Testimony of a Former IHOP-KC Attendee: Stephanie
March 5, 2011 60 Comments
[Part of this testimony first appeared here and is titled "I Was at IHOP and FSM for about 3+ Years..." In a subsequent comment on that blog article, "Stephanie" added some more to her testimony. She graciously revised her testimony to include both the original and her additional comments for publishing here at CrossWise. Bill over at Beyond Grace has recently published two other testimonies. Please take the time to read both The Mother of all IHOP Casualties and Red Flags over IHOP - Devotion or Deception?. I had previously made a passing reference to another one of the second author's articles (Red Flags... author "Ariel") in a previous CrossWise post -- The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II (at footnote 5).]
I grew up as the only Christian in my household. My parents came to know Jesus when I was about 10. My Father began to backslide after his grandmother died which took a pretty big toll on his relationship with my brothers, my mother, and I. Off and on since I was in about 7th grade, I had severe night terrors and nightmares. I attended a Bible High School as well as a Bible College after I graduated. I often tried to find a reason and a way to stop my night terrors, with little to no answers.
Meanwhile, my family was extremely rocky to say the least. My dad was an absentee, my youngest brother was abusive, and my mom was enabling them both. I always wanted to help them, but neglected myself in the process. Wanting to get closer to the Lord, I decided to go to an extension campus in Hawaii (without praying about it and for pretty selfish reasons). I knew I probably wasn’t supposed to go but went anyway to escape from everything else going on in my life.
The Pastor who ran the campus quit 3 days before our arrival and a local apprentice to the pastor was put in charge and (very) reluctantly took the position. It was a pretty messed up situation, to which I and everyone else on campus (about 20 people) ended up leaving as a result. At this point, my walk was very dry and I felt so out of place no matter where I was. I just needed a place I felt I could fit in and, at the same time, draw closer to the Lord and get some answers for weird things that would happen (like the night terrors).
Then a friend told me about the International House of Prayer (IHOP). I heard that my favorite band was going to play at their “One Thing Conference” in December. I decided to go, for three reasons:
1. To meet the friend who told me about IHOP
2. To see my favorite band
3. Hopefully get closer to the Lord and find some answers to my questions
At this time, I had absolutely no experience in anything the Charismatic church teaches and was clueless about manifestations, deliverance ministry, baptism of the Holy Spirit, etc. At the same time, I was very desperate to be loved and accepted by God and by people, and I was desperate to feel anything. I felt so dry and empty. I just needed someone to be there for me and understand… I needed Jesus.
SO I went to the conference and had some very different experiences. I heard people speak in tongues for the first time. People talked about Angels and Demons like it was a normal every day experience, and I heard doctrines that I’d never heard before. I was also told that all the other churches in America were dead, dry, and boring and were, therefore, without Jesus. Because my walk was dead, dry, and boring, it seemed right to me. And the experiences I had that weekend, although strange to me, felt good and exciting. Because of the conference, I decided that I wanted to go to FSM [ed: Forerunner School of Ministry], in hopes of finding Jesus and acceptance there.
I attended IHOP/FSM and was heavily involved for about 3+ years.
My first semester there, I had nothing but good things to say about IHOP because I was still learning all these new things that I found to be fascinating, and I felt I was accepted by everyone else who was “just like me.” I also thought I found answers to my night terrors, when they explained it was because I “had demons” that needed to be delivered. After going through several of their deliverance ministries, however, the terrors only got worse and more frequent.
It wasn’t until my second semester (after going home for Christmas break) that I realized I had completely disconnected from my family, friends, and reality. All of my closest friends and family members sat me down (individually) for an intervention, of sorts. They would tell me things like that I’ve changed and I seemed happy and “on-fire” for God, but that something was off and something was wrong. And when I would tell them some of the things I was learning or experiencing, they only became more worried and they confronted me with scriptures, which got me thinking. So going back into my second semester, I was a lot more confused and had a lot more questions.
