How IHOP Made Me Hate God

In Church by Caris Adel28 Comments


Photo Credit klndonnelly

It’s all so tangled.  It’s the bordering on financial ruin, the taking ‘handouts’ from the state, but being ignored by the church.  It’s a marriage flirting with collapse and being told not to discuss it.

It’s so hard to sort out what is human incompetence, personality differences, normal conflicts in relationships, and spiritual abuse, damaging Christian leadership, and messed up theology.

Here’s what I know.

When I was 27, experiencing 2 incredibly stressful events, the people I was in community with, had even started a church with, could sit for hours singing and praising and prophesying, but never asked me how I was doing.

They would drive 90 minutes to the nearest prayer room, where God showed up on schedule every Tuesday night.  They would seek out God’s presence to soak, and preach the need for prayer and revival.  We were exhorted to ‘drag people across the finish line’ because the end was soclose.

And meanwhile, I was dying.

The summer of 2009, I was done with church and Jesus.

If we are going to read through the book of Acts as a small church, spend weeks talking about community and God and being like the early church, and then use our spare time to sit around waiting for gold dust and believe gold teeth miraculously appeared in people’s mouths – either Luke was really vague, or I think something got misread there.

We had been with this group for 6.5 years.  We had gone from newlyweds to a family with them and it was the closest thing to home we had in our new city.  We couldn’t just leave; good Christians don’t do that.  And that’s what people thought we were.  So we gave it our best effort.

One friend tried to get us to stay.  “I really think we’re on the verge of God doing something really great here.  I’d hate to see you miss out.”

Oh that’s right.  It’s about God, not us.  It’s about God showing up, God performing on demand, about proving our devotion to this God who apparently doesn’t give a flying fuck if his followers are starving or broke or enslaved or victims of injustice, or any of the other ways in which humans are hurting.

No, let’s just sit around and pray 24-7 because that’s what will change the world.

If this is what following Jesus looks like, then I am so not following him.

It was a year before we finally left that church, and looking back, that was probably even more damaging.  I spent that year stewing in my hurt and disillusionment and watching them all fall deeper in love with IHOP while I hated the god they worshipped more and more.

But isn’t this the logical outcome of phrases like ‘more of Jesus, less of me’?  If Jesus is this intangible ‘feeling’, a presence in only certain places, and me is…..me and my junk – then of course it’s logical to spend as much time in the literal presence of God and ignore my literal humanity.

I can believe (not that the truth of it depends on my belief) that God speaks to people.  I can’t be entirely dismissive of prophecy.  Since, you know, there were prophets.  (Also, Brueggemann has really redeemed what present day prophecy can look like.)

But when you tell me God has a standing appointment and it’s not optional for him?  No.  Sorry.  I don’t buy it.

If the greatest laws are love God and love your neighbor, but what you are living for is this abstract, invisible presence, limited to specific times and locations with miracles and emotions the only proof – you aren’t actually loving people.  How can spending hours ‘soaking’ actually help people?

It seemed like the passion for people like this was to enter the bubble where God exists and stay there as long as possible.  And if you’re not in the bubble, then you don’t matter.

Their devotion to Jesus is admirable, and I’ve had some real encounters.

But a prophetic word isn’t going to save my marriage.  Hours of singing aren’t going to help us with the ruinous aftermath of a crashed economy.  I might feel God in a service.  But if he doesn’t care, what’s the point?

If you find yourself saying that if someone is messy, it’s because they need an encounter with God, and if your theology implies the prophetic is proof of how close to God you are, but you are indifferent to the humanity around you – sorry, but your theology is seriously fucked.

It’s their blindness to reality, their obnoxiousness about the holy spirit, their insanity about the evidence of god, and the boxes they build around faith that makes me cringe and become nauseous whenever I hear about IHOP.  (Which I’ve been hearing a lot about lately.)

