The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. Soren Kierkegaard
In two separate instances, Chris Conlee of Highpoint Church has mentioned the International House of Prayer(IHOPKC.) On one occasion he said he had received a confirmed prophecy while visiting that group. He then claimed that he has been led to start a 24/7 prayer room leading me to wonder if he is going to have his church’s prayer ministry become associated with IHOP Memphis.
What is this all about? After I discovered that Highpoint Church listing suddenly disappeared from the church directory for the Southern Baptist Convention, I wondered if the SBC had pulled a TGC (The Gospel Coalition) move and had quietly removed the church from membership. After speaking with a few folks who should know, I have come to the conclusion that Highpoint Church may have removed their own listing from the SBC. That led me to wonder if Highpoint was going to go in a different theological direction.
It should not be a surprise to readers that some of us have suspected that Conlee will do anything to get Savage back in the pulpit since Savage is the more charismatic of the two. However, with Larry Cotton’s resignation which included a statement by him that Woodson had been the victim of sex abuse and it should have been reported to the authorities, Highpoint has a problem. Hence, the March 1st report has been delayed.
Some folks have reported that Andy Savage has been spotted around Memphis, traveling with two bodyguards. If true, are the bodyguards there to protect Savage from bodily harm or are they there to keep people from getting too close and asking awkward questions. Multiple bodyguard, paid for by the tithes of average people, are the latest symbol of prestige among the mega church crowd.
It is my guess that Chris Conlee is going to take the church in a new direction and is willing to lose some members in order to hide under a new banner. I could be wrong. However, there is no question that Conlee is rather enamored of IHOPKC. Do the attendees at Highpoint Church know the history of that organization?
What is IHOPK?C
First off, the International House of Prayer is usually referred to as IHOP. The first time that I heard the name, I wondered if it was started by some hipster who came up with an idea of flipping pancakes while preaching. So did the International House of Pancakes which expressed displeasure at the association and sued for copyright infringement. It was settled out of court and IHOP, the parachurch, started calling itself IHOPKC
So, Conlee, who appears to be on track for starting a 24/7 prayer room at Highpoint, might call it IHOP Memphis in accordance with recommendations from IHOP KC.
So,what is IHOPKC? Is it a church, a parachurch group, a school, etc. The answer is yes. According to their website:
The Lord has called us to be a community of believers committed to God, each other, and to establishing and maintaining a 24/7 house of prayer in Kansas City—a perpetual solemn assembly gathering corporately to fast and pray in the spirit of the tabernacle of David.
We are committed to prayer, fasting, the Great Commission, and to living as forerunners, spiritually preparing for the unique dynamics of the end times. The work of our ministry includes equipping and sending out missionaries as dedicated intercessors and evangelists who work to see revival within the Church and a harvest among those searching for God. We take seriously the mandate to train believers to love Jesus and others wholeheartedly, as together we go forth to preach the Word, heal the sick, serve the poor, plant houses of prayer, and proclaim the return of Jesus across the earth.
…We refer to our full-time staff at the International House of Prayer as “intercessory missionaries.” They raise their own support to work as full-time missionaries who reach out to others from a lifestyle of prayer and worship. Today, about 2,000 believers (staff, students, and interns) serve full-time, investing fifty hours per week, as they go from the prayer room to the classroom and then to ministry outreaches and works of service. Also, as those who are committed to the forerunner message, we are spiritually equipping ourselves to prepare others for the unique dynamics of the generation in which the Lord returns.
They believe that they are starting a revival which they oddly tie to David’s tabernacle.
Around 1000 BC, King David established a tabernacle in Jerusalem and set a precedent of night and day worship before the Lord that continued at various times throughout Israel and Judah’s history. Each time this order of worship was reintroduced, spiritual breakthrough, deliverance and military victory followed.
According to Wikipedia, there is much more to this organization.
The International House of Prayer (IHOP or IHOPKC) is a charismatic Christian movement and missions organization based in Kansas City, Missouri, and the nearby suburb of Grandview that focuses on prayer and worship.
It is best known for the prayer room which has run 24/7 with live worship teams since September 19, 1999, and simultaneously broadcast via its website. Doctrinally, IHOPKC is charismatic, post-tribulational, and affirms historic premillennialism. IHOPKC places great importance on the practices of prayer, worship, fasting, and works of justice.
IHOPKC runs a training facility which houses a Bible school, music academy, and media institute, collectively known as the International House of Prayer University (IHOPU) in nearby Grandview, Missouri.
