Is IHOP a dangerous cult? And I am not talking about pancakes. I am talking about the fast-growing International House of Prayer. Is it a false religion attracting followers through emotionalism?
I have never written about another church. This is not some article of a no-gooder authoring judgment about a church down the street because I have nothing better to do. I am a Christian woman that rededicated my life to Christ 10 years ago. I love Jesus with all my heart. And I am also a mother whose heart was broken in only way a mother’a heart can hurt when they feel helpless to help their child in physical, mental and spiritual crisis. I am motivated to finally write this because of my experience and hope to bring attention to the IHOP movement.
If you love a student that is about to go to college or that is in college, ask them about the organizations that they affiliate with and carefully research IHOP, Campus House of Prayer (CHOP), 24-7 Prayer Rooms, YWAM, Circuit Riders, etc. They even have an IHOPU where they “Redefine Theological Education in a context of night-and-day prayer.” If any of the local college campuses are even “loosely affiliated” with IHOP or the prayer room in Kansas City, you should be cautious!
IHOP is so much more than an uber-charismatic Christian movement. It seeks out enthusiastic well-intentioned Christians through emotionalism, especially youth on college campuses, and slowly takes over their lives. Just because thousands of people are doing it doesn’t mean you should too. You’re a Christian, not a cliff jumping lemur. You’ll often hear that the IHOP One Conference has thousands of attendees, so everyone is doing it. Ummmm….. There are 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world. Sure, I get freedom of religion, but I am not persuaded by “everyone is doing it”; I am a Christian.
At first the IHOP affiliated organization appears to be charismatic and radical-for-Jesus and you watch the college student get zealous for Christ. So you think, zealous for Jesus is better than standing in a typical greek frat keg line. You actually feel some pride for their choices and support them in their endeavors. But eventually, the IHOP follower becomes out of balance and begins to give up many other things in life for 24/7 intercessory prayer and fasting. Someone has to keep these 24/7 prayer rooms going. So, they begin to sacrifice classes, studies, work, friends, social life and family to do it. A local university website says, “We believe strongly that Jesus is worthy of sacrificing our time in night and day prayer. We also believe it is not as big of a sacrifice as it first may seem.”
Before you know it, the student has little contact with family and have stopped socializing with many of their non-IHOP friends that “don’t get it” and they are struggling with their studies and missing out on work and food and sleep to keep up with the IHOP demands (the works). You begin to notice some lost weight, lack of color, dark circles under the eyes, some irritability, but mostly consumed by enthusiasm for Jesus; so you dismiss it and think they are busy and living the young work-hard play-hard life of a college student.
These followers believe they are forerunners for Christ and their works are directly responsible for bringing Jesus back to earth. “The chosen”. Did you know that Kansas City the new Israel? When Jesus returns, KC is the place to be. And the founder and leader, Mike Bickle himself ascended to heaven and met God in a courtroom of clouds. He actually ascended through his bedroom ceiling and sat at the hand of God. And his prophet Bob Jones also teleports to heaven on a regular basis, sometimes several times a day. Bickle states that the heavenly courtroom is where God brought a golden chariot for Bickle to enter and this is where Bickle was anointed one of God’s new apostles; 1 of 35. This is Bickle’s take. If it’s prophetic, well… To speak ill of it is blasphemy. If it’s a charismatic cult leader…. Some students and certain personalities are highly susceptible to be spiritual, mentally and physically damaged.
Circuit Riders, Campus House of Prayer (CHOP), etc. can all be healthy groups. They appear to be good deed missionaries, but beware if they are directly apart of or affiliated with IHOP or KC prayer rooms. Over the years, many have begun to distance from the KC affiliations but for the ones that remain connected, I strongly encourage you to read about it yourself by reading IHOP’s own written materials freely available to anyone on the web. Search for:
ihopkc resources 2011 White Light Horse Chariot.
I personally know two people (unrelated, living in separate towns, strangers to each other and 40 years age difference between them) whose lives were completely ripped apart and broken once they became devout IHOP followers.
One in Kansas (IHOP-KC) and the other a college student in Texas (CHOP student leader). Both were strong Christians that wanted to live boldly for Jesus. Unfortunately, they got caught up in the emotionalism and “works” designed by Bickle; such as prescribed mantra-style intercessory and contemplative prayer, programs of long term daily fasting as a way of every day life, sleep deprivation tactics because prayer must be 24/7, repeated worship songs and Bickle prayer recordings played over and over again, needing to be delivered from demons of doubt, and guilt/blasphemy pressures about lack of focus on works, works and more works; things that a healthy Jesus loving Christian could not imagine.
One of my elder friends and her spouse, who were hard working and more successful than many, sold their lifetime of assets and moved to KC. It was not completely uncharacteristic of them at the beginning, considering they had been born-again Christians for 30+ years. They were doing it for Jesus so you go with it.especially because it was coming from parents who had always openly shared their faith with their children and grandchildren. Suddenly the focus shifted more towards Mike Bickle, Ihop, and a work-based mindset – all intended to be for the Lord, but there were no sign of peace – only growing issues and concerns. This eventually led to less communication with their children, strained relationships with so many that love them and their 40+ year marriage ending in divorce. Where is the fruit?
