IHOPKC : Doctrinal and missional concerns of the prayer movement
I was on staff at the International House of Prayer from September 1999 until March 2005. I am very thankful for my time at IHOPKC. It was one of my most important seasons in my life to be honest.
Before that, what is IHOPKC and what are they about? It is the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. It is led by Mike Bickle and Allen Hood. They have prayer services around the clock and they also have a university connected to the prayer room known as IHOP University.
It was first spoken about by a prophet named Bob Jones and it was confirmed powerfully by another prophet known as Paul Cain. It is also reasonable to believe that John Wimber also had a direct influence in what became IHOPKC as well.
In the midst of the revivals of the 1990’s, Mike Bickle felt it was important to resign from Metro Christian Fellowship and lead the parachurch that would pray night and day for the release of revival in the nations of the earth. They started in May with all day prayer meetings and went around the clock in September 1999.
This is the core of the mission base at IHOPKC and they have just added ministries to it since then.
My personal story with IHOPKC
I was there the first set that they did in September where they actually was around the clock. I was going to school at Brownsville Revival School of Ministry and I left to be part of this prayer movement to bring spiritual awakening to the nations and release what we called Stadium Christianity to the world.
Back then, it was in a double wide trailer than we called the “stable.” It was pretty rough at the time, especially in the dead of winters because it was far from weather proof. However, it worked and we content for revival through ice storms, hail, tornadoes, and blizzards.
In 2004, we grew up so to speak and moved to a store front on Red Bridge Rd (the current location of the prayer room) and things really started to change. It was like the ministry went from being passionate to professional and then it was trying to find that balance between passion and professionalism.
In 2005, there was two major things happen. The teachings went from being mostly about revival, miracles and intimacy to being part of the discussion and the over riding theme of eschatology from a Post-Tribulation perspective started to become the obsession of everyone at IHOPKC.
The other major thing to happen that year was the moral failure of Paul Cain. It was completely handed wrong and it left to many people being hurt in the process. As the mishandling of it continued, it became clear that I was not in agreement with everything that was going on.
Due to the Post-Tribulation obsession, the mishandling of the Paul Cain fiasco and some personal clashes with other people in the ministry, it was time for me be send out to the nations as a forerunner, a voice crying out in the wilderness.
IHOPKC and Gnosticism?
Believe it or not, there is a claim out there that IHOPKC believes in Gnosticism (click here for my response to it). This is a claim against the people in Grandview, Missouri since before there was even the International House of Prayer. This dates all the way back to the Kansas City Fellowship days or what people claim to call the Kansas City Prophets. It is at least 25 years old.
What exactly is Gnosticism and why does IHOPKC get accused of it so often? Well, it is defined as,
Gnosticism is a heresy which is made up of a diverse set of beliefs. It is the teaching based on the idea of gnosis (a Koine Greek word meaning “secret knowledge”), or knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of internal, intuitive means. While Gnosticism thus relies on personal religious experience as its primary authority, early “Christian” Gnostics did adopt their own versions of authoritative Scriptures, such as those found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.
The truth of the matter is that it was really a heresy in the second century and it also completely destroyed Christianity as we know it. It was spiritual elitism like we have never seen. It was wrong, heretical and downright demonic. No other way to put it.
However, IHOPKC does not fit the bill for it as a modern expression of the second century heresy. In the article on Azusa Report,
This claim of “special knowledge” comes from the teaching out of Daniel 12 and the belief that God speaks to people today through prophets. They do not believe that you are saved by special revelation such as detractors claim. Bob Jones, Paul Cain, and any other person you would name from the Kansas City movement do not believe people are saved by prophetic encounters.
Another interesting part of Gnosticism was their new materialism. They believe that ownership of materials was some form of evil. Mike Bickle and IHOPKC clearly believes that God wants to bless people and that God is raising up business leaders as part of what he calls the Joseph Company.
It is true that Mike Bickle did sell his home when he started the House of Prayer and for many years drove an older Honda Accord. It was because he wanted all the money possible to support getting the ministry up and going, not some spiritual call to being broke and struggling.
Now, that “divine spark” thing with Gnosticism. This belief is that for one to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, they have to have this special spark. They believed that only selected people could receive it.
IHOPKC and Mike Bickle clearly believe like most Pentecostal ministries before them that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for every believer and anyone who desires to be filled with the empowerment will receive it just like it happened at the Day of Pentecost.
With that said, there is a departure of Pentecostal theology on the issue of the initial physical evidence. Mike Bickle does not believe that having a private prayer language is critical for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
IHOPKC and Eschatology concerns
Much of the concerns surrounding them is about their views on the Last things or end of days. They are very much passionate about their position on eschatology. This is a subject that they are willing to alienate people who disagree with them. It is a core subject of the International House of Prayer since 2005 and to be honest, a core reason that I walked away from the house of prayer.
What exactly is their view on what is coming and what does it means for us,
We believe in the literal second coming of Christ at the end of this age, when He will return to earth personally and visibly to reign over the nations in His millennial kingdom. We believe that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation with great power and victory and will only be raptured at the end of the Great Tribulation. No one can know with certainty the timing of the Lord’s return. We also believe in and are praying for a great end-time harvest of souls and the emergence of a victorious Church that will experience unprecedented unity, purity, and power in the Holy Spirit.
