By Rev. Keith Gibson –
“Do you have any information on IHOP? What’s your impression of what’s going on there? My child just got involved in IHOP, should I be concerned?” The questions come in a number of forms but are basically seeking the same information. I receive multiple inquiries at ARC weekly concerning the International House of Prayer. We have documented a large number of concerns throughout this blog. I think several of these articles are very important and should be read by those seeking detailed information. However, for those who are needing something handy and for those who are simply unwilling to read back through the posts on the blog, I have decided to lay out my major concerns in this post. This post will contain the basic answer that I give to those seeking information on our apologetics site or when the subject comes up at conferences. I want to state that these are only the major concerns and do not constitute a full list. Space constraints will demand that the post be brief and somewhat generalized. I should also state that the issues with IHOP specifically are in many respects the same issues that are rampant within the apostolic/prophetic movement generally.
These issues have to do with the doctrines and practices of the movement. Here’s the obligatory disclaimer. I am not saying these people are not Christians. I am not saying they are not nice and sincere. I’m not saying that they are not passionate. In fact passion is one of the things that I respect in the ministry. I am not saying that they are wrong on all counts. I will even concede that most of them are better looking than I am. So if you’re going to discuss personalities don’t bother commenting. This is about issues.
One word concerning the acronym. I did not develop this to try to be cute, clever, trite or malicious but simply because I’m getting older and I needed something that helped me state the significant concerns in a concise manner and in a way that will hopefully be memorable to the inquirer.
So without further adieu, here are the key issues as I see them.
There are two. The first is that IHOP is developed and built around the personal revelations given to Bickle or other modern prophets and not the scriptures. They will of course deny this but the proof is easy to offer. Bickle came to KC because of personal revelation from the prophet Augustine. It was through personal revelation that he came to understand and believe that God was going to change the understanding and expression of Christianity on the face of the whole earth in one generation. The Blueprint prophecy gives the entire mandate for the ministry. The name IHOP came by personal revelation. The name Friends of the Bridegroom came by personal revelation. The name Joseph Company came by personal revelation. Bickle’s acceptance of prophets and apostles has come via personal revelation. Doctrine is established by personal revelation. They will cry foul loudly over this last one but it is demonstrably true. Many of their end-time doctrines came by personal prophecy. But it is easily established that they accepted the manifestations of the Toronto Blessing because of a personal prophecy given to Bob Jones that those who have poison in their bread will be brought down but the cupbearer will serve wine in the presence of the king (supposedly based on the story of Joseph). They believe Jim Bakker was the baker with poison in his bread who was brought down and the rise of Rodney Howard Brown leading to the Toronto Blessing was the fulfillment of the second part. All of this can be proven by plowing through the 8 CD’s of “Our Prophetic History” along with many, many other examples of the foundation being personal revelation.
The second is a faulty hermeneutic or approach to Biblical interpretation. As we have documented in numerous blog entries on this site, the general approach to the Bible by many of the teachers at IHOP is very sloppy. Context, history and word meanings are all irrelevant. The Bible means whatever we want it to mean today. So Mike Bickle can redefine the words of Jude 3 to state that we are to “press into God for the experience of apostolic power granted to the first century church”. He can find somewhere in Revelation 10 a word that God is going to raise up “10,000 apostolic evangelists” in the last days who will participate in the judgments of heaven and whose words will have power to cause change in both the natural and the supernatural. Bickle and Jill Austin can read Micah 2:12-13 and find justification for a teaching on a “breaker anointing” which is a “catalytic deposit of the Holy Spirit that allows heaven to invade earth for the purpose of God to go forward in new dimensions.” Kirk Bennett (who recently left IHOP to join Rick Joyner and ZHOP) can read Matt. 8:20 where Jesus states to an individual desiring to follow Him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” and determine that Jesus is speaking about the church because the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out and Jesus did not have a people to indwell. Bennett and Jones can read Hebrews 7 and discover that individual believers are the Melchizedek priesthood. We dedicated more than one blog posting to discussing Allen Hood’s treatment of the lovesick Jesus in Galatians 4:4. We can add to that his teachings on praying for an open heaven where angels descend to earth to enforce a heavenly decree which he bases loosely (extremely loosely) on John 1:51. I could go on and on. This issue is so pervasive and so systemic within the movement that it occurs in nearly every sermon and every book produced by an IHOP teacher.
