International House of Prayer

International House of Prayer Resigns from Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

By Shannon Cuthrell

Missouri-based International House of Prayer–Forerunner Christian Fellowship withdrew its membership from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability on Jan. 31, according to a list of recent membership changes. The status change is labeled as voluntary, meaning the organization is not under a compliance review by the ECFA. 

Forerunner Christian Fellowship, based in Grandview, is a ministry of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) of Kansas City. The charismatic and often-controversial organization is known for running a 24/7 live-streamed prayer room it describes as “a perpetual solemn assembly gathering corporately to fast and pray in the spirit of the tabernacle of David.”  

IHOP was founded in 1999 by Michael Bickle, whose theology centers around living out the Great Commission through fasting, prayer, worship and acts of service, emphasizing prophetic experiences, end-times studies and historic premillennialism. IHOP’s 2,000 full-time staff, students and interns spend 50 hours per week serving in the prayer room, classrooms and outreach. Its unaccredited Bible college, the International House of Prayer University, operates three schools focused on ministry, music and media. 

IHOP–Forerunner Christian Fellowship was first accredited by the ECFA in April 2016. The reason for its voluntary departure is unknown, as IHOP did not respond to repeated requests for information. 

Over 2,500 churches and ministries across the U.S. are accredited by the ECFA. Since churches are exempt from filing Form 990s with the International Revenue Service, ECFA’s annual accreditation serves to signal members’ commitment to upholding financial best-practices. ECFA’s accreditation is guided by its Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship, including doctrinal issues, governance, financial oversight, use of resources and compliance with laws, transparency, compensation-setting and related-party transactions, and stewardship of charitable gifts. 

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The International House of Prayer (the parent organization) hasn’t filed an annual Form 990 since fiscal year 2014. Its 2014 tax return shows revenue of $5.37 million.

But it has apparently grown dramatically since then.  Because IHOP–Forerunner Christian Fellowship resigned from the ECFA, its membership page is no longer live on the site. But archives from the Wayback Machine show that IHOP generated $23.28 million in revenue in fiscal year 2015 (ending June 30, 206).  Its revenue also exceeded $20-million in 2017, 2018, and 2019. 

IHOP received a $2.5 million Payroll Protection Program loan to secure 473 jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forerunner Christian Fellowship separately received a $215,900 loan, with 61 jobs reported. 

IHOP’s Controversial Road

The International House of Prayer has faced many controversies over its 21-year history, including a brief trademark infringement battle waged by the International House of Pancakes restaurant chain in 2010. IHOP (of pancake fame) ultimately dropped its lawsuit against the church, opting to resolve the dispute privately. 

A much more serious problem surfaced in 2012.  IHOP gained national attention in October 2012, when former IHOP-KC intern Bethany Deaton was found dead in the backseat of a van with a note, an empty bottle of acetaminophen and a plastic bag tied over her head. Detectives initially ruled the death a suicide until International House of Prayer University student Micah Moore came forward 10 days later to admit that he killed Bethany Deaton. 

Moore and Deaton lived together as a part of a communal prayer group led by her husband of two months, Tyler Deaton. Moore confessed that the group had performed several sexual assaults on Bethany, and Tyler had directed him to kill his wife before she disclosed the abuse to her therapist. Moore was charged with first-degree murder but later recanted his confession, arguing it was made in a delusional state soon after he participated in an exorcism hosted by an IHOP-affiliated group, Prisoners of Hope. Prosecutors accepted the argument and dropped all charges against Moore in 2014. Deaton’s death remains unsolved. 

IHOP denounced Tyler Deaton’s prayer group and denied any involvement in the case, maintaining that Deaton led the group independently, though some members were enrolled in the university. 

Another notable moment in IHOP’s history was its portrayal in the 2013 documentary God Loves Uganda, which covered the organization’s missionary work in Uganda amid the backdrop of its controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The proposed legislation would impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for people who violate the country’s ban on same-sex relationships. The original draft was amended to remove the death penalty clause, and the new version was passed by the Parliament in late-2013 and signed by President Yoweri Museveni in 2014. Later that year, however, a court ruled the Anti-Homosexuality Act invalid over a technicality. 

The film heavily features then–IHOP media director Jono Hall, The Call co-founder and senior IHOP leader Lou Engle, and IHOP-affiliated missionaries Joanna Watson, and Rachelle and Jesse Digges—all discussing their mission to spread Christianity in Uganda. 

In a dedicated FAQ page, IHOP states it never supported the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and the only missions team it sent to Uganda is the one featured in the documentary. It adds, “We have very little to do with Uganda as an organization; we do not have missionaries in Uganda and do not send a dollar of our budget to Uganda.” 

IHOP’s and founder Michael Bickle’s teachings are often criticized in evangelical circles. The church is often associated with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), an informal offshoot of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement that replaces traditional church governance with prophets and apostles, pushes dominion theology, and emphasizes meaning through dreams, visions, contemplative prayer and other practices. Some, like Christian apologist, Dr. Michael Brown, contend the term NAR and its characterizations are not based in fact.

On its website, IHOP denies any part in the NAR movement, though it admits friendly association with NAR-identified ministries. Still, organizations like the Apologetics Index and Berean Research consider Bickle a NAR leader. 