What this is spelling out is a post-tribulation rapture of the saints in the historical Pre-millennial context. They differ with the historical view with the position known as “Victorious Church.” They hold to the believers in the last days will see the greatest revival known to mankind. This is partly due to a direct prophecy that Mike Bickle received in Egypt that God would change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.
Many leaders go as far as calling the pre-tribulation position that has received some popularity by the Left Behind series as being the “greatest deception to hit to American church.” As a general rule, Herrnhut hold that this position by Bickle and company is wrong and extreme.
Many people in the house of prayer has a fixation and even an obsession with studying the Book of Daniel, Joel and Revelation. It could be said that many focus on these books more than the actual gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is a legit concern that has never been addressed.
A major part of the teaching in the internships and at IHOP University seems to be focused on the eschatology of the ministry. A recent class offering on their website has over half the courses that were focused on the last things in some way.
Some have claimed that the people in Kansas City has a elite spirit about the issue and there is some truth in that claim. Anyone that sets themselves up as being the authority on a subject and there is many disagreements among theologians is on dangerous ground.
Understanding Bridal theology of Mike Bickle
A lot of people would probably connected Mike Bickle with his book from the 1990’s, Passion for Jesus. It is about the revelation of the Bride of Christ based in Song of Solomons. It is what they call the Bridal Paradigm at IHOPKC. What exactly is it and they do believe about it.
According to their website,
We affirm that the Bridegroom message is about Jesus’ emotions for us, His beauty, His commitments to us (to share His heart, home, throne, secrets, and beauty), and our response of wholehearted love and obedience to Him. This message starts with experiencing Jesus’ heart, emotions, and affections for us, and understanding that He delights in us, enjoys us, values our work, and calls us to partner with Him in ministry.
What does this really mean? It means that they see God as active and wanted to be part of our lives. In John 15, Jesus spoke about being a friend of God. It is a call to friendship with God more than anything else. He wants to have relationship with us and there is a divine romance that is laid out in Song of Solomon.
This is a very biblical message and one that is critical for the believer. However, it has somehow got seriously sidetracked by people taking it to the extremes. Some people have made it into some pretty weird stuff.
An example of this is the whole “Jesus is my boyfriend” stuff that goes around. That is not what IHOPKC or Mike Bickle teaches but like every doctrine, people take it and run with it until it is out there and very extreme. That is what is happening with the bridal theology of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
Officially the ministry states,
We deny, we refuse, all sensual overtones in proclaiming Jesus as the Bridegroom. Jesus is not our lover or boyfriend. We do not go on “dates” with Jesus. Receiving the “kiss of God’s Word” (Song 1:2) has nothing to do with physically kissing God. Neither the spiritual interpretation of the Song of Solomon nor references to “the romance of the gospel” have anything to do with sensuality, but with the adventuresome love that is filled with a spirit of abandonment that sacrificially loves and obeys Jesus. An example of this is seen when Paul and Silas sang songs of love to Jesus after being beaten and thrown into prison (Acts 16:22–26).
This is one of those doctrines that if abused, it can lead to some really crazy thinking in the believer’s life. It can also lead to burn out and confusion. It is very important to get this message clear as the Bible teaches and not “try and fill in the blanks.”
Simply put, take it as it is taught and work it out in your walk with God but realize the extreme that can come with it and do not fall in the ditch because of them.
One of the primary things that IHOPKC is known for is the prophetic ministry that started in the early 1980’s. It was something that the ministry became known as the Kansas City Prophets. There has been much said about this and there has been even books written on the subject such as Some say it thundered by David Pytches.
It started mainly with Bob Jones and Noel Alexander and later became more widely known under the ministry of Paul Cain when the prophetic stories from Kansas City started to go around the world and many people were touched. This was aided by a connection to the Vineyard churches under the leadership of John Wimber.
Now, the prophetic ministry is primarily being lead by people hear from the Lord but not such dramatic terms. IHOPKC does this in personal prophecy teams that are tightly controlled outreaches.
One of the challenges that I see is that, like many, misunderstand the passage that Paul was speaking to the people at Corinth than prophecy is to encourage and to edify. While there is no biblical evidence that Paul believed that all prophecy must be positive, IHOPKC, like many ministries, teach them as the end of test of all things prophetic. Interestingly, prophecy and encouragement are listed as two completely different spiritual gifts in Romans 12.
The challenge that I see with the prophetic ministry and prophecy rooms at IHOPKC is that people tend to change prophecies and rely on recieving “words” than contending for relationship with the Holy Spirit day in and day out. A prophetic word from some stranger in a room on the side of the prayer room will never replace being in intimacy with Jesus. While they can give you a message they believe is from the Lord, they can not give you the oil of the Spirit talked about in the ten virgins.