Add to that, the implication from all the new revelations that the Bible is neither complete nor sufficient and this is an extremely serious issue.
The Bible simply deserves better. I will state again that if it is wrong to mishandle, misquote and take the words of men out of context, it is far more serious to do so with the word of God. If we can’t keep our own people to a proper handling of the Word, what are we to say when the Jehovah’s Witness knocks on our door? How will those influenced by IHOP’s method recognize even worse teaching when they encounter it later in life?
This is issue number one and, in many ways, it is foundational to the other issues.
Aberrant teachings and practices: The faulty handling of scripture leads to erroneous conclusions which opens the door to false teachings and practices. Once again, we have discussed at length on this blog IHOP teachings such as Contemplative Prayer (beholding the glory of God within you which Mike Bickle states is the key to fulfilling Eph. 3:18-19), Fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit, the elected seed, the Bridal Paradigm and many of the dominionist teachings at IHOP. Add to this doctrines and practices such as spiritual mapping, prophetic art, the Jezebel spirit, the Anna anointing, the uniqueness of the end-time generation, restoration of the tabernacle of David, end-time cities of refuge, the Eli spirit, the harp and bowl model, third heaven visitations as a normative experience, books on dream interpretation, spiritual portals etc., etc. The list seems endless and this is nowhere near exhaustive.
The fact is that doctrines and practices completely unknown for the 2,000 year history of the church are commonplace in the teaching ministry at IHOP. These teachings have little or no basis within the pages of scripture.
We could add to this the general disdain for doctrine that is displayed at IHOP. Doctrine is repeatedly downplayed. In his book, “Growing in the Prophetic”, Bickle implies that even the doctrine of the Trinity is a secondary issue in the way he glosses over it in his race to commend William Branham.
Lack of balance: This issue involves a number of things. First, the major teachers at IHOP give very little time within the normal teaching ministry of the organization (I’m not talking about the school at this point) to the essential doctrines of the faith. One will search in vain for an in-depth discussion by an IHOP leader on the fall of man, the sovereignty of God, the Trinity, the virgin birth, the resurrection, final judgment, sin, grace or nearly any other foundational issue of the Christian faith. There are no sermon series (or individual sermons that I could find) on Christian morality and ethics or character development. I’m not saying these terms are never mentioned. I am saying that they are not expounded upon. Allen Hood’s series on the Cross and the Excellencies of Christ are notable exceptions to the overall lack of foundational teaching but the exception only serves to illustrate the rule. This is true even in the book selections available at the store. Certainly there is Grudem’s Systematic Theology and a book or two by John Piper and John Stott. But there is nearly an entire wall of Roman Catholic mystics. There is a huge section of modern prophecies, books on dream interpretation and spiritual warfare teachings like spiritual mapping. The main things are not the main things in the teaching ministry at the International House of Prayer. Even a former staff member acknowledged to me personally, “IHOP probably does need a more full-orbed approach to the Christian faith.”
Another aspect of this lack of balance is the lack of teaching from the New Testament. There are no series of sermons or books by IHOP leaders on any of the Pauline epistles. Let that sink in for a moment. Two thirds of the New Testament is virtually missing in the teaching ministry at IHOP and they have been in operation for over 7 years. There is very little from the gospels either with the exception of Mary of Bethany and the Sermon on the Mount. There are no series from either of Peter’s epistles, or John’s three epistles. I found one sermon out of Jude 3 but the verse was so distorted that the subject was altogether different than the original meaning of the passage. I could go on but I think the point has been made.
