FOUNDER'S STORY

I grew up in what the world classifies as a "dysfunctional home".  My father was the son of a great man of God, and preacher, that was used to reform the church.  Rumor has it that my father was named after my grandfather's role model, Charles Finney. 

Thank you Dr. Charles R. Solomon!

I cannot thank the Lord enough for my spiritual father: Dr. Charles Solomon.  I can thank many who God used to guide and direct me through the years but none quite like my spiritual father - Chuck.  It was through the Lord's influence in and through him that God provided a Biblical, Christ as Life, foundation of Truth for my life and ministry.

I grew up in what the world classifies as a "dysfunctional home".  My father was the son of a great man of God, and preacher, that was used in reforming the church.  Rumor has it that my father was named after my grandfather's role model, Charles Finney.  Because of growing up in a spiritual environment that was ever so public, my father decided to go in the opposite direction of his calling.  As a result of this, my father did not allow Christianity to be talked about in our home.  As with most unsaved, his sins were extensive and his calling was replaced by becoming a career man for the United States government.  Bitterness and fear ruled our household.

 

Out of a family of six children, I was the one that God chooses, for some reason, to start the process of restoring our lineage back to the pathway of the Cross.  I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 16.  It was a "radical" conversion and transformation, and because of my salvation decision, I was rejected severely by my father and siblings.  I was labeled a "Jesus Freak" and considered to be on drugs.

 

As a result of my conversion, God began to use my "zealous" heart to minister to those around me.  Salvation followed for my mother, and ultimately most of our immediate family and yes, my father several years before his death.  Keith Fredrickson, my GFI (Grace Fellowship Denver) Intern Supervisor was used by God to resolve my bitterness and hatred toward my father.  One significant intern assignment was given - pack my bags, travel back to Northwest Iowa, sit down with my father and seek his forgiveness for the sins that I committed against him.  This act of the Cross is what started the process of my own father being led back to the Cross and life of Jesus Christ.  I will be forever grateful for this assignment.  I use this service act in my counseling to this very day.  I have endless testimonies of the restoration between children and their fathers.         

 

In the mid-'70s, while working for an organization that served the handicapped in northwest Iowa, I found myself in a state of unrest.  I knew I was born-again and I served the Lord the best that I knew how, sharing the Word of God, and leading Bible-studies on what I heard preached.  I was active in church outreach but deep down inside there remained a yearning, a spiritual thirst for a deeper walk with Christ.  I desired a life of daily victory rather than one of fear, and performance & bondage.  I found the typical message of the Church to be performance driven.  The message of our church pushed for repentance, re-dedication, re-commitment, and trying harder, which left me hopeless and defeated.  My conclusion was, there had to be a better way of living.

 

At this point in my walk, God introduced me to Dr. Charles Solomon, who was soon to become my spiritual father and mentor for the next 40 years.  While working as a social worker in Iowa, a friend & coworker placed a book on my desk that he obtained from his sister (a friend of Lee LeFebre) while visiting in Denver - The Handbook to Happiness.  Just seeing the graphics on the cover created a "wanting" to read it but I had a problem - I was functionally illiterate.  Here I was 21 years of age and faking my way through life.  After confessing my problem to my wife, she began to teach me how to read by using the Word of God.  Knowing that this "exchanged life" book contained my answer, I pressed on to find a way to read the book. 

 

Amazing as it is, this book became the first book I read from cover to cover.   Little did I realize how Chuck's book, and later his intern program, would be used by Christ to change my life and the course my ministry!  Needless to say, I embraced the truths of the Exchanged Life.  Shortly after this, in 1981, I packed up my family, moved to Denver, and became a student of the GFI Intern training program. Through the direct discipleship of Dr. Solomon, Lee LaFebre & Keith Fredrickson, I was brought to my knees. Realizing the experiential reality of the Cross – “Not I, but Christ.” I finally found the source of my true strength, in the indwelling Life of Jesus. I embraced the “new man” that I was in Christ. The old Steve and his identity markers soon drifted into a slow-fade. Since then, on days my memory tries to resurrect my “old self/identity,” I am reminded of the funeral that took place in Keith’s office now almost 40 years ago.

