Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Interesting Evening...

The International House of Prayer had the first of their two informational meetings for the people of Grandview and south Kansas City. The auditorium at Grandview High School was 75% full with concerned and interested citizens. A couple from my own street was there. I'd say that 90% of the audience was white, and most were older. There was a smattering of black folks there as well, generally a little younger then the white folks. Pastor Mike Bickle was there along with nine other people representing IHOP leadership and concerns; this included Diane Bickle who runs Glad Heart Reality. IHOP was recording and filming the proceedings and will be putting the meeting on their website .

I wasn't sure what to expect from this meeting. Would people be hostile spiritually, either resenting IHOP's Christianity or believing that IHOP is a cult? Would people be more concerned with more secular issues such as economic impact and development, and housing and real estate issues? As the questions emerged, it was truly a mixed bag, swinging from economic to spiritual to accountabilty to housing and quality of life. A few things that stick in my memory as I look back at the evening...

A lady reported she had a IHOP house near her with 17 people living in it for an extended period over the winter. My neighbor relayed concern that he has no real knowledge of who owns one of the homes on our block occupied by IHOP related people. Others related stories of houses being altered for non related folks living together, and one gave a story of having to call out the code folks on someone building an extension to a home without proper permits.

Someone asked outright if IHOP was a cult. Mike Bickle basically did some teaching on the marks of a cult. The teaching was sound, right in line with cult experts such as Walter Martin. Basically some of the marks of a cult are closing the person off to family, friends and the greater culture, shunning and condemning if the person leaves, nonbiblical or extrabiblical doctrine that cannot be questioned, the barring of having personal money and property, leadership without openness and accountability, inappropriate sexual relationships between leadership and select people. IHOP portrays itself as being very deliberate about teaching the marks of a cult and on the watch for cult-type behaviour. If you google IHOP you will find some anti-IHOP websites and if you look at them, they basically accuse IHOP of being a cult or even worse. 1 John 4 tells Christians to discern the spirits.

One lady got up, talked about Grandview's diversity, then noted her interracial marriage to an Asian man, who is a Buddhist. She wanted it in writing that there would be no evangelizing. Mike Bickle restated that IHOP was unabashedly Christian, preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ. She was not pleased and stated, " I will hold you to the law."

Bickle and several of the others on the stage were very "grieved" (their word) over the problems with some of the houses. They felt maybe that some of these issues of families and students boarding and renting in a multifamily way were from lack of oversight.

One person expressed concern about the ministry falling or failing either due to moral lapse and/or financial problems. "It would be a disaster for us." if this happened. There were just a few questions about IHOP's financial basis, where the money came from and how the accounting was monitored. IHOP reported that their books were open to be looked at at any time.

An interesting note came up about development on Martha Truman Road, that the land had been stripped and readied for building, then everything stopped, with some erosion and other environmental concerns. The lady who raised the issue said she heard it stopped because IHOP was bankrupt. IHOP people stated they did not own this land, a guy from MN owned it, and development was stopped due to the economy, and no one was bankrupt. The questioner stated there was "a challenge" to the development. Through what I wonder? Zoning board? Environmental board? Just as long as there is never a through road to Martha Truman from Red Bridge, especially Norby Road or Cleveland Avenue. Such a thing would ruin the Terrace Lake neighborhood.

Other issues and questions: education of children moving in, the fate of leased space at the Briarwood center, the timeline for Grandview Plaza construction (they hope to have IHOP U in by fall 2010,) and the timeline for the big project in Grandview.

Mike Bickle gave his testimony which took him from bars at 12 to a Christian sports camp at 15 to church at Colonial Presbyterian. He was vague about his education; stated he was going to go into medicine then decided to go in to the ministry. He said something about seven years of school in St. Louis. A lady I talked to after said he dropped out of Mizzou to take care of a family member.

Afterwards, there were still people stewing about the housing issue. Many were perturbed by the murky ownership records of the homes near theirs, and the problems with extra people and cars.

Well that's about it. Impression? Not really sure about what the people thought in general of IHOP--hard to read. I think most did not believe IHOP to be a cult. However, there were multiple secular quality of life concerns, and I am not sure IHOP resolved all those issues. It will be interesting to follow this along. A second meeting is scheduled for early next week. Stay tuned.

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