And quite frankly, even when passages are referenced, they are rarely actually explained. Mike Bickle’s treatment of Revelation 22:17 in his sermon, “Apostolic Premillenialism” is standard. Bickle roughly says this, “This passage is one of the most critical passages in all the New Testament for the end-time church. It is absolutely essential that the church in this day understand the call of this passage. This verse is one of the clearest and most essential passages for the church in this day. I could literally go on for hours explaining to you the depth of this Scripture. I’m not going to do that today but it is absolutely essential that the church understand this passage.” I’m paraphrasing but I’m really close. I listened to it several times. Bickle references the verse and then spends five minutes of rhetoric on how important the verse is but never once expounds on the supposedly essential teachings contained in the passage.
Support of other false teachers: The list of aberrant teachers endorsed by Mike Bickle is virtually a “Who’s Who” of heretics past and present. We have mentioned on numerous occasions his fascination with Roman Catholic mystics like Teresa of Avila, Madam Guyon, Jan of Norwich, St. John of the Cross and the like. William Branham continues to be endorsed as the greatest modern apostle despite his rejection of the Trinity and other heretical teachings. Bickle claims that John G. Lake has influenced him more than any man other than Jesus and further calls him the greatest intercessor in history despite his little gods theology, communications with the dead, arrest for fraud, and dominionist heresies. (On one CD sermon, Bickle states that he didn’t read anything but Madame Guyon and John G. Lake for an entire month at one point in his ministry.) Bickle refers to Kenneth Hagin, the founder of the Word Faith movement, as the greatest teacher on petitionary prayer in this generation. His support for the Toronto Blessing and the teachings of John and Carol Arnott is well documented. In his book, “Growing in the Prophetic”, Bickle twists Acts 2 to try to find justification for holy laughter. When we come to the modern prophets we find that IHOP sells the books of Rick Joyner, Bill Hamon, Shawn Bolz, Jim Goll, Paul Keith Davis, John Paul Jackson, Chuck Pierce, Dutch Sheets, Jill Austin and on and on. Many of these same teachers are frequent speakers at conferences sponsored by IHOP.
Interestingly, I have never heard or read Mike Bickle quote from any noted Evangelical theologian or pastor other than Wayne Grudem and then it was primarily to disagree with him. I will head off the inevitable disagreement from IHOP’ers here and concede that he has probably done so but it is certainly the exception. The only teachers that don’t seem to regularly make it into Bickle’s vocabulary are those recognized as solidly in the truth.
End Result: We are producing a generation that is zealous without knowledge. Look at the teachers that have come out of the Bickle system; Jim Goll, Kirk Bennett, John Paul Jackson, Jill Austin, Shawn Bolz, Paul Cain, and Bob Jones. Each of these teachers have serious deficiencies in their doctrine. Sam Storms and Michael Sullivant are the exceptions to the rule and Sam, at least, got his primary training elsewhere. Shawn Bolz is to my mind the quintessential example since he was with Bickle since high school. We dedicated two entire blog entries to noting Bolz’s teachings. We have had students in Forerunner School of Ministry post on this blog who couldn’t give a clear explanation of the gospel even though they had been in class for several months. They have no idea how to rightly divide the Word of God. They are completely unfamiliar with church history. (In fact they exhibit a general disdain for the historical faith. And why shouldn’t they? After all none of the previous generations of Christianity received the fullness they have been promised.) These items are the standard fare for the initial two semesters of any good Bible college. In what sense is FSM giving them training?
It is interesting to note that in several conversations current leaders at IHOP have attempted to disavow themselves from some of these very teachers they, or their parent ministry KCF/Metro, have produced. I have been told that IHOP must be judged on its own merits alone. But if an IT school consistently graduated students who were unprepared to work on computers, the school would itself gain a poor reputation. In the same way, a school of ministry that consistently produces people with little grounding in the faith or the ability to properly handle the Word of God must be accountable for its product.
Aberrant doctrine and practices
Lack of balance
Support of other false teachers
You draw your own conclusion.
By Rev. Keith Gibson