 

After completing my training, I was invited to come on staff as a material developer & discipler for their children’s department.

 

After consulting with Dr. Solomon, he encouraged me to start our own non-profit in Colorado Springs that focused on the message of the Exchanged-Life.   In 1986 we started Release Ministries - now IOM America.  We developed and established a training and counseling center that serviced the community with a special emphasis on ministering to the staff of the Navigators and Compassion International.  It was during this time that I met my second mentor, Lorne Sanny - former President of Navigators, now with the Lord.  After providing some personal counsel for him & leading him to the message of the Cross, he opened the door to many opportunities within their team.  After attending an anniversary celebration some 30 years later, we are able to see the message of the Exchanged Life throughout both organizations.

 

During the late ’90s, after moving our ministry to Arizona, I served as an advisor to several Senators, as well as serving as America’s first state Faith-Based Representative.  One of my most honorable positions served was on the Arizona Domestics Relations Committee - a three-time Governor appointed position.  During my advisory position with the state, I was given a plan, I believe from God, to establish a new branch of government called The Faith-Based Initiative.  This plan was the basis for my doctorate dissertation at Phoenix University of Theology.  To my surprise, this plan was embraced by leaders throughout the United States, modestly in Uganda and, ultimately, lead to a 5-year collaborative relationship with the White House.  Even though warned and prepared, the dysfunction of American politics was used by God to call me back to my roots.  I resigned my position with the state once our objective was mostly accomplished and began to re-establish IOM America.

 

Once returning to my life calling – uniting Exchanged Life workers, IOM America then became dedicated to Christ-as-Life discipleship, conferences & Worldview Center development. We continue in helping members of the body of Christ to experience, mature in, and communicate effectively the message of identification with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. 

 

After years of ministering the Exchanged Life, God opened the door to kindle afresh my relationship with Dr. Solomon. God puts Dr. Solomon and me together to discuss the idea of "coming back to my GFI roots." That being an obvious decision, our ministries immediately began to explore the idea of partnering in the Exchanged Life Global Initiative.

 

During my correspondence with Dr. Solomon, he shared with me that God put it upon his heart to integrate our life services. After a mutual agreement, we worked to establish our partnership until I was struck with a virus that went to my heart, throwing me into heart failure.  Two years later, the cardiologist gave me such a positive report that it appeared I would be "bouncing back." This opened negotiations between Dr. Solomon and me once again. I was commissioned by the IOM & GFI boards to write a strategic ministry plan to unite Exchanged Life workers throughout the world. The plan came forth like the "river of life", and to my joy, the leadership of IOM & GFI embraced it.  It was during this time that God reminded me that the plan He gave me for my doctoral studies was not meant for the government but rather for His Church. With permission from the White House to reconstruct the Faith-based Initiative for our use, in June of 2010, we were released to go to work. To this day, IOM America works closely with Grace Fellowship International in the advancement of the Exchanged Life.

 

Since the early years of working on our initiative, IOM America has developed an outreach that is presently embraced by thousands of individuals, ministries, and churches.  This mission comes under the banner of IFEL (International Fellowship of Exchanged Life). This mission is nowhere close to being completed. After years of working in and alongside the Exchanged Life community, I have found a troublesome erosion of workers who are NOT sticking to the message of the Cross. I have committed unto the Lord that I will remain faithful in uniting the Body of Christ in demonstrating and advancing the indwelling Life of Christ all the days of my life.   

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this "extended version" of my personal and professional timeline. I believe it is important, if not critical, to know the pathway of the Cross for leaders you choose to serve and/or assist.  Bless you.