The church we eventually left has gone even deeper.  They are now their own _HOP, affiliated in some way.  They take trips to Kansas City and send their kids to One Thing and The Call, they have internships and their own curriculum, teach harp and bowl music, and have vision casting and interceding for Israel nights.

Hours and hours a week are devoted to this, and I’m sure the eventual goal is a local 24-7 hub, and I just want to vomit or hit someone.  It makes me think of a character from a Flannery O’Connor story.

Sarah Ruth sees a tattoo of a Byzantine Jesus, but says ‘It ain’t anybody I know’, and she hits her husband, who has the tattoo on his back, with a broom over and over, until welts are all over the face of Christ, welts all over the word made flesh.

It’s been 3 and a half years since we left, and I’m not sure if I’m Sarah Ruth, or Parker’s back.



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3 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Tracey

    I didn’t realize what IHOP stood for until I followed your link. Blech. There’s a reason I “attended” church yesterday and all the while stayed in an out of the way classroom and worked on my homework for my MA Counseling degree. I was questioned yet again why I turned in my ministry badge and won’t do altar work, but do they ask how I’m doing? No, just why I’m not volunteering to max capacity. I’m in a church of 1800 and feel lonely and it feels sickly sweet to me. They think I’m depressed and it’ll get better, but I just need to serve more.

    • James

      Me neither. When I first read the headline, I thought “The pancakes aren’t THAT bad.”

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

    This reminds me of when I’ve heard Peter Rollins talk about church each week being like a drug–people just keep going back for more but never really change.

  • Daniel McDonald

    I’ve never been in anything quite like this but in many we are expecting great things services, when perhaps what we need is to expect little things like someone not far from us who needs a friend, who needs someone to listen. Maybe like a prophet of old we’ll find God not in the earthquake, or violent storm, but in the still small voice. Convicted by your words. I’m old enough to be one who leads in a church, so I’m old enough to look for hurting persons and people needing someone to listen. Maybe because so few are doing that we never see the great things we expect, maybe we expect too much and overlook the everything we imagine to be too little.

  • pastordt

    This is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever read about, Caris. I had no idea this group was part of your story and I am so very sorry. Your own horrific experience takes that phrase in this week’s Q & A and fills it full of poisonous gas, by depicting in gory detail the extreme end that can come from this kind of thinking. This group perverts that phrase, however, by replacing “Jesus” with “whatever leader God has ordained” and that’s no longer even in the general territory of the original meaning of “More of Jesus, less of me.” It’s so twisted as to be patently evil, going way beyond anything I experienced or any of the rest of us in this conversation are familiar with. I am praying for you this morning, Caris, that you will continue on the path toward health and wholeness, that you will find a healing, authentic community that is obviously centered on gospel truth, that you will use the anger that you feel now to do some purging work in you and that that anger can be channeled into positive action in future days.

  • Elena Johnson

    Thanks for sharing this, Caris, Nothing hurts or makes me angry quite like having real, heart-rending needs brushed off or vilified in God’s name. I’m so sorry you experienced this from a community in which you had invested so much.

  • http://www.aliciaheater.com/ Alicia Heater

    Wow, thank you for sharing this piece of your story. It is so unfortunate to hear about churches that are so absorbed in their own experiences that those outside the church and even, like you described, those inside the church. It is heartbreaking to hear accounts of how damaging these places can be–they really seem to miss the point, or at least place all the emphasis on small pieces of the picture. I hope you are healing and can experience Jesus in a community that really cares about you.

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  • kim

    I feel you. Really. I have known so many things that are nearly the same. I know well what you are relaying here is reality…I have family members associated, etc. I want you to know how brave your writing remains, even as the subject matter gets more difficult. But, I also want you to know how much more clarity and authority your words seem to now carry. Your hard work is paying off! ( I’ve read nearly everything you have ever published.) Seems we have some of the same “demons/powers” assigned for us, as Stringfellow might assert, to battle. I am still on the edge of this thing. Not within, nor truly a part, hovering near, gathering information, letting the time that must past, do so. But, I am observing the ground you are clearing, looking for an inroads to tell some tales that must be told. Your voice in this series, is DIana not the best of guides for such a discussion, has taken on a new timber. I am praying for you.

