House on Fire
I love the International House of Prayer (IHOP). Its crisis is our crisis.
In ’99, Mike and Diane Bickle shifted from pastoring a church to nurturing 24/7 intercession and musical devotion to Jesus in South Kansas City. Intimacy with Him: out of that bond of love, we remind Jesus of His promises. Unceasing prayer and praise for 24 years continues as I write. Simple. Profound.
IHOP helped secure two of my children in ongoing intimate communion with Jesus which continues to this day. The fragrance and focus of their efforts rallied thousands to tend this melodic prayer furnace. We led Desert Stream Ministries (then 25-years-old) from California to join the Bickles in 2005. We served IHOP for three years. Today, our offices on 706 Main Street are surrounded by expressions of IHOP on every corner.
Now the house is in flames. Our offices are engulfed in smoke and ashes. We feel the heat as surely as we prayed and sang the promises.
What happened? Mike admittedly blurred some sexual and spiritual boundaries with women. In my estimation, the abuses are more spiritual and emotional than explicitly sexual; he cultivated partiality with a woman (women?) and forged emotionally adulterous bonds. One witness is more substantial than the others; we stand with her.
My take? The furnace has some foundational cracks that are now threatening the integrity of the whole enterprise. I pray for a controlled burn that will expose what IHOP needs to secure as to endure.
Frankly, I am sick of everyone’s opinion, including my own. Suffice to say, I think Mike struggled and often failed to discipline his ‘fathers’ and ‘sons.’ Unceasing prayer and praise may be simple, but people aren’t. That bit Mike. Strains of adultery exist in all of us and were thematic in the prophetic voices that gave rise to IHOP (Paul Cain, Bob Jones, Augustine Alcala). These men confused and hurt many (including themselves) in their immoralities. And some young adults who built IHOP—many gifted musicians—often got away with murder. Sugar daddies foster unwell children. Under Mike, IHOP struggled to discipline its children well. I believe that this is a systemic, serious defect of IHOP.
Was Mike a predator? Not in the usual sense. He just stumbled on his own thesis, the ‘bridal paradigm’ of Song of Songs: God the Lover and we, he, all of us, the Beloved. Solomon’s potent metaphor of human sexual love for God wooing His people is Bickle/IHOP’s interpretive key.
As inspired poetry, Song of Songs is beautiful. As a guide for vulnerable lives, it can contribute to self-deception. It may foster a subjectivity in which one scrambles sexual longing with the spiritual, cloaking sexual motives and mischief in swoony spirituality.
That happened all too often in this insular furnace of 24/7 prayer. Mike’s blurred boundaries went undisciplined and set an ugly precedent for younger ones. Not only did some take advantage of each other without serious consequence, but some may have experienced Mike crossing physical boundaries with them. Mike’s ‘mixture’ did significant damage.
For all his gifts, Mike has blind spots. Owning his sexual humanity and ordering it rightfully in Spirit through Church was not his strength. Mike admits to experiences of desire for women that motivated sinful behaviors. Their impact should not be reduced by distinguishing between intercourse and ‘lesser’ sexual acts. No less destructive to vulnerable hearts is a ‘father’ nurturing romance with a ‘daughter.’
I await a ‘third party’ investigation to fill in the blanks.
Complicating matters is that Mike didn’t feel compelled to tell anyone. He ‘self-managed’ by relying upon confession to God alone, effectively bypassing members of Christ as conduits of grace and truth. Like all of us, he needed frenemies to alert him to blind spots. Mike didn’t have friends who wounded him with truth and salved him with grace.
Mike admitted some of these blurred boundaries in a bold public confession. I respect that. I wouldn’t want to start ‘living out loud’ with my bad self on social media. What a warm and welcoming support system!
First things first. Let justice be served for those who have been confused and damaged by Mike’s mixtures and IHOP’s defective system of discipline (or lack thereof). May investigators be objective and fair. Reestablish burned boundaries. Restore lost dignity.
Then establish a team to assess Mike’s state. His confession is a good start but only the beginning. Pray for his clarity and contrition. Pray for wise ones to discern proper discipline and a track for restoration. Pray for no spiritual dodging. Fight for Mike and Diane’s best.
How can anyone of us—who have benefitted from Bickle and knows the monstrous things each is capable of—not fight for Mike and Diane’s best? I shudder at what I could still do to damage others with my mixtures.
I just talk about it before I do it. I cultivate friendships born of weakness that serve as antidotes to wickedness. When colleagues fail to tell and live the truth, I invite them to take a break. Then the community helps them take a good hard look at themselves and the wonders of His love.