The other challenge is when the team is just dead wrong. I had a man (that I respect) come up to me in the house of prayer once and give me a “prophetic word” about some things he believed God was showing him. The problem was it was in direct contrast with about everything that Lord had been dealing with me for months. While this could have been a fresh direction, it was simply a guy that completely missed the prophetic word. It was not just “not in season,” it would have ended in a wild goose chase.
Kirk Bennett from 7 Thunders has been trying to build up the prophetic ministry at IHOPKC for many years. What he is trying to do is very important. However, it has created some serious abuses and could cause people go dead end roads if they take direction from prophetic words from strangers that are in alignment with what the Holy Spirit is speaking to them in the secret place.
It is safe to say that prophetic ministry at IHOPKC (and everywhere else) is high risk and high reward.
There is a strong believe among many Pentecostals and Charismatics that there is coming what Paul Cain coined to be Stadium Christianity. While the terms is new, the concept is as old as Pentecostalism is or older.
In the early days of the movement, it was called the great end time harvest or the latter rain outpouring. If you read some of the early newsletter from Azusa Street or the Pentecostal Evangel; you will see the term end time revival often.
Probably the most well known prophetic word was from Smith Wigglesworth that saw the coming Charismatic movement and spoken of the outpouring that no one could stop.
Teachings similar to this was very common during the healing revival as well. A.A. Allen, for example, claimed to have many visions about the coming harvest to America. Jack Coe also saw a major revival that was coming.
Paul Cain has stated that during the 1960’s and 1970’s, he had dozens of dreams and visions about stadiums being filled unplanned from revival meetings breaking out. He believed that there will be less emphasis on leadership calling the meetings nameless and faceless.
The content of Paul’s dreams is not new, though. I could replace the words Stadium Christianity with end time harvest and it would look just like Smith Wigglesworth said it.
According to IHOPKC, they officially believe,
We affirm that the Church will experience the greatest outpouring of the Spirit in history before Jesus returns (Joel 2:28–32). This outpouring will result in a great ingathering of souls and a renewing of the Church so that believers will walk in godliness as declared in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1–7:28). We affirm the presence of the fivefold ministry for the equipping of the saints (Eph. 4:11–13).
This is not anything out of the norm for Pentecostals. Early leaders of the Assemblies of God and Church of God believed the same thing. It was not until the mid 1930’s that doom and gloom started to become popular in the Pentecostal churches again.
As a general rule, Azusa Report reject any and all forms of the doom and gloom teaching and consider it complete heresy. We want to be very clear on this subject.
At the center of this discussion is Bob Jones and his billion soul prophecy. I do not know if that number is exact but there is enough prophetic words from people who did not even know each other in the early days of the Pentecostal movement that also point to the ballpark of that estimate.
This notion that this is something some weirdos in Kansas City back in 1983 came up with is completely out of line. People have been talking about this using different terms since at least the turn of the 20th century.
It is beyond me how any Pentecostal could call into question a desire or preaching about the latter rain revival that they believed was imminent. It leads me to question what education some of the pastors have. Did they fail history at Central Bible College or during their Berean courses?
Now, what about Joel’s Army? This is where many get off and think IHOPKC is connected to the 1948 Latter Rain revival. To be blunt, some of the theology out of the revival in Canada was heretical and must be treated as such.
This got started because Paul Cain saw a banner over Metro Christian Fellowship back in the 1990’s that said “Joel’s Army in training.” People ran with it and after much study both Mike Bickle and Dr. Jack Deere came back and said plainly that there is nothing in Joel that points to this. Whatever Paul saw was not in line with the biblical text given through the prophet Joel.
What Paul saw was an army of young people would give themselves to fasting and prayer for revival at the end of the age. The truth is that Joel did talk about this but in a different context. The reality of a people praying and fasting for outpouring at the end of the dispensation of grace is very biblical and it found in many other passages that better explain it.
Joel talks about, without question, a major army that would destroy the Holy City. This happened is 586BC and it also tells us of a coming invasion that will come in the end times. It is commonly believed that this will be a reforming of the USSR that attacks from the north.
However, the verses after that, turn to preparing the people and it does talk about prayer, fasting and weeping. However, this was more directly in connection to prepare the people from the invasion than a massive revival among gentiles.
As God speaks in types and shadows, it is clear that Joel was also speaking about revival that is to come. We know that because Peter used Joel 2:28 when he proclaimed “This is that” in Acts 2. It is clear that much of Joel’s prophetic word has eschatological value.
I think that using terms like Joel’s Army or even Army of the Lord to seem to form images in people’s mind much different that what the Lord is trying to do in our generation. The people of the Spirit will not fight injustice with ICBMs or with M4 assault rifles.
The end time revival will be militant but it will not use violence to bring about the harvest. God does use war to bring revival to nations but it will be through earthly nations, not the saints of the Lord.
There is far better ways to speak on the great end time harvest with imagery that does not put fear into people than using things that people connect to images from the dropping of the atomic bombs.
In short, taking the Book of Joel at face value is doctrinal irresponsible and dangerous. Proper hermeneutics matters and this is critical to understand Joel.
This is is a living docoment and to be added will be Dominion Theology, Contemplative prayer and the missiology of IHOPKC.