Favorite Book

Exchanged Life Ministries_By Dr. Charles R. Solomon

Mentors

Exchanged Life Ministries
Hudson Taylor
Exchanged Life Ministries (President Bush)
George W. Busch
Exchanged Life Ministries (Stanley)
Charles Stanley
Exchanged Life Ministries
Watchman Nee
Exchanged Life Ministries
Major Ian Thomas
Exchanged Life Ministries
Miles J. Stanford
Exchanged Life Ministries
Lorne Sanny

MINISTRY LEADERS THAT INFLUENCED MY LIFE:

Dr. Charles R. Solomon | Founder and President Emeritus of Grace Fellowship International

Dr. Solomon’s investment in my life and our ministry are a result of over 35 years of mentor-ship, discipleship & working side by side with him.  It needs to be noted that Dr. Solomon is considered to be one of the founders of Christian Counseling – coining Spirituotherapy.  The Identity Matters Worldview Institute is dedicated to Dr. Solomon's life's work.

Dr. Charles Stanley | Founder, In Touch Ministries | Pastor First Baptist Atlanta

I was initially introduced to Dr. Stanley by his discipleship/counseling department - to assist in his transition to a divorced-life. As God would have it, the discipleship relationship would go both ways. The measurement of discipleship I offered was outweighed by his influence on me in facing my fears in "preaching" to large groups. Dr. Stanley will hold a special spot in my heart for eternity.   

 

John Stevens | Author of Suicide An Illicit Lover, Businessman

I was introduced to John by Dr. Solomon in 1981 as my wife’s and my new Sunday School teacher.  His profound insight in applying the Exchanged Life to daily living was nothing short of amazing.  His perspective of the self-life, pouting and demanding “my way” put the fear of God into my studies.  After John’s passing, his book (Suicide An Illicit Lover) vanished into the “out of print” listings.  Recently I was blessed to assist in the recapturing of his book and has now been republished through Solomon’s Publishers.

Miles J. Stanford | Author of The Green Letters

I was introduced to Miles in 1982 and was blessed to be in his private Bible Study for several years.  Our study topic was based on his new writing project at the time – The Green Letters (1983), now a classic.  The remarkable insight had a cementing affect on my Exchanged Life studies.  He was one of the leaders that was birthed through the Keswick Convention.

Major Ian Thomas | Author of The Indwelling Life of Christ, Founder, Torchbearers Int.

During my internship with Grace Fellowship in Denver (1981), we were encouraged to spend “tutor-age time” with “the Major” at his home in Estes Park.  When I started spending time with him, along with Dr. Solomon, I was blessed with his notes that soon became his famed book, The Saving Life of Christ and The Mystery of Godliness – although, today my favorite is The Indwelling Life of Christ.  My time with “the Major” is  treasured to this day, along with Dr. Solomon – two of the world’s most humble and gracious leaders of the Exchanged Life community.  My middle daughter carries the honor of attending their two year Bible school program at their home in Estes Park.  

Lorne Sanny | Author of The Mark of a Disciple, Successor to Dawson Trotman, Navigators

Initially I was introduced to Lorne after he stepped down as Navigator’s President (1986), maintaining a leadership position as a Board Member until 1993.  During this time, he approached me about equipping him in the truths of the Exchanged Life.  Lorne and I spent a great deal of time together – so much so, after he became well equipped with the exchanging life of the Cross, he began to mentor me as a leader.  Many of my vision points & leadership provisions I use in and around our Exchanged Life Global Initiative come directly from his mentorship.

George W. Bush | Faith-based Initiative | President of the United States

My doctorate thesis was titled, The Faith-based Initiative.  The initiative was initially compiled for the Arizona's Governor's Office, proposing an addition to their branches of government.  Before the state of Arizona was able to implement the initiative completely, it caught the attention of the President of Uganda, which required an immediate visit to their Parliament.  After assisting Uganda set up the initiative, I was called by the Governor's office of Texas (George W. Bush) in order to present the initiative to their team.  Long story short, months later, Governor Bush was elected as President.  Two weeks later, I was invited to the White House to present the thesis, which resulted in a 5 year volunteer position of providing special counsel to the White House Faith-based Office.

