JC writes: “What do you know about the International House of Prayer, aka IHOP, that is based in the Kansas City Area? This came up in a Catholic book group discussion last night, and I expressed my uneasiness about this organization based on the very little reading I have done. I haven’t found anything definitive from the Church regarding this group, and was looking for any information that might be out there that is more objective than what I have come across.”
This is indeed a very problematic organization that has been surrounded by controversy for many years.
The International House of Prayer (IHOPKC), based in Kansas City, Missouri, was started by a man named Mike Bickle in 1999 as the result of revelations he claims to have received from God during a trip to Cairo, Egypt. Bickle claims God told him: ““I am inviting you to raise up a work that will touch the ends of the earth. I have invited many people to do this thing and many people have said yes, but very few have done my will.”
In addition, the Lord also allegedly told him: “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one generation.”
Bickle proceeded to start the International House of Prayer which is known for its 24/7 praise and worship. Essentially an evangelical Pentecostal group, its central teachings come from Bickle’s apocalyptic prophecies, known as his Prophetic Histories, which detail how his church is going to usher in the 2nd coming of Christ.
As Talking Points Memo documented in 2014, “Bickle claims to be cultivating an elite class of ‘forerunners,’ or people who ‘represent God and his interests,’ and who ‘prepare the people to respond rightly to Jesus by making known God’s plans so the people can make sense of what will happen before it actually happens.’ His vision of the end-times, which is central to his teaching, maintains that these ‘redeemed’ people will be raptured just as Jesus begins his ‘royal procession’ into Jerusalem. Bickle believes they will return to earth as ‘resurrected saints’ who will ‘possess supernatural abilities.’ When Jesus rules as ‘King over all dominions and spheres of society,’ these resurrected saints will rule with him, “as kings and priests’.”
In other words, Bickle is preaching Gnosticism – a belief that God gives special knowledge to a chosen few.
His church is attracting many followers and has grown substantially over the years, expanding from just a church to a university and seminary besides.
Many of his followers are young people who are drawn by the exhilarating spiritual experience associated with charismatic forms of prayer. But once they get involved in the community, they find themselves under the sway of the enigmatic and authoritarian Bickle and his team who make it very difficult for them to leave.
This was the experience of 32 year-old Blaise Foret who became associated with IHOP in 2008. Like so many other young people, he was immediately swept into ministry and given all kinds of important duties that made him feel as if he was doing the Lord’s work. He spent much time studying Bickle’s “Prophetic Histories” and did his best to serve the church faithfully. Everything seemed to be going well until Foret decided that God was calling him into a ministry of his own – and one that was not necessarily founded upon the apocalyptic messages of IHOP.
No sooner had he left and began preaching a more joyful message to the faithful than members of IHOP leadership began hounding him about his preaching style, about how he wasn’t staying faithful to Bickle’s teachings, etc. At one point, he and several of his ministry partners were put through a six-hour interrogation by IHOP leadership that left all of them shaken.
But he held his ground and walked away, although not without a backward glance to the many young people who were still in the grips of Bickle’s strange church.
“IHOPKC continued on as usual,” he writes, “bringing in young people who were zealous for God, brainwashing them with Prophetic History, telling them to give up their dreams to fulfill IHOPKC’s dreams, and filling their heads with the idea that Jesus is returning soon so they don’t need to go to college. I know that‘s a bit candid, but that is the clearest way to actually say what is going on in the lives of multiple 18-25 year-olds right now in Kansas City.”
Even more disturbing is how this bizarre organization has infiltrated American politics. For example, Texas’ former Governor Rick Perry, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have all shared a stage with Bickle at various events over the years.
There is much more to be said about this organization, far more than we can fit into a blog post, but this should be enough to convince any clear-thinking Christian away from the International House of Prayer.
For those interested in reading more about IHOPKC, follow the links provided in this blog.