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.
Who am I?
How do I tell my eight year story at IHOP? Well why not start with the beginning and tell you a little bit about who I am. Ever since I was a child one of my strongest desires was to help people, specifically through the some type of church ministry. I had always found myself being pulled to the area of justice and ministry but what would this look like?
Growing up I never experienced a perfect little cookie cutter life as seen on TV, but neither would you if you lived with an abusive bipolar father. The funny thing is I never truly felt sorry for myself, because as the saying goes “Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stronger.” I knew that enduring this would make me a stronger person with a desire to fight for those who have been hurt, because I knew what it was like to hurt. However, even with this drive burning within me I still found myself floundering around struggling to find myself and how to walk out the desires of my heart.
When I turned 21 I was invited to Kansas City, MO to attend the International House of Prayer’s (IHOPKC) end of the year Onething Conference. As I walked into the conference I found myself surrounded by twenty thousand young adults excited to sing the songs and hear the messages that IHOPKC had to share. I quickly found myself being lured in with the militaristic messages of how we need to take the world for Christ and how the “prayer movement” is the new thing that God is doing in the world. With all of the messages of “hope” or rather “false hope” in doing something great I found myself hearing and obeying the siren’s song.
Fire in the Night
I quickly went home and sold my stuff and moved to from Georgia all the way to Kansas City, MO. My goal was to do two three month tracks of IHOPKC’s Fire in the Night Internship where we would spend our nights praying through the middle of the night. I would continue to do this nightwatch schedule seven of my eight years involved with the house of prayer. The internship was a time to disconnect with life and “focus on the Lord” even at the expense of not communicating with people in the outside world all that much. Aside from my small group leader in my first track I would spend the next eight years being led by those that would never take a moment to get to know me as a person.
The teachings were exciting at first because they were new, but quickly I came to see that the messages were nothing more than recycled teachings that I had already heard during the Onething Conference three months prior. The two redeeming parts of my experience with my internship as well as House of Prayer experience as a whole would be the friends that I would make and the time I would spend in the place of prayer and in the word.
FSM…No Wait NSM…Wait Scratch that Call it IHOPU
After my internship I found myself wanting to stay on and start IHOPKC’s bible school Forerunner School of Ministry now known as the International House of Prayer University or IHOPU. As mentioned earlier I had always wanted to serve both God and people through the context of ministry so the idea of sticking around to attend their bible school was quite enticing. IHOPU is an unaccredited school and thus no real degree can be earned there and is actually more costly than some colleges I know.
However, the IHOPU leaders would assure us that what we were doing is the “new thing” that God is doing in the earth. They would even challenge the idea as to why would we want to invest in the old and obsolete way of biblical training when we can do the new and exciting thing. Sadly many of us ate this elitism up. We spent our college funds on hearing the gospel according to IHOPKC in which left many of us afterwards asking why we never just went to a real college instead.
IHOPU leaders would constantly challenge the idea that going to a seminary had any worth and would establish themselves as superior because they have a “prophetic history” as a seal upon their legitimacy. Why go to a seminary and learn how to properly read and interpret the bible in the original text? Why learn from those who had been biblical scholars for over thirty years? According to IHOP leaders to be a great biblical teacher you just need the Holy Spirit to guide you and not a real education on the bible. It was this concept that was vomited upon us time and time again at IHOPKC and IHOP-Atlanta that always left me asking “I wonder what Paul and Daniel would say if they were here?” Sadly many still eat it up. We were held prisoner to the will of many in IHOP leadership through their manipulation, and the thought of branching out into a college or even different ministry was shamed by many.
Working and an IHOPU
During my time in IHOPU I stayed on the night watch, for me this was not hard as I had always been one to fancy a late night schedule. As a student we were encouraged to raise support to be full time missionaries at IHOPKC. For many of us that worked we found ourselves stigmatized for not having support and being more of an IHOPer because a real IHOPer has support.
The worst part was that whenever I would find the time to rest from being full time IHOPU student as well as working a job, I was expected to take part in “community building groups” and if I didn’t I was looked down upon for not helping build a stronger community and thus became an exile. This stigma either pushed people out or deeper into the rabbit hole that is IHOP as they quit their jobs, for me it would be the latter.
