Why I left the International House of Prayer: Atlanta Part 2
Disclaimer: Before I begin I want to say that this is my story with IHOPKC and IHOP-Atlanta and that though I know I am not the only one with this type of experience I also know that there are those that have not had this experiences. There are many people I know that are still involved at both houses of prayer and I respect and love them all and it is out of respect for my friends involved still that I will refrain from using any names.
Nevertheless though I might be against how both IHOPs have been run and believe that there are many in leadership that have gravely crossed the line, I still love them all. We are all broken people deserving of love and respect, nevertheless I firmly believe that the truth must be shared, especially when many have been harmed by an unhealthy culture. I have had many good experiences that I am thankful for as well as made my own mistakes in my own personal life but that is not the point of this blog. I am in no way trying to slander either ministry but simply share things that needed to be addressed that are impacting people in negative ways.
Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire: IHOP-Atlanta
When I first began at IHOP-Atlanta it looked like the promise land and rightly so I had just left an incredibly unhealthy situation and was still blinded by the pain and confusion. During my first year at IHOP-Atlanta things seemed great, though in the back of my mind I felt something was off but could not see it.
I Can See Clearly Now
During my second year at IHOP-Atlanta I began to see past the excitement and became aware that many of the staff were undervalued by the leaders. For many of us that have been at either of the houses of prayer we can attest that if you are not on stage in a band, teaching, or a poster child for the ministry then you ultimately have little to no value by the leaders. Sadly this is a problem in many ministries. If we did not meet the model of a perfect IHOPer then leadership didn’t acknowledge us. This is true for many of us who served daily and never even had a genuine “conversation” with the leaders. Sadly with the ratio of leaders to staff at IHOP-Atlanta being 5 to 1 at max you think that would not be.
When I look at IHOP-Atlanta I am grieved that the leaders ask so much from their staff and give so little. The staff are run ragged by leaders who act as drill sergeants all to keep the building 24/7. So many of us would be left exhausted and dead in our hearts hopping from the same exhausted intimacy and urgency messages hoping to keep our hearts afloat all the while trying to figure out how to eat with our state of poverty. But when you can throw passages out of context like when King David said “I will give no sleep to my eyes” then it is quite easy to control the staff to keep fueling your ministry.
During my time at IHOP-Atlanta I began to notice a trend of performance messages masked through messages of urgency and or intimacy. The senior leaders were the slave masters and the staff and interns were the slaves and with each message came that lash of the whip upon our backs to perform. With this kind of preaching it is no wonder why so many would leave after their internship.
During my time I also began to notice that the entire time I was a part of IHOP-Atlanta I almost never heard a message on Jesus. Instead it was messages on how we need to be radical like John the Baptist or be like the Church in China and if not it was how we all need to be evangelists/missionaries.
How Dare I Visit Another Church?
During my first year there I was a part of a small group led by a senior leader. On Good Friday (Friday before Easter) I decided to attend a special service at the local Catholic Church as they meditated upon the last 7 words of Christ. Afterwards I went to my small group and the leader asked us what we had been up to, so I shared. He was completely offended that I would choose to be at a meditation/worship service at another church. He attacked my decision by trying to invalidate it by asking me why I would go to another church when I could do that in the prayer room. After point out that we were not doing a service like that, he told me that I should start something like that at IHOP-Atlanta. I responded with “Why, when I can join in with 300 people at the Catholic Church.” The leader shunned me the rest of the next hour of small group. The following Christmas I attempted to do a Christmas meditation service and less than five people showed up for it, no leader came, all had been invited. How could we expect to see people value something like this when the leaders don’t? During their last Christmas services they have preached on Song of Solomon and the Church in China instead of acknowledging Christ’s incarnation.
I Know You, Even If We Have Never Talked Before
If you have ever been at either House of Prayer you will have noticed that most leaders treat each moment talking as an opportunity to preach about their convictions and call us to do their bidding in the next ministry endeavor. There was little to no relationality among IHOPers. Many people assume that they knew each other well because they saw each other each day in the prayer room. This would play out constantly among leaders who thought they knew staff so well that they can involve themselves in their personal lives whenever they want. I always found this troubling that people thought they knew someone so well without ever having a single real conversation.
My Time As Housing Director and Missing Money
During my last two years at IHOP-Atlanta I ran their internship housing department, though staff and students were known to live there. Among other problems I experienced with running housing was that I almost never had any money in the housing budget to spend on the houses. The interns would pay over $2,000 and you would think some of it was going towards housing, well I would not find out until after I ended my two years managing housing that none of the money was going towards housing. Where did it go? The problem was that when talking to many interns they wondered why almost nothing was done with them. Where was their money going to? Many of them have expressed that they felt cheated that the leaders never talked to them let alone did anything with them.