  • Beth Cavete

    I am so sorry, for you, for your marriage, for your little one(s?). I hear so many people in the wake of this murder scandal commenting with the arrogant confidence that they would never be fooled, and religious abuse should be so obvious. It is that very arrogance that widens the door to deception. And deception sure is not rare or limited to IHOP. What is becoming rare is a pure preaching of the true gospel in our culture…a gospel that transforms marriages and homes and supplies all our needs rather than demanding we supply God (what a lie–HE has no need).

    Will you stop by these posts and see if they resonate with you? http://bethcavete.wordpress.com/category/ihop-kc/ten-questions/
    The second post references the poverty you mention…if you are willing, could I link to your blog? Thank you.

    On a personal note, I have shouted and cried out to people, too, in the exit process. And as much as people are sympathetic, and make nice comments, what I really needed was wisdom that healed. And that came from crying out to God, who is never worthy of accusation or mistrust, even when it seems like that is all that we have left. Aren’t we funny to keep trusting in people and turn on God when the sin always lies with the liars and never with the One who is the Truth? Bless you.

  • HisFireFly

    “If we are going to read through the book of Acts as a small church, spend weeks talking about community and God and being like the early church, and then use our spare time to sit around waiting for gold dust and believe gold teeth miraculously appeared in people’s mouths – either Luke was really vague, or I think something got misread there.”

    Yes, this sounds all too familiar. And yes, we stayed where we were too long as well. I was blessed to be able to hold on to my faith in Him even as I lost faith in His people. I’ve spent the years since asking God to re-teach me all the things I was taught in error.

    It’s a long, long road. I pray you find some “real” people to walk along side you.

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  • D.A. Hollister

    Thanks for your honesty and forthrightness. I followed the link to this article from here: http://thecosmiccathedral.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/what-rolling-stone-didnt-tell-you-about-tyler-deaton/comment-page-1/#comment-3791. I used to go to a Vineyard church and was closely associated with IHOP, and I’ve had my worst experiences with these types of churches; but I only recently heard of the IHOP fiasco. I hope you and your family are healing well and steering clear of the IHOP brand of Christianity. God bless.

    • B (reply to hollister)

      D.A. Hollister, those who left vineyard or any church should post on Rick Ross institute, he used to have section A to Z to report, like F for Foursquare, V for Victory Outreach. Know lot’s of people who can write their horror stories; to bad we all didn’t publish a book like Austin Miles printed response letters in his sequel book from his first book, “Don’t Call Me Brother”. Saw on another site where you had complaints about denominational churches and where you got removed from christianchat for posting truth. Note if you are arendale, I got removed from site you listed here for posting truth (that showed me satanism is involved and evil, or coerced/blackmailed or threatened for truth to be removed, they can’t handle the truth).
      Not good when we compromise, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit see’s what we are made of; know that in my own life (all those biblical examples also like shadrach meshach and abednego; or peter denial of Christ etc., think of Ezekiel 2: message).

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  • Rupert Whitebear

    I’m a former believer in New Apostolic Reformation theology as well and spent years of my early marriage in KC at IHOP. It takes courage to write a post like this, and I appreciate it. The resources that have helped me the most to come out of this fog of delusion are “Wandering Stars” by Keith Gibson, “The Other Side of the River” by Kevin Reeves, 1 John and the teaching series on 1 John by Tom Shirk of Calvary Bible Church in Boulder, CO, and 1 and 2 Timothy. Nobody confronts heresy and hypocrites like God in his Word, but the above non-biblical books pointed to biblical truth. Psalm 37 helped me most with my rage. God bless you. He is not the same God of IHOP.