The other is a young college student on the Dean’s list that played varsity sports in high-school, was physically healthy, generally happy, has never touched a drug or drop of alcohol, but eventually distanced himself from everything socially normal so he could fulfill the unreasonable and overwhelming responsibilities associated with being a leader/member of the local IHOP movement on campus. He did this because of his love for Jesus. According to IHOP, he could push through the sleep deprivation and lack of food because it was all in the name of Jesus. He had a psychotic break that lead to a shocking emergency admission to a mental facility and dropped out of school to deal with the voices and feelings of lost salvation and guilt/failure of letting down the lHOP organization. Where is the fruit?
Hallucinations, delirium, paranoia, demons talking and fear of losing salvation haunts both of them to some degree. There are many other similar testimonies out there. It’s like a really bad Lifetime movie that you can’t fathom is really happening to someone you know.
Does everyone experience it the same way? Probably not. A wise counselor once explained to me that participating in a cult is like dropping a hit of LSD for the first time. Most people love it and think it’s great and nothing like they have experienced before. Total euphoria and sometimes they stay and sometimes they move on without problems. But lots of people can take LSD and it might seem ok at first, but it eventually rips the lid off of some scary stuff and you go on a horrifying trip for a moment, or sadly for some, a lifetime.
The transition for an IHOP follower is gradual. It’s an exuberant high for about a year (the emotionalism brings you in), but no one questions it, because Jesus is supposed to make you feel good! And then suddenly an incremental downward spiral begind and the IHOP follower starts to become confused and isolated and does not know who to turn to for help. If they ask IHOP to help explain their confusion and doubts or answer their questions, they will say, “Fast more, pray more and let’s deliver you from your demons. God is worth the effort.”
Where is the real love when the emotion is not there? Where is the fruit? Where is the grace? Where is the freedom? It really becomes a heavy bondage of the worst kind.
Of course IHOP doesn’t tell you it will bring you close to death or mental illness or that it will likely cost you relationships with your existing family, friends and church. The followers led to IHOP are often beautiful and well intentioned Christ loving brothers and sisters. I am not criticizing or chastising those that most always go to love Jesus and fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
But they begin to reject their family, friends and former church elders, because when they express concern for the followers well being and comment on uncharacteristically negative changes, the IHOP follower will distance themselves by cutting off or limiting communication. This makes it unsafe to speak to your loved one about your concerns, for fear that they will completely cut you off.
I reiterate, the devotees are not bad people. The leaders themselves are charismatic and cunning. They do not walk around with hateful words, horns, a pitchfork and a tattoo on their forehead that says “I am here to try to break your spirit and rob you of your sanity and salvation and everything good in your life.” It is clear, Bickle’s position is that His movement “the new church” is directly responsible for bringing Jesus back to earth through 24/7 intercessory prayer and daily fasting. The existing church (your and my church) has lost it’s zeal and doesn’t get it and won’t bring Jesus back.
The harmful rituals and beliefs are masked in the emotionality of it all. The elitism of being chosen and actually literally hearing the voice of God is powerful. And isn’t emotionality at the heart of most sinful temptations? And if you haven’t experienced it, you either haven’t done enough fasting and praying or maybe you need to be delivered from your demons because you have questions.
Bickle never attended a bible school, all of his teaching materials are his own words, by his own publishing company and given directly to him personally by God in dreams and in person. The scripture he does site is often edited and taken out of context to support his own message.
The materials they provide to their followers includes coaching about elders in the “current church” (that would be every existing church, including yours and mine) losing their zeal and lacking understanding of the “new church” (aka Bickle’s church). And further, if the elders and family members and fellow Christians you have loved and trusted for most of your life do not understand Bickle’s “new church” and they question your daily choices and new lifestyle, then distance yourself from them because they lack understanding. In Bickle’s words, the existing church and its pastors are nominal and lack zeal and do not understand. I guess “seek counsel from many” only applies to Bickle and his most faithful prophets/apostles.
In my opinion, IHOP rituals resemble tactics one might use on prisoners of war to break them down. Many IHOP followers reject their families, isolate themselves and succumb to the lack of food, sleep deprivation and the giving of every $ or asset they may have or own. Their lives become out of balance, primarily focused on their Bickle-prescribed works that will bring Jesus back to earth. Thousands of well-intentioned Christians have been deceived by Bickle for decades and the movement is gaining momentum now on college campuses all over the country.
The enemy is working mightily through his works. Believers fall from the grace of the new testament and suffer greatly trying to manage Bickle’s subscribed works; many eventually questioning their own salvation. It reminds me of Paul’s writings in Romans about suffering under the law. Jesus died and there was grace. Where is the grace? Where is the fruit?
Obedience is paramount to Christianity, but becoming a brainwashed slave to a manmade list of works designed by Bickle which lack biblical support… I am not a theologian, but I feel confident that IHOP/Bickle’s prescribed works are not what is bringing Jesus back. Further, Bickle is using IHOP to create division within the church. IHOP breaks Christians down in ways that you cannot fathom until you see them suffering, especially college students.
