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Doing Church 24/7

September 8th, 2008 · 3 Comments

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?” (Luke 18:7)

I visited a place called International House of Prayer in Kansas City last week. IHOP for short … yeah, like the pancake house, everybody gets the joke.

Here’s the interesting thing about IHOP -they pray …  twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They’ve been doing it, non-stop, since 1999.

IHOP does more than just pray, although the phrase, ‘just pray’, says a lot more about what we think of our faith than I’d like to admit. Most churches, if you could call IHOP a church, do a lot more than just pray. It may be more accurate to say that they do a lot instead of pray … or a lot rather than pray.

IHOP does a lot, but what they do is pray. That’s what they’re known for – prayer and worship – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s a church in my town known for its annual ethnic food festival. It’s a pretty good festival too; everybody comes out. But is that really the thing a church wants to be known for?

IHOP has a ministry school, they’ve got a children’s program, they’ve got city evangelism and world evangelism, they’ve got a great bookstore and they’ve even got a coffee shop complete with WIFI. But what their known for is prayer. I don’t know if they’ve got an annual ethnic food festival … probably not … I didn’t ask.

Last Friday I stopped in at the IHOP prayer room – the 24/7 part of IHOP’s ministry. It’s a room that seats few hundred people. When I showed up at about noon, there were maybe a hundred people inside. There was a worship team (a band and singers) on the stage, and a sound board and video camera set up in the middle of the room. IHOP doesn’t limit 24/7 prayer and worship to their Kansas City Missions Base; they stream 24/7 prayer and worship from the prayer room via the internet and, in some countries, on GOD TV.

What I saw in the prayer room was people, young and old – mostly young – praying, reading, writing on laptops. It seemed to be a place of prayer, worship, study and reflection. Imagine that, a place where people can go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to pray, worship, read the Bible, write out their thoughts, and be with God. Something like that could catch on.

Oh yeah, IHOP has weekly services too. Friday evening, Saturday evening, and three services on Sunday – just like a regular church.

Let me stop right now and clear something up – I don’t think IHOP calls itself a ‘church.’ It’s me throwing around that nomenclature.

IHOP sees their Kansas City facility as a ‘Missions Base’ and the big building a few miles down the road as the IHOPU (university) campus; it is, incidentally, also the place where ‘Forerunner Christian Fellowship’ meets and where IHOP can hold public meetings that won’t fit in the facilities at the ‘Missions Base.’ I don’t remember them ever referring to either facility as a ‘church.’

I’m guessing it’s because they understand the difference between a building and a church. During the Friday night teaching session I heard the word ‘church’ a lot; but it was always in reference to God’s people, usually on a national or global scale.

On a national scale, the church in America didn’t fare too well. Most of it, according to IHOP’s director, Mike Bickle, is compromised – it’s lost its first love. It’s more interested in comfort, money and prestige than getting to know its God.

On a global scale the church is the bride of Christ, being prepared for the day it meets its Bridegroom.

Forerunner Christian Fellowship, the part of IHOP’s ministry that functions as a ‘church,’ is a local (Kansas City) body of believers; it considers itself a part of the church on a national scale and on a global scale. It may act independently as a local body of believers, but it knows it’s not independent of the ‘church’ in America or the ‘church’ globally. And it seeks to impact the world on all three levels. What it’s not, is a building that people visit once a week to connect with God or their religious tradition.

The truth of this struck me while I was making plans to come for a visit. I had some publishing business to attend to on Friday and since it was close to the weekend, I tossed around the idea of staying on through Sunday so we could attend services. I wanted to know more about what made IHOP tick and I figured attending what I assumed would be the main event, Sunday service, would give me a pretty good picture of what they were about.

I went to their website www.ihop.org to check out when and where Sunday services were held. It took me a while to find the information. There’s a lot going on there … seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day … and Sunday is just one seventh of that.

We didn’t stay in town for Sunday service, but we did go to the Friday evening teaching session. I’ve got to admit, the Friday evening teaching session had a lot more worship than any Sunday service I’ve been to in a long, long time. That’s what makes me think Sunday service isn’t IHOP’s main event … it’s all the main event …24/7.

Mike Bickle wants to see 100,000 more IHOPs around the globe. He’s not interested in starting a franchise, or a network, or an association; it doesn’t work that way. And IHOP doesn’t replace the church – it can’t. IHOP is a ministry, a place to pray and worship and to be equipped to bring the good news of God to the world. The church is people.

A lot of us see the church as an organization (a ministry), or a location (a place to pray and worship) or a school (equipping us to bring the good news of God to the world). We don’t necessarily see the church as us. It’s kind of subtle, but I need you to understand the difference.

