Robert Sundquist escaped a hardscrabble youth and earned a degree from Concordia University, becoming senior pastor of a large Lutheran congregation.
“What I love about Concordia is their interest in being genuine and making you the best,” says Sundquist. “I bring that to my own work. Every time I talk or teach, I try to be real with folks. Whether it’s in a Bible study or at the gym, people really catch on.”
Sundquist is senior pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he serves along with Concordia alumnus Pastor Dan Weber.
He is perhaps an unlikely pastor. A self-described “no-good kid,” he was in and out of juvenile hall. “I remember teachers literally saying, ‘You can’t expect to amount to anything,’” he says.
But a little old lady looked past Sundquist’s “Skate or Die” patch and trench coat and asked him to lend a hand at a Lutheran church summer camp. The experience transformed his life and turned him away from his family’s embedded atheism.
Sundquist embraced the call to ministry and enrolled at Concordia’s Christ College to study theology.
“My years at Concordia were some of the best of my life,” Sundquist says.
“The faculty are amazing. I got involved in all the activities I could. You can tell the Spirit of God is moving there because of the love and concern the staff, faculty and students have. They believe in what Concordia is about, which is the Great Commission.”
Sundquist was named the graduation speaker, the Outstanding Graduate and recipient of the Christ College award. After marrying an alumna and attending seminary, he received the call to Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Lake Forest, California, where he served as Associate Pastor and Minister of Education until he was called to Christ the King.
He also took up an unusual hobby: six days a week he practices mixed martial arts at a local boxing gym where he evangelizes the Olympic and professional athletes who train there.
On a recent Saturday morning, Sundquist kicked and jabbed a large punching bag, then demonstrated grappling moves with two professional athletes on hand. The workouts are good, but even better are the opportunities to talk about Jesus.
“First I listen a lot and make sure I’m actually hearing them,” Sundquist says. “Listening leads to questions, which leads to scripture. What makes it easy for me to talk with people is that they see I’m a real person.”
While serving in Lake Forest, Sundquist taught a core theology class at Concordia and was part of a community of scholars who are deeply committed to the Christian faith, rigorous education and ministry application — the kind of faculty that sets Christ College apart. He will be teaching more Christ College online classes in the future.