  • “Eternal Grace”

    Well written and sad to say, so true. Ironic that you should use the “F” word and I even wrote an article in regards to such. Was so mad at the hideous false church, that told God to fuck the church; and his response was “he wasn’t going to, he didn’t want that bride”. Remember, someone coming back to my former fellowship after 9 months and just reaming young single adult group; that no one called, followed-up, stayed in touch and she was really hurting and going through a hard time; watched that fall on deaf ears because we were all so poor, broke, stupid but yet talking Christian lingo with no fruit and no
    love. We didn’t know what real and truth was and we were all so unhealed. How could we help anyone, when we couldn’t help ourselves and didn’t recognize we weren’t whole and we ourselves needing healing. Bee-boppin through life with no plan. Cults also go after youth, emphasis on youth when they need the elderly’s money to keep it going.

    Been heralding your lament for YEARS to false church leadership and it’s dogma and the media. Asked my family, why would you raise us in a denomination that didn’t care whether you lived or died or had food on the table and not building strong, healthy families? Sitting in a fellowship, we all wanted to be in community (we all had enough of the dead false church, with no substance) and know hurts of each other, needs and that we could help one another and not get dropped through the cracks and or ignored and to help others outside are walls; plus, to get the entire Bible taught. No gossip and items get dealt with. Worse, the stupid, false organized church wants to take it over, why because of $? Whose your covering, smothering stupidity. Told a leader, was wrong person to “f” with, that if you “f” with me (abuse however) whole world was going to hear about it, enough abusing sheep=people. It’s ok to send them an F.U or Go F. Yourself letter or better yet a postcard; been there, done that. Look at spiritualsoundingboard site, all the names that blog person has been called. Pour your heart out like water and write.

    To wake up and be a certain age, realizing you lived your life through some false leader and supporting his lifestyle, philanthropic dream with your time and money and there is no help for people=WOW! Worse, to be so abused in the church, people not questioning who they help and what do with money vs. what they own and their lifestyle=wolves.

    Leonard Ravenhill said it, to see a sick church in a dying world, I add a very, very sick church and it’s leadership; worse self-serving. Keep writing, it’s healing. Revival in Belfast by Robin Mark is a great healing and worship tape/CD. Don’t beat yourself up, you saw it and GOT OUT, and with your life not like Baby Jeremiah Candler or Bethany Deaton. Find a healthy deliverance ministry and you will know and get all this insanity, garbage, all the abuse and battle for your mind and to cause offense off you. Do not put your life on hold for five, ten, twenty years plus, get healthy, move on. 2 Corinthians 1:4-14. God doesn’t waste any circumstance, not one and we don’t see the big picture of what God is doing; maybe you will write a book, do documentary etc. Arthur Katz’s written works were wonderful for this along with Graham Cooke’s message on the life of Joseph. Hopefully you will recognize false vs. true and won’t stay and it’s ok to confront.

    P.S. Don’t tolerate church abuse whatsoever and expose the bastards; many places to report like: rickross.com, Trinity Foundation in Dallas, Tx, attn: Pete; Ron Enroth, H.B. London, Jr. & Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Bill&Jackie Alnor, InPlainSite.org, Charisma, Christianity Today, secular MEDIA. There’s lot’s of great reads (books) to get over spiritual abuse and many sites like churchexiters.org, spiritualabuseawareness.com, spiritualsoundingboard, stopihopcult.word, etc. have pages of sites will send another time. Friend and I talked about how much abuse do people put up with and why don’t they leave, amazing. Even called authors of Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse and asked why don’t people leave? Wanted sibling out of my former cult because of the molestation and when told her, begged her she still wouldn’t leave. Not until a friend of her’s was asked to turn in her choir robe because visiting another church is when she left, stupid for not thinking of her children. Be glad you’re out, so happy. You chose LIFE!

