Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Red Flags over IHOP - Devotion or Deception?

Ariel, on the Gospel Masquerade Blog posted the following article about a year ago. I felt like it needed some more exposure, and she was kind enough to grant me permission to repost. There is much I have said about the doctrine and foundations of IHOP, but there is nothing like first-hand reports. And this report echoes what I have been hearing elsewhere.

Recently I have become aware of a systemic problem cropping up at IHOP- and that is the problem of complete meltdowns among interns and former interns. Demonic or nutritional, it matters little. People in this great end-times forerunner movement are having their lives devastated. Pray for those caught up in this, that God would have mercy on them, and that their eyes would be opened to the deception in the 24/7 prayer movement.

There were many, many experiences that made me do a double take and say “what?” while I was at IHOP but that internal questioning was quickly explained away or rebuked by internship leaders. Once I began to deviate from IHOP’s teachings and study scripture on my own for answers to the internal conflicts I wrestled with, I began questioning the pseudo reality I had been conditioned to embrace. Suddenly I saw the isolated red flag incidences as a seamless pattern of error and the veil of deception fell. I stopped rationalizing and justifying. Enough was enough and I was done and wanted out.

There are much more personal experiences than I can put into one single blog post, but here are a few I still recall pretty strongly.

  1. Mandatory fasts which made me very physically ill. They would never admit to having “mandatory” fasts but when you don’t have any food available, close down the kitchen, give your cook the day off and don’t allow interns to hold jobs (so that they have money to go buy food if they aren’t participating in the fast) then that is called mandatory.

  2. Being practically held hostage in the prayer room and told that it was required that I be there and I was not allowed to leave even though I did not feel well and wanted to go back to my apartment. I was told I needed to stay in the prayer room to be part of the “corporate anointing” and that I shouldn’t leave. It was one of my “required” prayer room sets as an intern so I spent the remainder of that 2-hour set in one of the side prayer rooms in the back sobbing on the floor because I wanted to leave so badly and our internship leaders were standing by the door. You might ask “why didn’t you just force your way out and leave anyway?” When you are part of cult where free, independent thinking is not condoned when you don’t comply with what is expected of you, very often guilt, manipulation and penalties are instated for those who resist. Interns who didn’t follow “the rules” of the internship were penalized through loss of privileges (such as loss of your day off, having to do extra work/manual labor, etc.)

  3. The grip of control and micro-management increasing: greater demands and restrictions on interns (such as increased pressure to fast more to attain a higher pinnacle of spirituality) being told where we had to sit when in the prayer room, taught a model for how to pray, how to dance, sing, etc. Any form of worship outside of this model was not considered to be acceptable. It had to fit IHOP’s style and method to be admissible.

  4. Mandatory journaling assignments which we had to do weekly and then we had to turn in our journals to be read by internship leaders.

  5. Seeing how controlled the prayer room was. Rather than having freedom to express my heart to the Lord, I was put in a box and told how I had to do everything IHOP’s way. I had reading and writing assignments whenever I was in the prayer room.

  6. There was no alone time ever to really think, reason, test, question or process anything. We were run ragged from sun up to late into the night which always left me exhausted, depleted and burnt out.

  7. Once when I got sick, my mother came to pick me up and internship leaders resisted letting me leave with her (even though she lived in town). My internship ‘com leader’ (short for community leader) objected and still impressed upon me the importance of going to the prayer room even though I was too sick to get off the couch. My mother said “she is my daughter and I’m taking her home and taking care of her. Period.”

  8. The more leadership responsibility I was given as an intern, the more I got peeks into the “inside”. I saw the outer fringes of the internal operations of how IHOP functioned. I was on an IHOP dance team and sang as a chorus leader on a few worship teams. To dance, I had to follow a specific model that IHOP required. To sing, I had to attend the briefing/de-briefing meetings before and after each worship set where I saw first-hand how carefully controlled that the seemingly “spontaneous” aspects of worship were carefully calculated and often planned ahead of time.

