Friday, December 6, 2013

What Francis Chan attending OneThing means

Francis Chan is set to attend the OneThing Conference held by the International House of Prayer every year in Kansas City. When I first heard this, I was somewhat shocked by this, as I had heard about Francis Chan and listened to him speak some years ago, and had some respect for him. As I've come to find out, this may simply be the culmination of Chan's fellowship with those at the 2012 Passion Conference, as well as Rick Warren and other false teachers (see here). I had tried to look for a way to contact Francis Chan privately to communicate with him and try to inform him of the teachings and falsified accounts that have come from IHOP-KC, only to find it very difficult to reach him (his own website offers no personal email address, claiming he is too busy with his own ministry to answer questions). In light of what I've recently learned about him, it could be that he would not be interested in what others have to say on the matter.

However, this post is not about Francis Chan himself. Rather, Christians concerned about IHOP-KC need to realize that the inclusion of Francis Chan, an otherwise well known and respected pastor (to some), for the OneThing conference bodes something deeper within the Houses of Prayer, especially those under Mike Bickle. That is...the movement is starting to go through a decline.

Recently, I've been receiving a good number of emails and phone calls from people who have either left IHOP-KC, or are still attending but have yet to leave either for personal or financial reasons (in fact, there's apparently an "underground church" of sorts at IHOP-KC, made up of members who know the movement is presenting false doctrine or is rife with problems). One source told me that the number of interns has dropped dramatically, estimating somewhere from about 400 per quarter to around 100 (these may not be exact numbers, but the point is the decrease is noticeable). Another source has told me that Mike Bickle has admitted to various leaders, behind closed doors, that the "vision for IHOP is at its lowest point," and they "need people to buy into the movement."

Why is there a decline? There are two reasons we can bring up:

Partially it's because those who are leaving the movement based on various bad experiences are telling their friends and associates, and hence causing a detriment to potential interns or employees.  Interestingly enough, most of the people who leave do so not on the realization of theological error (though those sorts of people do exist, and tend to be the ones to contact me), but rather are those who cannot balance supporting a family and having a job with putting dozens of hours into the prayer room and other IHOP-KC related responsibilities. It has also been pointed out that Mike Bickle is infamously anti-conflict - not only against critics, but for all problems relating between people in his ministry. Whenever conflict arises, things are either covered up (such as an IHOP-KC leader who was caught soliciting prostitutes) or people are told to "simply pray about it." Because of this, much doesn't get resolved among the interns and workers, and so many simply choose to leave when it becomes too stressful or aggravating.

Partially it's because of the internet, and the fact that so much has been written or spoken of on IHOP-KC, exposing its false doctrine, its teachings, and the various inconsistencies behind the "Prophetic History" Bickle presents. Major Christian apologists or teachers like Todd Friel, Phil Johnson, Chris Rosebrough, Matt Slick, and others have spoken on the group, so it's not like the sources of criticism have been minor or on the fringe. Influential voices from various ministries, cult watchdogs, and apologetic groups are telling their listeners that something is afoul in Kansas City.

The point is, as much as IHOP-KC would like to keep their problems behind closed doors and pretend they don't exist, the word is getting out there about what is unfolding in Kansas City. While many people are getting convinced that they need to be part of an "Anna anointing" for the generation expecting to see the return of the Lord, God, by His grace, is using the internet to warn others of the dangers behind the Houses of Prayer. Likewise, the Lord is using one-on-one testimony from IHOP-KC expatriates to warn others of what they might encounter in the movement.

Hence this is why popular pastors like Francis Chan and others are being invited to speak at major IHOP-KC conferences like OneThing. It is, in fact, the same reason John Piper had Rick Warren speak at the Desiring God conference, and why TD Jakes was invited to speak at the Elephant Room: there needs to be a PR shift, and a wider audience needs to be reached. IHOP-KC needs someone to come in from the outside and support them, so that they can turn around and tell people, "See? We're legitimate. We're not a cult. We don't have any major theological problems. There's nothing under the surface. We're just like any other ministry." Like Bickle said, IHOP-KC needs people to "buy into the movement."

Will it work? Perhaps. Then again, it doesn't appear like many people have come to accept Rick Warren as legitimate, or TD Jakes as legitimate, who were not already inclined to think so - it only fed the fuel for those who wanted either Warren or Jakes to be seen as actual teachers by critics. No doubt IHOP-KC and their supporters will reference Francis Chan's speaking at OneThing 2013 as a sign that they are a normal, orthodox ministry that should be accepted by all Christians (as Allen Hood attempted to do so with similar arguments at OneThing VA Beach). Will it convince those who have heard from former IHOP-KC members about the dangers of the movement, or those who have been warned by others about the theological errors of Bickle & Co? Most likely not. There might be some exceptions, of course, but, given precedence, there is great doubt this will do anything significant.

The fact is, IHOP-KC will continue as is, as more and more people leave from the unresolved conflict Bickle causes with his policies, or as more and more people become aware of the errors stemming from Bickle's teachings. Most interesting will be what happens if Bickle finally falls or passes away, or even as it becomes clearer and clearer that the quick return of Christ expected by Bickle will not happen, and more and more become disillusioned. It could the movement will reform itself to be less eschatology-minded (as the Seventh Day Adventists did), or it may depart further and further away from the teachings of their founder and closer to a complete, sincere reliance on scripture (as the Worldwide Church of God did after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong); it could very well splinter into many other groups, or just gradually decrease altogether into a shadow of what it once was. We won't know for sure, and I'm not pretending to know myself, but if things continue as is, something will happen.

In the meantime, our role is to pray for those involved at IHOP-KC, and pray that God delivers them from the wolves they are under, and the strong delusions placed upon them. Let them go somewhere that will give them the Gospel on a regular basis, and give them the spiritual nourishment they truly need. Pray for their souls, and pray for their personal and spiritual freedom.