said King, smiling. “It was a burden lifted off me. Man, I love Lutheran theology.”
ON TO SEMINARY
King moved forward, trusting in God’s plan. He became a member at Hope Lutheran and finished his bachelor’s degree at Columbia College–St. Louis. In 2019, King began the Master of Divinity Program at Concordia Seminary.
“All of the professors have been a blessing to me,” King said. But it was Dr. Timothy Dost, professor of Historical Theology, who was “out of the gate, down to earth,” offering some assistance with one of King’s papers. “You know how sometimes you write how you talk? Well, that’s what I did. Dost slayed my paper, helping me through it. I appreciate him for that.”
King enjoys seeing the professors in action and watching how they teach their courses. During his homiletics, or preaching, course with Dr. David Schmitt, the Seminary’s Gregg H. Benidt Memorial Professor of Homiletics and Literature, he marveled as Schmitt gave a 45-minute sermon “without looking at anything,” King recalled.
“To recognize your freedom is to recognize that you are part of the creation and that you are a creature, and you have responsibility as far as being made in the image of God.”
In another course, Worship and the Word, taught by Dr. Kent Burreson, the Seminary’s Louis A. Fincke and Anna B. Shine Professor of Systematic Theology, King said he “appreciated Burreson’s artistic way of incorporating the liturgy and the church year into a worship service.”
King has thought much about the freedom that God gives us, having recently read Creation and Fall by Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the book, Bonhoeffer explains that God made everything out of His freedom, but to be made in His freedom is to be bound to everything. “To recognize your freedom is to recognize that you are part of the creation and that you are a creature, and you have responsibility as far as being made in the image of God,” King said. He takes that responsibility seriously; it stands in contrast to the addictive drug use that he often sees in his St. Louis neighborhood. King grew up in relative stability and is thankful that he wasn’t influenced by the drug culture growing up, unlike many of his friends.
“Where I’m from, I know so many guys who use drugs all day. I can’t just go to them and preach at them,” King said. “These guys who use drugs, they go home and it’s all they see: Their mamas doing drugs, their daddies doing drugs. Their uncles or big brothers use drugs.”
It is another no-win, vicious cycle — a cycle that only the Good News of the Gospel can break. King is always looking for opportunities to “plant a seed,” and being a witness with his actions and, when the time is right, sharing words of hope in Jesus.
King says he is looking forward to continuing his path toward vicarage.
“Wherever I’m placed, I hope to have enough knowledge and understanding to serve my future congregation well,” he said. “I also pray that it will be a blessing to my wife and kids.” King is married to Alexis and he is the father of three children: Jordan, Alana and Ilijah.
King’s journey to the Seminary may have begun with a missed turn, but he continues to trust God and to “lean not on his own understanding.” He knows God will make his path straight.