  9. Another intern got deathly ill and it wasn’t until she ended up being hospitalized that internship leaders took seriously the fact she was sick. They accused her of faking an illness to get out of attending IHOP classes and time in the prayer room. This was told to me directly by that intern.

  10. If I wanted to go anywhere off IHOP property (even to go see my family who lived in town) I had to notify internship leaders of my whereabouts at all times. I had no autonomy or freedom as an individual. Some leaders who were 19 (but were former interns which gave them elite status) were telling me where to be, what to do and when I was expected to be home. I had to answer to them for everything. I was in my early 20′s and had lived on my own before so the feeling of suffocation and having no personal rights to space, privacy, independent thought, etc. was overwhelming.

There is much more but I think that’s a sufficient start to at least give you an idea of some of what was happening when I was at IHOP. It wasn’t until after I left that I began to see far more than I had been able to see when I was still involved. The casual observer on the periphery won’t necessarily see the reality of all that is happening there because they are seeing the veil that IHOP has built to carefully cloak the truth of a lot of what really happens.

After I left, I realized how worn out and exhausted I was in every way imaginable. I spent days and weeks sleeping and physically healing from the trauma of the experiences I had just come out of and to let my body heal from the fasting and sleep deprivation. It took a long time for me to really start healing emotionally and spiritually and to begin putting pieces together. Recovering from mental and spiritual abuse like that is a hard road and a difficult place to come out from. I did months of research after I left IHOP and the immediate dust had settled. I wanted to see the roots of the giant beanstalk that had sprouted up and choked the life out of everything in me. I started going back as far into the history of IHOP as I could. As interns we were required to listen to 18 hours of audio CDs recapping all of the history of IHOP and the “prophesies” that led to it’s starting. I started researching on the internet about the names of the so called prophets of this movement and what they had come out of. That led me to picking apart a very carefully woven web of key players that all were connected to this massive organization.

I shared with one parent who e-mailed me about her own child at IHOP the importance of praying that the L-rd will open their eyes not only to see, but to recognize and identify the red flags of IHOP. The thing is, they are probably already seeing them, but rationalizing and excusing them away as isolated events rather than viewing them as a destructive pattern. I pray that the Father will show those there who are truly seeking him the pattern of red flags…making them so obvious they can no longer ignore them.

My hope is that the young people there who are much like I was will begin to question what they see and compare it with what the scripture actually says…not how Mike Bickle twists and teaches it…and that they have the courage to identify it and reject it. Those who oppose IHOP and speak out typically experience some kind of consequences or backlash. People are a commodity there. They are traded. When wounded ones leave, IHOP leadership doesn’t sweat over it…new and unsuspecting people who are ignorant of their dangerous devices but are hungry for emotionally-driven experiences and spiritual highs will come back in the same door the others left. It’s a revolving door of deception.

The deceptions of IHOP are treacherous and very real. Did G-d use that place in my life and work together for my good the devastation I experienced? Absolutely. But that is a testimony to the goodness of our G-d…not a stamp of approval on a place. Remember he spoke through a donkey and a burning bush. That doesn’t mean we should glorify donkeys and start worshiping bushes.

I’ve been asked many times how my eyes were opened to see what was happening at IHOP and how I got out, etc. I’ve thought about that many times and the simplest answer I can give is that I knew who my source was. G-d was my source of instruction, teaching, counsel, truth, etc. It was His voice I was seeking to hear and His approval I desired. IHOP wasn’t my source. So when the things I heard from the L-rd through prayer and studying His word were in conflict with the things I was being taught in IHOP it made the decision to leave an easier one. It was traumatic and painful and I’m not going to minimize that. But it was the price of protecting truth and I knew that staying would have compromised what I knew was right and since my desire is to delight the heart of my Father, once He removed the scales, I was out.

My desire is to see people set free to live lives of healing and wholeness…walking in genuine love and pursuing truth. My prayer is that the things you read on this blog inspire you to that end.

Grace and peace to you.