Shannon Cuthrell is a journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire, Charlotte Inno and EE Power, among other publications. This article originally appeared in MinistryWatch.



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20 thoughts on “International House of Prayer Resigns from Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability”

  1. I suppose this is no loss for the ECFA. How was IHOP ever admitted to it originally given its bizarre and unbiblical teachings?

  2. This is Mike Bickle’s cult, with all that 3rd Wave / Dominionist / 7 Mountains / Spiritual Warfare excrement. I wonder how they were ever admitted in the first place as well.

    1. Let’s strive to be charitable. Not everyone who’s charismatic belongs to a cult. IHOP has some red flags, for sure. But let’s not implicate every church or ministry that has a different theology than our own.

      1. Julie,

        Understood. Though to be fair, I never said charismatics were all cult members (just Mike Bickle’s group). This is not affirming the consequent logical fallacy here.

        1. Ah, maybe I misinterpreted. Third Wave, to me, is the entire Vineyard Movement. And “spiritual warfare” applies to pretty much the whole charismatic movement and some non-charismatics.

      2. Julie,

        I lived in KC for 7 years specifically to be a part of the IHOP-KC community. The community is founded on the idea that Bickle has received a divine mandate (through “prophets” Bob Jones, Paul Cain, and Augustine Alcala, as well as Bickle’s own claims he went to heaven and stood before God) to lead a ministry that will one day culminate in a parade to Arrowhead Stadium in which the dead will be raised, limbs will grow back, etc…

        It’s all in the prophetic history which has gone through numerous changes over the years (to deemphasize failed prophecies [like the one about Pat Bickle], Bob Jones asking women to undress in front of him, and Paul Cain allegedly being gay and an alcoholic).

        It doesn’t really help anyone in IHOP-KC to call it a cult, but it is so far outside doctrinal norms (even for Pentecostalism and Charismaticism) that it’s hard to argue it’s not a cult. If IHOP-KC isn’t a cult, then what is? But again, labeling it that will just make people defensive. I prefer the term high-demand religious group.

        And this is from someone who was there for 7 years. For anyone at IHOP who might read this, I’d just ask that you do your own research into the prophets and the prophetic history.

        1. Just wanted to add something…

          I had to find out all this stuff about Jones, Cain, etc… by myself. These things will not be told to someone who just arrives at IHOP-KC. Withholding so much negative information does not allow a person to make an informed decision about their involvement in such a group.

          Because Bickle doesn’t include all these negative elements in the prophetic history, he delegitimizes himself. Not including this information is lying. Bickle can tell many stories about Jones’ supposed prophetic gifts, but if he doesn’t end those stories with the one that caused Jones to be booted out of IHOP, Bickle is misleading people.

  3. Robert Ray Braun

    Back in the 1980’s I knew IHOP as the Kansas City Prophets. I was part of a theologically mixed group of church leaders all deeply troubled by Mike Bickle and his Prophet/Apostolic group’s cultic teachings and practices. In one of the churches I visited, they brought in one of their lead prophets of KCP, Paul Cain, who operated through messages he received from an angelic being. He was their main guy at the time. His history was rooted to the Latter Day Pentecostal movement back in the 1950’s. His ministry with KCP ended when it was discovered he was a practicing homosexual. They had teamed up with John Wimber’s Vineyard movement for a few years until Wimber called them out on some of their heretical practices and beliefs. I had a letter exchange with John at the time. I sent him quotations from their various periodicals, (most of them seemed to have their own periodicals at the time) giving volume number and pages to show that they were printing one thing about their beliefs and then telling John another. Day Star author Rick Joyner was deeply involved with them then as well. One of the biggest issues I had with them was that they didn’t hold to an orthodox view of the Trinity, but instead held to a Oneness view of the Godhead like the Apostolic Pentecostals. There’ so much more I could say but I believe you get the gist of my concerns about them.

    1. A “Oneness” or modalistic view of the Trinity is a damnable heresy. Modalists are about as Christian as Arians or JW’s. And they should be treated as such.

  4. Being involved in the reformed tradition and having a foot in the charismatic stream, both have strengths and both have weaknesses, and we both have some distorted doctrines… that’s why we need to learn how to honor each other and collaborate instead of compete and criticize each other, to balance out our personal proclivities… it’s both and more!

    I have learned and grown much in the relationship with God in so many ways thanks to my charismatic brothers and sisters, and I have deep roots in the reformed foundations that have helped me stay the course in the midst of the spiritual battle – and if you have any experience addressing abuses of power in the christian institutional complex, you will be in the battle…

  5. While I’m not surprised that they kept going after the Bethany Deaton tragedy, I’m more amazed that the details of the leadup and aftermath were largely silent in Christian Press — and fairly mainstream Christians (Audrey Assad, Craig Keener, Matt Redman for example) continued to go there for their annual Onething Conference long after the red flags were obvious.

    People who were in the Tyler Prayer group have little good to say about how Bickle, Hood, and other handled the aftermath, and from their accounts the leaders of IHOP engaged in some serious spiritual abuse. Coercing a false murder confession out of a weeping young adult by screaming in tongues in his ear, and then crediting the Holy Spirit for all of this? Those who fled from IHOP-KC wanted an apology and signs of reform. They received none. The money and Christian celebrities kept coming anyway.

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