Organizations or locations or schools we build to serve our needs as the church, are just tools. Organizations, locations and schools will all burn down or turn to dust in time. The church won’t, because the church isn’t an organization or a location or a school. It’s everyone who believes in Jesus and counts Him as personal savior. It’s you and me and the believers in the Baptist church next door … and the Pentecostal church down the street … and the Catholic church across town … and the underground church in China … and those believers who went before us and are now gone from us … and the believers who are yet to be born and those who haven’t believed yet but will. All of us, each of us, are the body and bride of Christ – the church.

Being a member of the organization or present at the location or a graduate of the school doesn’t make you a part to the church. Only knowing Jesus, believing in him as the Son of God and the one who laid down his life so that you could live and who you lay down your life for in return makes you a part of the church. Everything else is something else.

I think Mike Bickle and the folks at IHOP get that. Maybe we could use 100,000 more IHOPs in the world.

Tags: Church · community · Courage · faith · God's purpose · joy · love · money · Obedience · Prayer · purpose · success · Trust

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve S. // Sep 9, 2008 at 6:17 am

    This is an e-mail response I received from reader ‘Glenn’. He’s been kind enough to let me post his comment on the blog. I’ve read the DeWaay commentary he mentions and I’ll give my thoughts before too long.
    Thanks Glenn for your comments:

    Dear Steve,
    Re “Doing Church 24/7,” there is much to be said for Mike Bickle’s concept of IHOP 24/7. Even to staff such a thing 24/7 is no mean task. Also, I have no doubt that Bickle is sincere in his intent and his efforts. IHOP was unknown to me prior to your assessment, except for Critical Issues Commentary which I receive from Bob DeWaay, pastor of Twin City Fellowship in St. Paul, MN. I read the latest issue that just arrived, so I perked up when I saw your thoughts re IHOP online today.

    I don’t want to throw cold water on your assessment, but I do think DeWaay has some thoughts you might want to consider. You can read his thoughts on his CIC website: http://www.cicministry.org/ I’m of the opinion that he has legitimate concerns relating to how Bickle uses the Word of God. We who hold to the per-tribulation rapture of the church have a lot of questions for those in the eschatological camp with Mike Bickle. I don’t want to diminish the import of our Christian duty prior to His return, but Christ knows what poor stuff we’re made of and is not expecting Christians to clean up this old world before He can return. Also, and not surprisingly, Bickle seems to dismiss the importance to God of modern-day Israel when God inspired Isaiah and Ezekiel to prophesy eloquently of today’s return of the Jews. Read DeWaay and see what you think.

    I know you’re a busy guy, so you may not have time to respond to this email, but if you can, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.

    Blessings on you, Steve!

  • 2 admin // Sep 28, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Well, I kept my promise. I read the Bob DeWaay’s article slamming Mike Bickle and IHOP. DeWaay’ s website is named “critical issues.” Pretty good name; he’s critical about everything.

    As best I can tell, Dewaay’s most legitimate gripe is that Bickle encourages Christians to become intimate with God. Go figure. Most of the other stuff DeWaay brings up has to do with other ministries Bickle was associted with in the past. I checked IHOP’s site and Bickle pretty much lays out what they do and don’t profess to believe (http://ihop.org/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=1000010501 ). DeWaay should probably check that out.

    Regarding this issue about the bride of Christ and the wedding feast, I’ve got two great resources for you.

    1) Matthew 22:1 – 14. It’s parable about a wedding feast. Much to his own surprise, one of the attendees who was invited got tossed out because he didn’t come prepared. “For many are invited but few are chosen.”

    2) David Pawson’s book “The God and the Gospel of Righteousness.” A great book about how our God, full of grace, still demands righteousness. You can get it at http://pawsonbooks.com.

  • 3 Robin // Jul 8, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Hi Steve, EXCELLENT ARTICLE ABOUT IHOP!!!! I have several of Mike Bickle’s teachings and they are biblically sound. He really stresses the love of the Father and intimacy with Him. You have to be a “real con” to operate a ministry based on prayer and worship 24/7 and not be sincere. That’s where the rubber meets the road!!! The church is in desperate need of a revelation of what TRUE, SINCERE, GODLY, BIBLICAL LOVE IS!!! I believe that’s one of the greatest missing links in churches. As Mike Bickle says, “God is after your heart!!!!” It’s not about serving, tithes, offering, IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE!! I just listened to two of his recent teachings on David. If you get a chance, listen to them. THEY ARE AWESOME!!!! Thanks for the article. Peace and blessings.

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