See also:

IHOP - The Perils of Passion
Red Flags over IHOP - Devotion or Deception?
The Mother of all IHOP Caualties
Revisionism and The Blueprint Prophecy
Tags: Glory, Grace Covenant Church Harrisonburg, gcch.org,JMU-HOP, jmuhop, theprayerfurnace, Fredericksburg Prayer Furnace, 24-7 Virginia, Chi Alpha, IHOP, David Bradshaw, Randy Martinez, Solemn Assembly, Prayer Room, Campus Strike Force


  1. Reading the requirements of these poor kids made my heart just sink. I'm so glad that this person got out of it. This testimony makes my heart just break for those caught up in it.

    I look at my own experiences with IHOP, etc, and I know how much I was hurt--- that's nothing compared to this poor woman. And I know there are more out there that are hurting just like she was. Lord awaken them!!

  2. Quotes from Tom Stipe, a former Vineyard Pastor with involvement with Mike Bickle and the KCP.

    "Not long after 'prophecy du jour' became the primary source of direction, a trail of devastated believers began to line up outside our pastoral counselling offices. Young people promised teen success and stardom through prophecy were left picking up the pieces of their shattered hopes because God had apparently gone back on His promises."

    "We listened attentively to the flattery of our new friends, the prophets. Our scepticism barely peaked above the surface of our consciousness. It disappeared entirely later in the meeting when one of the prophets singled us out and proceeded to reveal, in detail, the secrets of our lives. Now they really had our attention. How could they not be from God?"


  3. Tnanks for posting this testimony from Ariel. I can especially relate to the last three paragraphs, having escaped the Vineyard in 1991.

  4. Thank you for posting this. I watch, from a distance, the facebook feeds from some of the children of my friends who are at IHOP. What is intriguing and heart-rendering is the nearly bipolar high/low character of their posts. At one moment they are "pressing into God" and the next they are broken and deflated. I think it speaks to the intense pressure that they live with. And some of that pressure is I think self-imposed as a result of their desire to fit in.

  5. The Grandview Lady7/14/11, 2:40 PM

    I went to a fundamental/evangelical Bible college in the late '70's/early "80's. I was required to get permission from my dorm counselor and RA if I wanted to leave campus. I was required to be in my room or in the library every weekday night from 7:00 to 9:30 for study hours. I was assigned a weekly "Christian service" and had to report on it weekly. I also had to report weekly regarding where I attended church. I was required to be at chapel every day and had to check off my name on the chapel attendance list.

    Was I in a cult? Nope, just a Bible college with regulations.

    My daughter just finished a 6-month internship at IHOP. She had no more regulations on her than I did at Bible college.

    Moreover, the interns are housed in apartments with kitchens. They are instructed to have spending money and are allowed to buy food for their own consumption. On fasting days, the intern kitchen serves salad--it does not close. No one is told they MUST fast--it is optional.

    My daughter slipped while getting something from her bunkbed, and she fell against her dresser, injuring her tailbone. Her group leader had her contact me to take her to the emergency room. A week later, her friend had painful back spasms and was taken, by the group leader, to the hospital where she was diagnosed with scoliosis (her parents had not taken her to the doctor even though she had had pain for a long time).

    When one applies to an internship at IHOP, the regulations are clearly spelled out. Just as with the Bible college I attended, if you don't like the regulations, don't come! Young people need the discipline of regulations and continue to chafe against them.

    In a cult, one does not feel free to leave. In an IHOP internship, if you tell the leadership you want to leave and go home and quit the internship, no one will stop you. I know of two young people who did this during my daughter's internship.

    As for Rob's comment about the ups and downs, when I look back at my journal entries during Bible college and my early 20's, I was constantly up and down, full of faith one day and feeling defeated the next. That is part of the journey of youth.

    Well, all I can say is that our experience at IHOP has not been cultish; it has been a blessing.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts. I was just thinking about the comparison with the typical bible school.

