Someone who was formally on the staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC) recalls her experiences there at her blog. An excerpt:
There are much more personal experiences than I can put into one single blog post, but here are a few I still recall pretty strongly.
1. Mandatory fasts which made me very physically ill. They would never admit to having “mandatory” fasts but when you don’t have any food available, close down the kitchen, give your cook the day off and don’t allow interns to hold jobs (so that they have money to go buy food if they aren’t participating in the fast) then that is called mandatory.
2. Being practically held hostage in the prayer room and told that it was required that I be there and I was not allowed to leave even though I did not feel well and wanted to go back to my apartment. I was told I needed to stay in the prayer room to be part of the “corporate anointing” and that I shouldn’t leave. It was one of my “required” prayer room sets as an intern so I spent the remainder of that 2-hour set in one of the side prayer rooms in the back sobbing on the floor because I wanted to leave so badly and our internship leaders were standing by the door. You might ask “why didn’t you just force your way out and leave anyway?” When you are part of cult where free, independent thinking is not condoned when you don’t comply with what is expected of you, very often guilt, manipulation and penalties are instated for those who resist. Interns who didn’t follow “the rules” of the internship were penalized through loss of privileges (such as loss of your day off, having to do extra work/manual labor, etc.)
3. The grip of control and micro-management increasing: greater demands and restrictions on interns (such as increased pressure to fast more to attain a higher pinnacle of spirituality) being told where we had to sit when in the prayer room, taught a model for how to pray, how to dance, sing, etc. Any form of worship outside of this model was not considered to be acceptable. It had to fit IHOP’s style and method to be admissible.
4. Mandatory journaling assignments which we had to do weekly and then we had to turn in our journals to be read by internship leaders
5. Seeing how controlled the prayer room was. Rather than having freedom to express my heart to the Lord, I was put in a box and told how I had to do everything IHOP’s way. I had reading and writing assignments whenever I was in the prayer room.
6. There was no alone time ever to really think, reason, test, question or process anything. We were run ragged from sun up to late into the night which always left me exhausted, depleted and burnt out.
7. Once when I got sick, my mother came to pick me up and internship leaders resisted letting me leave with her (even though she lived in town). My internship ‘com leader’ (short for community leader) objected and still impressed upon me the importance of going to the prayer room even though I was too sick to get off the couch. My mother said “she is my daughter and I’m taking her home and taking care of her. Period.”
8. The more leadership responsibility I was given as an intern, the more I got peeks into the “inside”. I saw the outer fringes of the internal operations of how IHOP functioned. I was on an IHOP dance team and sang as a chorus leader on a few worship teams. To dance, I had to follow a specific model that IHOP required. To sing, I had to attend the briefing/de-briefing meetings before and after each worship set where I saw first-hand how carefully controlled that the seemingly “spontaneous” aspects of worship were carefully calculated and often planned ahead of time.
9. Another intern got deathly ill and it wasn’t until she ended up being hospitalized that internship leaders took seriously the fact she was sick. They accused her of faking an illness to get out of attending IHOP classes and time in the prayer room. This was told to me directly by that intern.
10. If I wanted to go anywhere off IHOP property (even to go see my family who lived in town) I had to notify internship leaders of my whereabouts at all times. I had no autonomy or freedom as an individual. Some leaders who were 19 (but were former interns which gave them elite status) were telling me where to be, what to do and when I was expected to be home. I had to answer to them for everything. I was in my early 20′s and had lived on my own before so the feeling of suffocation and having no personal rights to space, privacy, independent thought, etc. was overwhelming.
There is much more but I think that’s a sufficient start to at least give you an idea of some of what was happening when I was at IHOP. It wasn’t until after I left that I began to see far more than I had been able to see when I was still involved. The casual observer on the periphery won’t necessarily see the reality of all that is happening there because they are seeing the veil that IHOP has built to carefully cloak the truth of a lot of what really happens.
The rest of the article can be found here. It’s worth a read into things that I, who have never been an IHOP staff member, wasn’t even aware was going on.