One July day in 1988, Mike Bickle was sitting in his office, reading a wedding card inscribed with a verse from the Song of Solomon. "Jesus, seal my heart with your seal of love," Bickle spontaneously prayed. Unaccountably, he began to weep. The phone rang. A prophet had heard the "audible voice of the Lord" for Bickle: The Song of Solomon, a dialogue between King Solomon and his beloved, should become a focus of Bickle's ministry. It eventually came to Bickle that true believers must see Jesus "through the eyes of a bride with loyal, devoted love" – they must "feel loved and in love" with Christ. Without this intimacy in worship, Christ would not return to Earth.
That's an excerpt from a massive article done by Jeff Tietz for RollingStone magazine about the death of Bethany Deaton at IHOP-KC in 2012.
Tietz goes on to say:
But the Song of Solomon is a paean to sexual desire. "Let the king bring me into his chambers" and "kiss me with the kisses of his mouth," the beloved says. "His fruit" is "sweet to my taste." IHOP's website states that one of its prayer guides, Bridal Intercession, "presents prayer as the joyful and romantic communion between the lover and his beloved. . . . Readers will find themselves . . . eager to encounter this lovely Lord who is their bridegroom."
Many critics, observing that IHOP recruits post-pubescent youth, have wondered where, if they are to approach their Lord as Solomon's beloved approaches Solomon, their imaginations are supposed to go. "[Jesus] is not coming until the people of God are crying out globally in intercession with a bridal identity," Bickle has preached. If the Second Coming depends upon "romantic communion" with Christ, and the alternative is satanic hegemony, then any error in worship should be made on the side of erotic intimacy – to lust and repent is surely better than abandoning Jesus in his hour of need.
Bickle makes a point of warning his followers that bridal theology is not sexual. To IHOP's detractors, though, the introduction of any suggestion of sensuality into worship invites transgression. Aggravating the libidinal diciness, they argue, is the nature of that worship. IHOPers spend 20, 30 or more hours every week in the prayer room, often for three or four hours at a time.
Across the IHOP complex, in cafeterias, hallways and the prayer room, music composed to enhance the ecstatic experience is "omnipresent," according to an ex-member. Among the lyrics to two popular songs: "God is a lover looking for a lover/So he fashioned me" and "Do you understand what you do to me? . . . How you ravish my heart with just one glance?" Some former IHOPers have talked of being addicted to it – they become nervous and irritable when they turn it off. Another IHOPer has written about addiction to the sedative atmosphere of the prayer room itself: "A common refrain around anxious, discouraged IHOPers is, 'I just gotta get to the prayer room.'"
Read the whole article here. It will be worth your time.
A note from Bill: This is a story that I have been following closely since the fall of 2012. It is tragic- not only what happened to Bethany Deaton, but to all the members of Tyler Deaton's cult. Does this reflect badly on IHOP? Well yes, and no. It plainly was a cult within the setting of IHOP, which as can be demonstrated has 1)very sensual overtones and 2) a lack of oversight to the thousands of impressionable youth sent there with the financial support of many Godly folk back home.
The point could be made that IHOP did not know about a lot of what was going on. On the other hand, we also have evidence that Tyler Deaton was listed in a leadership position on an IHOP website right to the time the murder happened, and was indeed in that leadership position after the shunning of Herrington was revealed. Deaton was actually in charge of coordinating (leading) other home group leaders.
If this story does not make you sick to your stomach, there is something wrong with you.