  7. For whatever it is worth, I spent two years at an Evangelical Bible School way back in the 68 and 69 school years. Our campus was not half so strict. We had no designated times that we had to study. And we had to "sign out" and "sign in" when leaving campus so that everyone was safe and accouted for and the dorm doors were locked every night after a certain time. And there was some Christian service required. There was a chapel service every day but we did not have to sign in when we arrived. It was certainly nothing like IHOP.

  8. Perhaps IHOP has been forced to modify the requirements placed on it's interns after receiving so much bad press.

    Also, the perspective of a parent who is supportive of this group might be different from a parent who has been denied access to their child. Just some of my thoughts, for what it's worth.

  9. I was just thinking. If all of this 24 hour prayer is so important why has there been little change in the cities where they are praying. They spend 24 hours a day praying for God to move in the "government" and yet there is still crime and still wordly politics, death, hunger, and very little souls really changing.

    It seems to me that the call of this ministry is contridicted by what the recorded words of God almight Himself has said.

    It seems a bit self serving. You go to some place where YOU want to be to enjoy the HIGH of the "REVIVAL" and "DANCE" and "SPIN" and "JERK" and do all of the physical manifestations uner the guise of the gifts or POWER of the Holy Spirit.

    I just don't get it, so me, really show me biblical evidence that 24 hour pray is called for in this method. I see that we are to pray unceasing, but really like this? Is this what it means? I see that Anna a widow spent her time praying night and day, (pre-Jesus) but is that really our calling like this? I do see we are to go into our closet and pray unseen, but really in a large gathering with all to watch and even see on streaming video? Hmmm... think about it. Is IHOP teaching biblical truth in this area? Or is this just another man made program?

    1. Have you been to Grandview, this place has changed radically since IHOP moved in, crime is down considerably, the economy is in the red where all around Kansas City is in the black, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about

    2. Try again --- Grandview's crime rate is actually worse than when IHOP started in 1999. Assaults are up, theft is up, and robberies are up as well. Crime is down from a 1-2 year spike, but is still higher than the average for a US city.


  10. I'm struggling with what to say right now. I'm disturbed to say the least, and I want to find a way to help someone dear to me. I have a family member involved with Ihop, it was supposed to be a stop gap sort of a situation to last a year or two until a career was defined etc... 5-6 years later, it has taken over her life. Career aspirations seemingly out the window, and communication and time spent with family at extremely low levels!

    There are arguments to be made in regards to some positives that I see with Ihop. I mean, it's not like they're out committing crimes, and using drugs right? . I'm half joking when I say that, on a serious note, I think church is a great thing, prayer is a great thing. But is it THE only thing?? I don't have all negative things to say about Ihop. I just thought Missionaries went OUT in the community, not trapped on their own. To help others, not publicize themselves playing their instruments on TV. When was the last time THEY went into the community to feed the homeless, or perhaps Mike and the gang drove to Joplin to serve in ANY capacity possible???

    I have MAJOR problems, when an organization seemingly controls the schedule of those who are involved. Communication with my sister is very minimal these days, not just with me, but with other family as well. And when we do communicate it's very quick, and "small talkish". When we have raised concerns as to what she is doing, that backfires because we DON"T GET IT, or DON"T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY DO. Well, someone please tell me...What do You do that's more important than your family. Why is having a job, and saving for retirement such a mockery?

    I've been to the prayer room, once or twice. I tried to give it an honest effort to support what she is/was doing there. I for one, see through it. It appears to be a group of young, unorganized, unambitious group of folks who are being misguided and almost tricked into their role in this organization.

    I'm not meaning to come off cold, I just tell it how I see it. I am of the belief that this man is using religion as the so called carrot dangled in front of these folks involved.

    I didn't have a point to my comments, other than to "chime" in on my thoughts. It's refreshing to find others with similar views on this. As the old saying goes...Often times when there's smoke, there's fire.

    How is it possible for a CHURCH to have so much negative publicity at ALL?

    When we don't see my sister over holidays such as Christmans..because she "needs to be at IHOP"...it sure does make you wonder what they're SO into. Doesn't it??