  • Eternal Grace

    P.s. Not sure why but Rick Ross Institute is no longer at rickross.com (that is now a gambling website). He changed his report church abuse to cultnews. Place/site to report church abuse, knew about him, he’s exposed church abuse on Dr. Phil etc.

    Google: annunk, click: ihopisnewage.wordpress.com=go to blog: IHOP related death-murder, 11/15/2012 read current comments for list of books to get over church abuse, information in general. People can bash this, it was an awesome message: Jill Austin did an excellent message on the good old boys in the church and how basically metaphorically speaking have been “violently killed in the church”* tremendous teaching; I was there to see, hear and experience. Very sad commentary on our current male leadership, past and present. Especially after reading a book: “When Women Were Priests by Karen Jo Torjesen. Google: Troublemakers in the Churrch by David Wilkerson; read the first paragraph and note he was praying for armies of them, be one of them.
    *know to be true and correct because that was my word=so true about life like yours. Get the teaching April 16, 1998, Gatekeepers of his Glory message

  • EGFM

    Go to: surviving church.org “Exploiting the need to Belong”, 9/18/2104 by S. Parsons. Also article on women, same blog. I would consider you to be gifted prophetically called, unfortunately it goes with call, rejection, abandonment and abuse ; part of your training. Have many friends that have gone through it and we get others through it and for some training is long. Here’s one: “Don’t Give Your Love To the Devil”; so many pastors and so-so-called Christians behave that way, sorry to say.

    There’s is recourse, one young woman was being really abusive to me in IHOPrayer in Pasadena,CA; she was telling me how to worship and pray (that got confronted), she was NOT nice to me every time walked in the door and I just came to suck carpet/stone (pray); offered more than once to walk out Matthew 18:15-17 and to talk and reason together. Young woman got more abusive by throwing water at me like I was witch in the wizard of oz like to melt me or or exorcism, kept asking her to stop: she got more hateful by throwing out sweater Bible, Purse out on the sidewalk and threatened to call police (using her stupid minions to help). Worse I’m handicapped elderly person that had to crawl over to chair, struggle to get myself up and apologize to foreigners from another country that was getting water meant for me. Prophetic friend called me and knew in spirit something was wrong, she told me to sue her. You would say, can’t sue sister/brother in The Lord, Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35 tells me who my mother, brother, sister is etc. Called bickle’s regime to deal with or else at least dozen times, her response was “Bickle thinks I’m Crazy”, what for NOT wanting to be abused. So, I took it to nation-wide media and got Int’l Pancake House to re-open their lawsuit of IHOPu/kc stealing their logo. POWER of the pen and phone call. Then called David Wilkerson, said he was going to get a letter as well as Round Table of Men and would she throw water at them, Dr. Dobson (he exposed demonic public education elementary school books for me as he had platform)? Sad, one man asked me if young woman was giving me a bad time, said every time walk in the door, he pointed out others she was doing this to (told him people were prophetic in call). I ignore that I grew up handicapped, people do NOT let me forget. Lesson to be learned, is to behave Christian all the time.
    P.S. Google: per sites, per friend; it’s against the law to throw water at someone it’s considered assault and or battery (she gave me articles). Quote in 1st paragraph, is something Dr. Laura told me. Don’t forget the PEN and name names. Praying for you. Read Arthur Katz’s “prophetic Call”, friend sent me chapter about being offense and said it was up my alley. Gracelets of people getting us through our stuff.

  • “Eternal Grace”

    Stand corrected: You need to pray about your books. Example: had about eight copies of certain book given to me by different people. First time tried to read it, got an absolute no from Holy Spirit. That taught me to pray about books/tapes. Each time got the book, inquired, got a NO. Finally asked why couldn’t read the book; “your in my school of training”. Meaning not by man’s opinion. Maybe a day up the road can read, but NO means NO. Timing, season for things. Was in a book store recently and bookstore owner recommended a book, asked him: if, I had twenty-four hours to live, is that a book I should read and he laughed and said no. Word goes forth. Thompson-chain reference Study Bible like to do lot’s of studies on items: Word, Bible is tremendous study. Books referenced etc., might not have same meaning for you; that’s ok. Look at all of Isaiah 55: all and John chapter 1:all. Life is in Word, also what about Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount. Psalms and Proverbs, it’s all wonderful.