The annual Onething conference has been hosted by IHOPKC since 2002 in the Kansas City Convention Center.
IHOPKC also has an unaccredited university. According to Wikipedia:
The International House of Prayer University is an unaccredited Bible college with a campus at Grandview, Missouri. As of 2010, there were 1,000 full-time students enrolled. The educational process centers on prayer.
The program has included ministry training programs, a music academy, a media school, missionary training, and others.
IHOPKC also seems to run a quasi church.
People from all walks of life are welcome at Forerunner Christian Fellowship, where our desire is to grow in passion for Jesus and compassion for people. Together we commit to love and obey Jesus, to enjoy fellowship with each other, and to reach out to others in the power of the Spirit.
Interestingly, anyone can watch the 24/7 prayer room which they live stream at this link.
Central to the work of the missions base is our 24/7 prayer room, inspired by David’s tabernacle (1 Chr. 23:5; 25:7), where 288 singers and 4,000 musicians were employed as their full-time occupation to minister to the Lord and serve the community. We divide the 24/7 schedule into twelve worship-based prayer meetings a day, each lasting two hours.
Scripture teaches that night-and-day prayer is deeply connected to the fullness of God’s power and purpose being released.
The organization claims that they do not govern a network of churches (think SGM/SGC)
I do not know how to interpret their claim in this matter. The SBC claims no jurisdiction over independent churches yet there are still some ties. At this point, I am a bit suspicious that there is more to this than meets the eye. Chris Conlee came back from his visits with a prophecy and a determination to start a prayer room so there is no question that there is some sort of influence which bears watching.
5. Does IHOPKC govern a network of churches?
No. IHOPKC is friendly with many in the Body of Christ across denominational boundaries and a number have been inspired by what has happened in Kansas City and have established “Houses of Prayer” in their own city. IHOPKC does not have any governmental authority over any of these churches or spiritual communities. While IHOPKC loves to serve and resource individuals and churches outside Kansas City, the leadership of IHOPKC only extends to our Missions Base in Kansas City.
So why do some people call this a cult? Why do others point out what they believe to be seriously flawed theology?
Before I begin, let me explain what I am NOT doing in this post. I am not here to start a debate on the charismatic movement. Although my husband and I are not charismatic in our faith practice, my husband became a Christian in charismatic group at Dartmouth College. Some of our close friends are involved in groups such as Assemblies of God. Just as we point out problems with both Calvinist and non-Calvinist groups, we will do the same for IHOP.
IHOPKC has just placed a staff member on leave for a 30 year old sex abuse accusation.
In a situation eerily like the Andy Savage situation at Highpoint, the Kansas City Star reported:
A former youth pastor accused of sexually abusing a Washington woman three decades ago when she was 14 has been placed on administrative leave by the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, where he now works.
The church released the following statement to the Kansas City Star:
“As a ministry we are firmly committed to the safety of all our members, especially the most vulnerable including our children and women,” Adam Wittenberg, an intercessory missionary at IHOPKC, said in an email. “In light of the recent accusations against one of our staff that took place over 30 years ago, as is typical in situations of these type of accusations, the staff member is on administrative leave while the veracity of these accusations is ascertained.”
The victim, who was molested by a youth pastor, suggested the church refer this to Boz Tchividjian’s GRACE.
The allegations came to light when Jennifer Graves Roach recently told The Modesto Beethat Tebbutt had sexually abused her in the mid-1980s. Tebbutt was a 27-year-old youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Modesto, Calif., when the abuse began.
…Roach told The Star on Thursday she was pleased that IHOP had placed Tebbutt on leave.
“I think it’s an appropriate action for any church in their situation to take,” she said.
She suggested that IHOP ask an organization called GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, to handle the investigation
Odd teachings of IHOPKC
CARM has a page dedicated to IHOPKC.
- Jesus cannot return until more people are praying. He is *held in the heavens” until then. Not only that, the people praying must understand that they are cherished by Jesus in the *bridal identity.*
Right now the prayer movement is growing fast….really fast! But when I say it’s growing fast instead of one percent of the Body of Christ taking hold of it, maybe 10 percent. It’s….you know it’s like 10 times bigger than it was a generation ago, but beloved as fast as the prayer movement is growing, where people are getting hold of it, still for 90 percent of the Body of Christ it’s not even on their mind. Jesus is not coming until the Body of Christ globally is crying out “Come Lord Jesus, Come Lord Jesus, Come Lord Jesus” and they don’t just say “come and forgive me” they are crying out in the understanding of who they are as the one that is cherished by Jesus in the bridal identity.