    In the below article in the NY Times, it references other people who have been involved with Ihop, their stories, and some interesting facts. A 30 Million dollar annual budget I find to be of interest. Perhaps Ihop can afford to help with some health insurance for their "people"...It would only seem so logical to take care of your people wouldn't it??

    My thoughts aren't laid out as clear as I'd like...but it's a start. By the way I hope I'm wrong on how I feel, I just have a funny feeling that I'm not.

    Peace to you all!


  11. I think the core issue here is a question of what the church is supposed to be doing. Is this 24/7 prayer missionary thingy the mandate or calling of the church? To many people it seems like they are saying no, its just for the elite.

    Well not in those words. As you have observed, its for those WHO GET IT. Aka, the elite. Bickle was challenged on this back in the 80's and supposedly repented. But intentionally or not, we see the ugly head of elitism pop up again and again.

    The problem is foundational. It releates back to the blueprint prophecy, the foundational document of the movement.

    "I (God) will call and place in your hands to anoint with Holy Oil - the significance of My accpetance of those whom I shall confirm by My Holy Spirit... that I would prepare for me a bride in this area."

    Obvioulsy this condemns ALL christians who don't embrace Bickle's prophecy. Unlike the Bible, which considers the entire body of Christ as the "bride." in Bickle's word, only those who embrace his prophecy are beings prepared to be the bride.

    And as stated elsehwhere in the propehcy, **ONLY** Bickle will consecrate this people.

    I hesistate to use the term cult in talking about IHOP, but this elitisim plus the elevation of Bickle has all the makings of one.

    To understand ths isses, you may wish to review this article on the "blueprint propehcy." Again this prophecy is foundational to the movement, and it is taught to the first year students at "IHOPU." Study also the fottnotes to the article. I think it will help you to "get it."

    When you believe that you are a "Garden Center of My(the Lord's) choice" and that "In My Garden Center I shall raise up plants of renown," it can't help but foster an attitude of elitism.


  12. Anonymous:
    I am so sorry to hear of your sister's involvement. She reminds me of so many I know who are still a part of IHOP, and have been for many years.

    I have watched the "fruit" of this group since it's beginning, and I have to agree with Bill in that the very worst fruit that I see is the elite arrogance promoted and displayed.

    I believe that this elite attitude is so poisonous, that it actually places them in a position that God is against them. He's opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble.

    And the very teachings that they preach, ad nauseum, promote this very attitude over and over again.

    Mike did 'repent' of this back in the 90's, but unless he gets his message in line with the Gospel of saving faith in Jesus Christ, alone, and stays there, he will continue to puff up vain minds with visions of super hero exploits.

    I encourage you to pray that the Lord will begin to show your sister how this elite attitude is at the root of something very wrong going on. The Lord is opening the eyes of many in this movement to the truth of the Gospel, and people are coming out. It may not seem that way as the prayer room is packed. But the many different church's Mike has been in leadership over for the past 30 years have always had a revolving door thing going on. People quietly leaving as more are coming on.

    God is faithful. Don't lose hope.

  13. Wow...there is a lot of emotion and experience that has been expressed here. We are ALL on the path towards connecting with our creator and it makes my heart sing.
    Since the beginning of the fall of man, we have been trying to reconnect with God. Let us not sit in judgement of any person or organization. They are all valid and contribute to the experience called life. Spiritual law dictates that my judgement will harm me and the universe.
    Those who have had spiritual experiences have reconncected with God. They, in turn, want to share how it happened with everyone and provide them with an opportunity to experience God with them. As we have seen in this forum, the IHOP experience has HELPED many and has AWAKENED many. Whether it enables a person to grow closer to God or demonstrates barriers that seperate one from God, there was growth from the experience.
    "Good" and "Evil" are simply words. They are not forms of being. The only states of being are 'with God' or 'without God'. The only action required is LOVE.
    My human condition (primarily my pride and selfishness) are the barriers that prevent me from the absolute JOY that experiencing God through others brings.
    I love you guys. It sucks that people want to control what you think and how you worship...it also sucks that people lie and steal and people starve and people are jealous and people gossip...it is all the same stuff. World stuff.
    Make it about God stuff and just love. Your heart will sing!