If you have any doubt, you will know it is not from God when you hold them in your arms while they sob like a desperate broken child because in their delirious state of fatigue and no food they feel overwhelming guilt for failing at prescribed “works”. They believe that they have lost God’s favor; that God has forsaken them and they question their salvation. They pray, beg and plead through tears for someone to deliver them from their demons. Where is the grace? Where is the fruit?
There is a time and place for dedicated prayer. There is a time and place for fasting. But the IHOP way appears to have the potential to be dangerous cult like brainwashing stuff.
And I won’t get into the sex scandal, murders, killing babies through starvation (fasting) stories that are lurking out there as well. Bob Jones alone is enough to make the Inquirer busy. And have you seen Bickle lately? When is the last time that man missed several meals for several days in a row through dedicated and daily life-long fasting? You’ll have to research and read it for yourself and you will need to decide. Even Bickle himself has started teaching about why IHOP is not a cult as a damage control measure (smart move Bickle). Where is the grace? Where is the fruit? Does Bickle have the fruit?
I am not a theologian. Do your research. Many people are sharing their personal IHOP/CHOP experiences with the world in hopes to help at least one person. If messages like this help just one person, it is worth it.
The truth needs to be circulated a million times. Even in the face of IHOP followers aggressively attacking anyone that questions their movement. I can just foresee the comments I may get to this blog (and I didn’t need to ascend to the cloudy courthouse in heaven and enter a golden chariot to “see” the future comments I may receive in reaction to this post). This particular posting is merely a hope that I might save at least one person from IHOP. If there is only one, then this post is worth it. Or maybe I can enlighten at least one IHOP follower and let them know, “You are loved. You have grace. You do not have to earn God’s favor. You are not a failure. You are tired and hungry for practical reasons. And you are not alone.”
I don’t hate Bickle’s IHOP followers. It’s actually quite the opposite. My heart breaks for those that are hurt, alone and confused. My heart cries out in sorrow for their guilt, pain, grief, loss of family, loss of health, sense of failure, fatigue, hunger and unfruitful and often unhealthy toils. Where is the
My heart breaks for the division that Bickle himself unapologetically creates in the existing church that was created by Jesus himself. The existing church versus the new IHOP Church. Casting judgment on existing pastors and ministers and elders declaring and teaching that they are nominal and lack zeal. Where is the fruit?
The exert below is from aDevotion.org. It says it all so well! In the mean time, please share your thoughts and experiences. And if you are a confused IHOP follower or victim, there are people like me that love you and can pray for you.
WHO DO I BELIEVE? WHO IS RIGHT?
Whose teaching should I listen to? It seems Christians differ on many things, although all claim to believe the same Bible. (But on many
subjects, there is not agreement.)
How can I know who to believe? Who is right?
Fortunately, God gave us His Word, the Bible, so we could know
the truth, and it gives some guidelines to help with this
JOHN 8:31-32 NKJ
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you
abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
So an important question is whether freedom is being produced
in the lives of the people who are following a teaching. If
not, it cannot be the accurate message of Jesus, which will
make people free. This does not mean everyone will instantly be
free, but over time, the fruit of the teaching should be
In Matthew 7, Jesus taught that we can judge by whether “good
fruit” is being produced.
MATTHEW 7:16-17,20 NKJ
16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes
from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree
bears bad fruit.
20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Galatians tells us what kind of fruit is produced by followers
of Jesus who live a spiritual life.
GALATIANS 5:22-23 NKJ
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Hebrews 13:7-8 also gives us some important guidelines of who
we should follow.
HEBREWS 13:7 NKJ
7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of
God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of
What has their teaching produced? Is it love, joy, peace,
gentleness, etc.? Does it result in setting people free from
bondage? Are broken people being healed and made whole? These
are questions we should ask when we “consider the outcome of
Is love, mercy, and compassion (like Jesus had) a mark of their
ministry? Or do they more closely resemble the Pharisees who
loved to focus on keeping a list of rules, instead of helping
Avoid the teaching of any group that tells you the day of
miracles has passed and that God no longer does the same things
He did in Bible days. They are simply wrong. Jesus Christ is
the same today as He was yesterday!
People can be wrong, even good, well-meaning people who may
seem to know the Bible. Plenty of people have studied the Bible
their entire life and still don’t really understand it. The
Pharisees of Jesus’ day were the Bible experts, yet God walked
among them and they called Him the devil!
1 CORINTHIANS 12:12,27 NLT
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up
only one body. So it is with the body of Christ.
27 Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of
you is a separate and necessary part of it.
God does not make everyone the same, or direct us all to do the
same thing in the same way. So don’t reject or criticize others
just because they are different. God loves all His children, no
matter how ignorant, mis-informed, or immature they may be.
Because God loves them, we should also treat them all with love
JOHN 13:35 NKJ
35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you
have love for one another.”
Most importantly, Jesus told how we could know who were His
true disciples: they would be known by love. So, if the ones
you follow are known more for fighting (or for man made prescribed works) than for sacrificial
love and giving, you need to pray about making a change.
SAY THIS: Jesus Christ is the One who is right.