2. What is meant by *bridal identity?*
Rolling Stone posted a disturbing article called Love and Death in the House of Prayer in which they documented the origin of this strange belief.
….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.
…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. (ed. note : Bickle makes a point that bridal theology is not sexual.)
…”Very quickly, there were sensual escapades with God,” a former intern says, meaning that some people’s private imaginings turned explicit after exposure to IHOP’s “bridegroom” Christ. She says that an instructor told her, “God is using his word to kiss you.” The intern heard stories of IHOPers fantasizing about having “orgies with Jesus” and “sex with God.
3. According to Bickle, it doesn’t matter if prophecies don’t come true. In fact, some prophets have a less than 10% accuracy rate at IHOPKC and that is just fine with Bickle.
This is a huge red flag. Remember, Chris Conlee came back to Highpoint discussing that he had been prophesied over at IHOPKC. Yet, how does his know it is true? Why should any reasonable person consider listening to such prophecies? 10% accuracy? Seriously?
According to the CARM article of IHOPKC:
One of the highest criticisms of IHOP is that of Gnosticism. Gnosticism is derived from the greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” Gnosticism is the idea of having “hidden knowledge” of the spiritual realm that is unavailable to others. This knowledge comes via prophecies, visions, and dreams that God specifically gives to a certain privileged group of people – in this case IHOP. In fact, IHOP has their own “prophecy rooms” where one can receive “prophecies.”
…They could hear from God, and speak forth God’s words, prophesying of great events soon to transpire on planet earth. And they could have flipped a coin as to whether what God allegedly told them would actually come true. Often they didn’t come true. Some of the main prophets and/or leaders in the movement included Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, John Paul Jackson, Francis Frangipane, and others…However, he was quoted as saying that the general level of prophetic revelation in the movement’s “prophets” had an accuracy level of about 65 percent. Some prophets were as low as 10 percent accurate, he said, with some of the “most mature” prophets having a rating “approaching 85 percent to 95 percent. ” (Steven F Cannon, “Old Wine in Old Wineskins: A Look at Kansas City Fellowship,” The Quarterly Journal 10, no. 4 (October-December 1990): 8.10
Here is Mike Bickle blowing off the need for accuracy be prophets. He claims that 100% accuracy was the hallmark of a true prophet only the Old Testament, not for the New Testament. Yet he does not give any Scriptural references for this supposed claim.
4. Bickle claims to actually come and go to the heavenly realms to have conversations with God.
Once again, this is found on the CARM website.
“I (Mike Bickle) stood there and I was at the Lord’s left hand, and it was not a dream–this was as real as life here and like I said, I don’t know that realm… He (God) was speaking so sternly to me, He said, ‘If you are impatient…you will cause great turmoil and much trouble for many people.’ I was ashamed and I was broken with sorrow that He said that so harshly to me. And then what happened is that I start falling so rapidly–I mean like–S-H-O-O-O-M, it takes about five or six seconds, and fall down to my bed, right through the ceiling–I mean it was right through the walls and things–S-H-O-O-O-M, I hit my bed and it wasn’t like an instant I was there–I had knowledge of travel for five or six seconds. Have you had that?”
According to the Rolling Stone article, it appears that Bickle is practically a commuter, traveling on a heavenly interstate.
Bickle sometimes affects to know God as he would a peer. “I heard what I call the internal audible voice of the Lord,” he has said. He claims that he visited heaven one night at 2:16 a.m., and the Lord charged him with preparing for an End Times ministry and seated him in a golden chariot that lifted off into the empyrean. At IHOP, where prophetic experiences are endemic, the mortal and divine commingle liberally.
5. God needs IHOPKC to bring about Christ’s Second Coming, to revive the church and to destroy demonic strongholds.
From the Rolling Stones article:
Bickle believes that unceasing, euphoric worship and song at IHOP and in prayer rooms across the globe, which should never close or be empty, will promote passionate intimacy with the Lord, revive the church and demolish demonic strongholds. And so IHOPers pray all day and night, through blizzards and blackouts, in hours-long sessions of mesmeric, musical worship, repeating the same phrases over and over, expecting to precipitate the Great Tribulation and the final battle between good and evil that precedes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
This is IHOP’s most alluring tenet: God needs IHOPers to effect the Tribulation and bring Christ back to Earth. “The church causes the Great Tribulation,” Bickle has preached.