  14. Paul named names. We CAN judge ideas. Motives are best left up to God. Here's a few suggestions from God Himself:

    For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

    Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said.

    so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ

  15. Well said Grandview Lady

  16. A more detailed look at the theological underpinnings of IHOP is available here:


  17. Zachary, contrary to what some leaders may say about reading criticisms regarding their ministries, I would encourage you to prayerfully examine what has been written on this, and many other blogs. It only matters what the scriptures have to say. Many many people are suffering shipwreck who have given themselves heart and soul to IHOP. Don't their stories, and the abuses mentioned, deserve your hearing? I'm sure the Lord is able to lead you into all truth, if that is what you desire to know.

  18. I have been apart of the Fredericksburg prayer furnace! I absolutely loved it! and it is Modeled after the Ihop.. It was amazing. It helped me focus on God and Gave me the push I needed to put my total focus on Him. They have become part of my family. I fell away from God after I did the internship. when I fell away they showed me love! When I came back to god they where there and celebrated for/with me. Come to find out almost all of them where praying for me to return to the Father. Now that I am Joining the Marines I know I will Have a family of Christians praying for me...
    So before you guys listen to one persons account please take in the hundreds that are apart of the prayer furnace

  19. Why would a Christian join the Marines? Do you know what they train to do? Kill. That is contrary to love, if you get drafted that's one thing but to volunteer is error.

  20. Earl,
    The discussion of Christians in military service is so far off topic that I will not entertain its discussion here.

    However, you may find this article interesting. Perhaps Anon has the "gatekeeper anointing." I know Billy Humphrey has visited FPF.


  21. I have seen this article imitated on many blogs. I have to wonder what is the author's motive for spreading this negative image of IHOP. Even if they have errors in doctrine or in policy, or make occasional mistakes in dealing with the myriad of people that pass through their ministry, they are still your brothers and sisters in the Lord. They are part of the body of Christ, and if one part suffers we all suffer. We have to stop trying to cut off the toe or the ear or poke the eye for not agreeing with us or for having a different function than other parts of the body! I would deeply encourage you to go and check out IHOP if you are truly so concerned about what they do. It may be different from what you're used to, and for sure I don't know of a perfect ministry, but they are not a cult. I can say this confidently because I did an internship at IHOP three years ago, and it was the most refreshing six months of my life. I find it hard to believe any part of this article is actually true and not exaggerated out of some bias or personal grudge.

    I think many people just have culture shock when going to IHOP because it may be different from what they're used to. I grew up in a church where many people danced and raised their hands during worship. When I went to college and visited a church away from home, every single person stood still during worship and didn't raise their hands. I was in shock and thought how can God be here, or how can their hearts not be moved to respond to God with joy or dancing or surrender? But nonetheless I felt the presence of God during the worship. I believe God is much more merciful and forgiving of his church than we are. He isn't unaware of when there are mistakes, but He teaches each one at their own pace. Please take this article and others like it for what they really are, an accusation of the brethren, a negative report to cause division.

  22. Kurt,
    I wonder what your motive is for questioning the author's motive.

    Seriously, if you have information that will show Ariel's experience at IHOP untrue, please feel free to share it here.

    If the article helps one person to understand IHOP before going there to avoid the culture shock you describe, then the article has served it purpose.

    The body of Christ is far more resilient than you think. Let us worship God is spirit and TRUTH.

  23. Hi Everyone. I have numerous friends and a family member caught up in all of this. You are not alone if your loved ones are swept away by this.

    I wanted to offer a few links that might be a help to you.

    Mkayla (a woman who got out of the whole movement talks about it during a radio interview)

    Sandy Simpson talks on a radio broadcast about NAR

    Also the book Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets by Keith Gibson may prove helpful.


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