This article rom the New York Times, 9 July, 2011, describes a US church that combines a 24/7 cycle of continuous prayer with an eschatological focus on preparing for the end times and the second coming of Christ. A daily round of prayer (even if not “24/7”)has been a strong part of Christian devotional practice and feature of monastic life for many centuries so in that respect there is a devotional intensity here that is attractive. In terms of relating to the culture, which is a huge goal of contemporary culture, the appropriation of the IHOP name is brilliant, even if it is being contested in court. However, as the NYT article notes, some evangelical theologians have raised concerns about the teaching of the International House of Prayer’s teachings. Andrew Jackson’s (Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary) concerns as found here are thoughtful and worth reading, both on essential vs nonessential eschatological teachings and on the ecclesiological dangers of a church using private insider language. MP+
Where Worship Never Pauses
By ERIK ECKHOLM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The worship music, throbbing soft-rock appeals performed by live bands, has continued here without pause, day and night, since May 1999. Voices calling to Jesus or pleading with God to help tornado victims or make Congress ban abortion resound in an auditorium that is the physical and spiritual heart of the International House of Prayer, a Christian ministry rapidly blossoming into a movement.
Founded 12 years ago by Mike Bickle, a self-trained evangelical pastor, with a group of 20, the International House of Prayer, in a former strip mall, now draws tens of thousands of worshipers to its revival meetings. A wholly devoted cadre of 1,000 staff members, labeled missionaries, have given up careers to move here, living off donations and spending several hours a day in the prayer hall to revel in what they describe as direct communication with God. Another thousand students attend the adjacent Bible college, preparing to spread this fervent brand of Christianity.
The well-populated prayer room and the devout community growing up around it are at the epicenter of a little known but expanding national network: dozens of groups that are stressing perpetual prayer in a way seldom seen in modern America, said Marcus Yoars, the editor of Charisma, an evangelical magazine. Many of them were inspired by the operation here, though none have maintained such an elaborate 24-hour system of worship, seen around the world on a live webcast.
Mr. Bickle has won praise from many evangelicals, but he has also been criticized by some pastors for what they describe as unorthodox theology and a cultish atmosphere, charges that Mr. Bickle rejects. Some former students said they had been expelled for questioning the fascination with mystical healings, prophesies, angels and demons.
The ministry has also drawn fire for helping Gov. Rick Perry of Texas plan a day of prayer in Houston, which is scheduled for August and will be dominated by ardent opponents of abortion and gay rights. Mr. Bickle said he avoided direct involvement in partisan politics himself, but a member of his leadership group, Lou Engle, has a side group, The Call, that organized stadium revivals to promote California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
But many young followers here said they were drawn by their sense of visceral communion with God and had given little thought to such issues.
Read the whole article here.