While at IHOPU I found that the teachers constantly stuck with the gospel according to IHOP and never acknowledge any other ideas and if we asked or challenged an idea we were quickly shut down and/or even rebuked. Many of them stuck to the position that their interpretation was the only one and all others were completely wrong and thus not deserving of their acknowledgement. To think outside the box was wrong, but it was ok for them.
Just Be More Flexible
During my time at IHOPU and in both of the houses of prayer in general things were always changing and the leaders would always tell us that God is doing something and that we just need to be flexible. I always found myself curious at what point did God become a mood swinging bipolar. In reality the leaders never wanted to admit that they did not know what they were doing and if we questioned them on the constant change it was always thrown back in our face as something we need to deal with in our own hearts. I quickly found this to be the go to attack by leaders at both houses of prayer when they were exposed to be wrong or unable to answer whatever question given to them.
In the midst of the constant instability my own program of study ended and left myself and a few others having to decide what new program to jump into. I ended up starting a new program and essentially started my third year all over again. When this happened none of the leaders came to those of us affected to apologize let alone explain what was happening. Instead they responded through a messenger. They ran from their responsibility. A year later I was able to address this with the leader of the nightwatch as well as ask him why he would make promises to the students and not follow through with them his response was to attack me on not being flexible enough; however, in another meeting this same leader attacked me on not following through. So apparently it was my fault that he broke promises and ran from his responsibility.
My Last Year of IHOPU
During my last year of IHOPU my fellow students and I were to do a ministry outreach of our choosing. I was one of the first to start their outreach as I had already been involved in it for two months prior. I had two leaders a male and female. My female leader signed off on it and said “I feel God on this.” My male leader was suppose to check in on me weekly concerning my outreach and both leaders were suppose to be reading the journal blog entries concerning my ministry experiences. These entries were to count as a grade and sadly they never followed through with our weekly check-ins. Well come to find out at the end of the semester they decided to fail me because I was not doing a ministry that they liked as well as not doing enough ministry hours. I was failed? I currently still have a 4.0 GPA and am going into my junior year as a college student; I don’t make B’s let alone F’s. How did this happen?
Well the female leader at the end of the semester as one of the last ones to decide on a ministry outreach, when the students knew it wasn’t true. To make a long story short they accused me of being negligent and that it was my responsibility to be asking them weekly on how I am doing. When I challenged them on their promise to weekly check in on us it was not my fault that they did not do what they said they would. They went on to accuse me of being rebellious and unsubmisive. When I challenged them on how it is the teacher’s responsibility to keep up with their students because it was a part of what we paid them for. Nevertheless the same female leader would go on to attack my relationships, and in my last semester accuse me of misogyny.
During my last semester of IHOPU this female leader accused me of misogyny. She lied about having a conversation where she told me to not write on an idea in my thesis paper; from there she accused me of misogyny before the leaders. Why, because well, I have never been able to figure out why she targeted me so much. She accused me of misogynistic writing in my thesis, though when I had others look at it they could not find where the problem was. My paper was on the topic of teaching others truth and sticking to it. One of my points was that we only see Adam being told to not eat of the forbidden fruit, thus how did Eve know? My idea was that perhaps Adam told her, if this was the case then how firm did he stick to this truth when he told her. I was brought into a back office and bullied by leaders by calling me rebellious and misogynistic, yet when I suggested that she never had that conversation with me she they continued in the accusations. One leader rebuked me of suggesting an idea that the bible does not openly mention, when if you have ever been to an IHOPU class then you would know they do that all of the time.
Nevertheless, all the leaders came together to bully me into submission by attacking my character when most of them never even read the paper. They used language about how they were worried about my soul and how I was on a bad path. Why did they say this? Who knows, but it is quite ironic that they would do this on a thesis paper about sharing truth.
After finishing IHOPU I decided that staying at IHOPKC was incredibly unhealthy for me so I decided to leave and tryout IHOP-Atlanta, surely both houses of prayer can’t be bad right? Well for my last conversation with an IHOPKC leader was over the phone where I left it on speaker phone s my friend could hear as a witness in case the leader crossed the line, sadly they did. They actually told me, “Didn’t your dad kill himself? Please don’t go off and kill yourself in Atlanta.” I immediately hung up in disgust, that someone who never knew me would say such a thing, especially when I have never once had a suicidal thought. This brought an end my time at IHOPKC as I was now IHOP-Atlanta bound.
To Be Continued with Part 2: My time with IHOP-Atlanta