 

It was during those 5 years that I grew to admire, what I consider, one of the greatest Presidents in American history.  Outside of Abraham Lincoln, I believe President Bush Jr. will be noted as one of the true and authentic Christian Presidents.  I personally watched and listened to this man carefully, resulting in the cementation of each of the leadership skills I learned through Lorne Sanny.  I was personally trained by his White House Protocol Director, who I consider to be my greatest mentor in diplomatic affairs in representing the President's faith-based views.  It was during this phase of my life that I developed a great love for ministering to world-religions, which is at the core of all that I do today.

 

On a personal note, W and I share a great love for pastels, paint & sketching.    

Exchanged Life Ministries_By Dr. Charles R. Solomon

David Ritzenthaler | Co-Founder of Neues Leben & Victorious Christian Living International

I first met Dave during one of his visits to Grace Fellowship back in the early ’80s.  I remember him talking

about a new ministry he had started in Phoenix called Neues Leben - German for New Life.  Many years

went by before meeting up with him once again, this time under severe personal circumstances.  This all resulted

in being without a job, no money and soon to be homeless in a strange new city.  It was one month after

this crisis that Dave showed up in our driveway with a Suburban full of food & toys for Christmas.  Long

story short – our family went for healing at Neues Leben, now Victorious Christian Living International came on staff in 1990 and remained on their team until 2001. 

While I was there I discovered Dave’s leadership abilities and how he provided many authors, teachers and graphic designers with the opportunity to establish their ideas and spiritual gifts in providing practical materials for the Exchanged Life community.  Now used worldwide.  Dave coined the word “Godship” and assisted in making it one of the foundational building blocks in defining man’s original problem.  My workbook Identity Matters is built around the methodology and teachings developed by this team, as well as the direct influence of Dr. Charles Solomon & Grace Fellowship International.  

   

Gordon Donaldson | Theologian, Graphic Designer & Writer, Neues Leben

Shortly after coming on staff at Neues Leben, I soon discovered the level of quality and ability Gordon possessed as a man of God.  I had never met a man who was blessed with the ability to design graphic pictorials to explain theologies.  Those who knew Gordon and know me today, tell me I am a carbon copy of Gordon Donaldson.  Gordon was not just the “man behind the curtain” for the exchanged life community, he became a great influence in my life.  I will forever be grateful for his investment  in theological pictorial and graphic design!

 

Other People of Influence:  Jane M. Phinney (wife), Keith Fredrickson (discipler), Peter Lord (Preaching Coach), Watchman Nee (Author), Jerry White (Friend/Writing Coach), Nicki Cruse (Prayer Partner & Small Group Leader), President George W. Bush (Friend/Decision Making), Randy Alcorn (Ministry Development), Ken Weas (Friend/Encourager), Andrew Murray (Author), David Needham (Author), Lee LaFebre (Friend/Discipler),  Hudson Taylor (Author), Nick Harrison (Friend/Author), Dr. Jim Fowler (Friend/Theological Coach), Jack Taylor (Preaching Coach), Dr. John Woodward (Friend/Adviser/Theological Coach), Bill Gillham (Ministry Encourager), Preston Gillham (Friend/Leadership Coach), John Lind (Friend/Co-Ministry Founder), Beth Moore (Author), Jennifer Kennedy Dean (Co-worker & Friend), Charles Trumbull (Author), Mark Bubeck (Author), Joel Rosenberg (Author), John MacArthur (Author), Senator David Peterson (Friend/Political Adviser), Oswald Chambers (Author), Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Author), A.W. Tozer (Author), C.T. Studd (Author),  J. Mark Fox (Author) , Representative Mark Anderson (Friend/Political Adviser), and a host of others.