6. Bickle has claimed that we will be like gods and will live on the earth. According to Rolling Stone:
Before founding IHOP, he argued that “God intends us to be like gods. God has conceived in his heart of a plan to make a race of men that would live like gods on Earth.”
7. Bickle appears to believe that, because his people prayed for the right people in government, Trump was elected and this will lead to a great harvest of souls.
I truly do not know what he is talking about here. In this article in Charisma News: Mike Bickle Believes Trump Presidency Will Open Doors for a Great Awakening in America, Bickle declared:
When orchestrating prayer for the election and the country, which would affect millions through the International House of Prayer network, Bickle asked intercessors to ask God to “send the right people to every level of government.”
“We just said, ‘Lord, please establish the right people in the right places,'” Bickle said. “When it came to Trump and Hillary, we knew that Hillary would be a disaster for us beyond measure and would set us back far. … The fact that he [Trump] emerged and beat Hillary was a great, great joy to us, and it showed the Lord’s favor upon our nation.”
…Although Bickle sees Trump more as a “reprieve” than a long-term answer for America, he does believe his election as president will open the door for a much-needed Great Awakening in the church, which will lead to a great harvest of souls.
A former intern explained why she believes that IHOPKC is a cult.
Nine years ago, an anonymous former intern wrote Why I Believe IHOP is a Cult
As an intern at IHOP, our day to day lives were closely monitored and dictated. I was not allowed to go anywhere or leave IHOP premises without express verbal permission from a community leader except on our one day off.Our schedules started early in the morning with hours in the prayer room, then classes, then back to the prayer room. Our nights often ran late with required attendance at EGS (Encounter God Services) or any other special event Mike spoke at that we were required to attend. Sometimes we had to attend worship sets that ended at 10 pm or midnight. Sleep was minimal
…We were all given journals and told that we had mandatory writing assignments to complete. We were to record details of our IHOP prayer room times, things God spoke to us, dreams, visions, or whatever else that happened in us spiritually and then had to turn in our journals weekly to have an internship leader review/read them. In the last month or so I was at IHOP I paid particularly close attention to the fact that internship leaders ironically prayed things over me in prayer times or at the altar in the prayer room that related directly to things I had put in my journals. So what often might have seemed prophetic was the result of the information about me they already had access to.
…In the time I was there Mike often used “them and us” types of statements when referring to “the church” or those outside of IHOP. We were given a sense of being on the “cutting edge” because we were ahead of the church and were doing something new & innovative that was going to sweep the world.
..Every intern was required to listen to the 12 hours of IHOP’s recorded history on CD footage. Much of this content was heavily edited before its publication. These tapes told of “prophetic words” and signs that were given to some of Mike’s mentors (Bob Jones, Paul Cain, etc)—who were all naming him as the leader of the next “big thing” God was doing. Over and over and over again I’ve heard it said (both directly by Mike as well as from others) that he (Mike) would be the leader of a movement that “changed the nature and expression of Christianity in the earth”. Every time, all recognition points to Mike.
…Youth are pumped up at conferences and then go home to tell their parents they are moving to Kansas City to join IHOP, be part of an internship, etc. At the time, sadly, they don’t realize how much more they are giving up and leaving behind than just their families.
Rolling Stone provides\d a deeply disturbing expose on a suicide at IHOPKC. It involved what appears to be people in leadership roles who have questionable theology, psychological issues with little to no oversight.
I believe Love and Death in the House of Prayer is worth a full read but it is quite disturbing. Frankly, it had me checking Amazon to see if red flags can be bought by the 100s.The story includes questionable theology, insufficient supervision, psychiatric disorders, abuse, along with some pretty bizarre views on sexuality.
What I have left out because I didn’t have time.
- Despite the denials of Mike Bickle, is there a tie to the New Apostolic Reformation or dominionism?
- Who are the Kansas City prophets?
- What is the Second Pentecost?
- What about exorcism and demons?
- What are the views on repentance and restoration?
Thoughts for the members of Highpoint Church
- If Highpoint Church was a member of The Gospel Coalition and the Southern Baptist Convention, how could the leadership make such a drastic change of direction and theology?
- Have the members of Highpoint Church been told of the significant differences in theology between the SBC and IHOPKC?
- Do the members of Highpoint Church think that it is rather odd that a pastor could change his theological distinctives so quickly?
- Could this all have something to do with Andy Savage?
I bet some interesting discussions will ensue!