In regards to the issue of money, there was one particular time when a staff member signed up to do one of IHOP-Atlanta’s bible schools. This staff member signed up and paid their money. Within the first 3-4 days they realized that this school was not right for them and wanted to quit. The leaders of this school used manipulating tactics to keep them from quitting. Even when the staff member expressed that they felt uncomfortable and wanted a friend in the meetings with the leaders. The leaders instead ignored the staff member’s concerns and forced meetings. By the end of the first week the staff member was free from the school, though not at the expense of receiving the cold shoulder from the leaders. The reason why I tell this story is that once they were out of the school by day six, the leaders refused to give any of their money back.
Why, because the staff member signed a contract saying no refund. What are we Pharisees or Christians? This literally poor staff member who raised the money from their supporters never saw one cent returned. In addition they continued to live in the internship housing that was supposed to be covered by their tuition; however, since they left the school they now had to pay more money just to live there. Thus they essentially paid double rent to live there. This was a complete injustice. I tell this story because I was there and I asked multiple leaders to reimburse this poor staff member but they refused, they even refused letting them live in the housing for free or at least a discount. Where did their tuition money go?
Working for the Bible School
During my time at IHOP-Atlanta I helped their bible school as a teacher’s assistant as well as managed the social media for the bible school and IHOP-Atlanta. During that I saw that many students showed up for the first semester; however, after that first semester the school attendance dropped of completely. Many left saying that they felt that the teachers did not show any interest in them as students and that the teachings were solely IHOP’s interpretation and not open to any other ideas.
As a teacher’s assistant I found that the teachers did not even take their role as teacher serious. One just read verses and barely talked about them; many of the times they were read them out of contexts. Another teacher would constantly show up late, talk for 15 minutes, pray for 15 minutes, tell stories that had nothing to do with the class subject, and then might spend 15-25 minutes talking about the material, and would then finish by praying for 15 minutes. The students paid $300 for this and were ultimately robbed.
On one occasion a teacher said “Who takes an Old Testament Survey class wanting to know about the law, the prophets, and the history of Israel? Nobody, they take it to know the knowledge of God.” At that moment I felt as though all the saints of old were ready to cast their stones and sadly many students ate it up. Many walked out saying they learned so much but when I asked them what they could not give me any specifics, just vague hollow platitudes.
When I managed the social media pages I found this to be a great opportunity to reach out to people. However, the excitement of this opportunity quickly died when I was asked to promote things like their upcoming missionary school with posts that were completely manipulative at their core. How could I be a part of manipulative tactics? To say things like: “Don’t ask if the Lord wants you to be a missionary, but instead ask what nation should I go to?” I suppose God doesn’t want people to go to college and get a job here in the states.
After years of trying to make things work, I finally gave up. After eight years of being involved with the House of Prayer movement I left. I knew that there was more for me and that I should not settle.
Today I have met many people who have left either of the houses of prayer asking “What do I do now?” Many have given their early twenties to the prayer movement and now that they are out are left to find their way on their own, with no education and little to no skill set as well as little to no life experience. All of these are tools needed to help enter into the real world. There are many of those I have met who have gone off to college in their late twenties and early thirties, and quite a few of them regret either doing the house of prayer or at least staying as long as they did. This being said I think some of the best advice I could give potential IHOPers is to consider going to college first so that you have an education to fall back on.
On top of the lack of tools needed to help reenter the real world there are many people who having left IHOP are now not only dealing with the lack of education and professional experience, they are severely crippled financially. It is n secret that most people involved with either house of prayer lives in a manner that is below the poverty line., however; once people leave they find that whatever financial support they once had is gone and now they are left to try and find a job and attempt to stand on their own two feet.. In addition there are many that I have met that upon exiting the houses of prayer are left with way less relationships as they quickly realize that now that they are out of the bubble that not only does the financial support dry up but so does much of the relational support. There are many who have found that once they leave current IHOPers do not stay in contact with them, that is unless they want to send a support letter to them asking for money.
Lastly for those I have met leaving the houses of prayer I have noticed that many though not all end up floundering in their spiritual relationship with the Lord. Where they once had to be in the prayer room talking to God for their job as well as go to church service, but now that that is stripped away from them many find that having a spiritual life is completely hard. This leaves many to stagnate if not completely pendulum swing in bad ways in their heart before the Lord. Many of them have walked out with such emotional wounds from the house of prayer that they experience not only the pain in psychological and emotional ways but also the pain hits them in the arena of their spiritual walk.
Though many of us have come out of either of the houses of prayer with stories of pain and confusion on what had happened and what to do next, there are those that have had the opposite experience. Many have come out unscathed and with a good experience. Nevertheless, for those reading this trying to decide if to be involved with IHOPKC or IHOP-Atlanta given their current history I would say there are plenty of other ministries that are more established and safer. However, if you want to be involved get wisdom from people you know that are not mesmerized by the Houses of Prayer. My advice is just go to the prayer room, if you want to be involved more maybe do an internship, but I would currently not advise more .