  • Anonymous

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences. This is what a large part of my college experience was like. And it’s hard because sometimes I feel like those were the times I was closest to God, and other times I think every experience I had was a sham.

    It’s been two years since I left that environment. And I’m only now documenting the issues that I now deal with as a result of my heavy involvement with a similar group (with which we took trips to IHOP-KC). I feel very alone, because, yes. My friends are growing closer to that type of faith. The ones that are have taken the stance of, “Oh, it’s a legitimate way of relating to God, and I support them being what they are – it’s just not my cup of tea.”

    Meanwhile, I’m over here, finally two years out going, “What the fuck was that all about?” I immediately jumped into another church after leaving – one that is more grounded in reality. I spent a year and a half in active service of that church, and ended up leaving because I can’t do this whole faith thing. First, I have doubts about the legitimacy of it as a whole anyway. But especially after college, I can’t even pray without feeling this pressure to pray “their” way. I can’t relate to God anymore. I can’t relate to any Christians anymore. I don’t even think I AM a Christian anymore.

    I started reading books about cults and watching documentaries. Even though I doubt the group I was in could be neatly fit into the description of a cult, I feel like there was so much overlap, the distinctive title of “cult” is superfluous and unnecessary. I made the first step today to reach out to find a therapist. I need to work through this crap, and I can’t do it with Christians (who feel the need to defend THEIR God) or atheists (who feel the need to make me either feel gullible or who feel the need to state that ALL religions are cults). I’m tired of feeling unheard.

    Your blog entry is so real, so raw, and it helps. Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Edit: The ones that *aren’t – not “the ones that are”

  • L. Lawrence

    Your article reminds me of a dream I had several years ago. I wrote about it on my old blog and called it, “Oblivious to the Dying”. http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2010/8/6/oblivious-to-the-dying-a-dream-from-32510.html

  • Justice for Bethany Deaton

    On Feb. 21, 2015: 48 Hours is going to do a special on Bethany Deaton. Justice for Bethany and her family and all the evil would be exposed. Made KCTV Channel 5 news at 10 p.m 2/20/2015. Someone read me a long report from 2/19/2015 believe KCTV also.

  • David

    I love your bluntness.

  • BOS

    Noticed people have removed comments from other sites, that means Bickle and Regimes wins because people can’t read abuses, injustices truth. Would consider Cosmic Cathedral Cowards and Complicit with Mike not wanting truth to be heard. One post needs to listen to John Paul Jazebel Spirit teaching because, wow she has major control issues (tape/cd of 14 characteristics; NOT book), she won’t hardly let anyone post on her site (tells mean whole lot).

    Read: Losing My Religion by Gordon Aeschliman, so glad that someone told me about book. WOW what a read along with Losing My Religion by William Lobdell. I just had an extremely hateful, pious self-righteous woman told me I was basically Nothing, Zero and wrong for Not reading Mike’s Books; REALLY! That she was an intercessor and called to intercession. Wow, I said well read over 120 Hours of People Abuse by Bickle/Regime and Murder, People wanting to commit suicide, so much control, Blaise Foret Testimony, Stephanie’s, so many. That woman should have met people that have hardcore correcting Bickle since 2000.

  • BOS

    Wow, correction: Read Cages of Pain by Gordon Aeschliman and also Losing My Religion by Lobdell. Cages of Pain excellent read and will help you move on.

  • Chad

    I went there a few times and I can tell you 100% that you made the right decision. There MUST be heresies among you so that those approved by God will be made manifest. Lovers of truth…http://www.charlesnewbold.com/books/TheHarlotChurchSystem.pdf