Slowly but surely, the Lord chipped away at my heart and showed me very clear scriptures to cause me to question the things that would go on there. After realizing this, I started feeling really weird about some things that were being done and said there, so I took it to the Lord, as any “Berean” should. I started looking up the scriptures my teachers would give us in handouts to explain some of their doctrines, and I realized that not one of those scriptures had anything to do with those doctrines. They were either taken completely out of context or just had nothing at all to do with what the doctrine was (ie: deliverance, manifestations, etc). So, I became even more confused and concerned. I started asking very genuine questions about where certain things were in scripture (like deliverance ministry, false prophesies, manifestations, etc.) because I wanted to be sure that I was doing the right thing in God’s eyes. I just wanted it to be explained to me because I didn’t understand the doctrines and I didn’t understand why the scriptures weren’t lining up with my experiences. When everyone would “feel the presence of God” or everyone would “break out into manifestations of God,” I wouldn’t feel anything and I would almost never experience what everyone else did. So, most days, I felt like an outsider because everyone but me was “getting it.” I started feeling confused and rejected by God, which is why (again), I turned to scripture.
I noticed that, when I started asking questions, that I had been “red flagged.” What I mean is that I had particular people in leadership following me around and keeping tabs on me. I was moved out of my core “Omega” group and into one with Sabrina Walsh who was a former, practicing witch and was also a leader at FSM. She and her husband were in charge of the “Signs and Wonders” classes where they teach kids how to prophesy and perform miracles. I was put in the group because I was to be “monitored.” After changing groups, I began having strange dreams and getting attacked on almost a daily basis.
As I read more scripture, I also began to realize that much of what they were teaching and practicing was extremely unbiblical and even dangerous. We were constantly fasting and in the prayer room. After starting to eat more and going to the prayer room a little less, I felt my head start to clear up and I didn’t like what I was seeing and how I felt. I often went back and forth, in my mind, between wanting to feel what everyone else felt, and realizing that it wasn’t from God, trying to figure it out. Half-way through my third year of school, I was brought into a room with several staff members (including Walsh) who accused me of many things that I hadn’t even come close to doing and they said something to the effect of:
“We know that you have father issues that need to be resolved (I didn’t) and we can tell that you are heavily oppressed by many demons. However, we are incapable of this level of deliverance on someone. We just don’t have the time or the resources. So we are going to send you to this wonderful place in Toronto, Canada. This rehabilitation facility is capable of handling your type of situation. We’ve sent many students there who have come back completely delivered. We are going to send you there. You cannot come back to IHOP or FSM until we have a written letter from them stating that you have been delivered. In the current state you are in, you’re a danger to the other student’s growth and spiritual being.”
…To which I told them I would certainly go, but had no intention of actually going. I said I would go because I was very much afraid of what would happen if I told them I wouldn’t go, and was afraid until I moved back home. After the meeting with them, I immediately called my Dad, who I’d been told not to talk to anymore because he said IHOP was a cult. At one point, they also told me that I needed to stay away from my mom (who is my best friend in the world) because she had demons and was pulling me away from God (which was anything but true). My Dad booked the first flight to Kansas City. At that time, my mom and I owned a home in KC and we had been helping students that went to FSM by providing rooms with low rent. I had an excellent relationship with each person in the house. Within two weeks of being pulled into the office ALL of my roommates – my friends - moved out. When asked directly, they either had no response or told me that the school had told them it was an “unsafe environment” because I and my mother “had a demon”.
I was absolutely crushed. All I ever wanted was to know God and at the time I felt completely rejected by Him. When I finally left IHOP, I was not all the way better. I was actually worse than when I started because I was more confused, felt rejected, and still needed help. My head felt like it was covered in a fog. I would constantly go back and forth between “I know what happened was wrong” and “God was the one taking me out of there to save me” all the way to “IHOP was right” and “there is something wrong with me.” Like I said, I was a complete mess and it took a whole lot of love and prayer to get me out of that state of mind. I even flew to Illinois to go to my friend’s church (the same one who told me about IHOP in the first place) to try to get “Delivered” of this demon that IHOP told me about because I was so messed up. After that trip, I walked away from the Lord completely for about 6 months and was absolutely miserable both in and out of the church.
It wasn’t until I came back to my Calvary Chapel church that life started to become normal again. Even then, it took a really long time. I was able to let go of needing to feel something that wasn’t there and just focus on the truth of the Word of God and loving and understanding who God is. He is never-changing, always loving, arms-wide open, ever wise, ever beautiful, ever strong, amazing, orderly, and truthful God. He is my best friend, my Father, my peace, and my joy. And it didn’t take barking like a dog, falling over, being “drunk,” or being “delivered” from a “demon,” to do it. It was straight-up surrendering to His will and letting go of mine. It was repentance and it was loving God, even if it seems “Boring.” It was just worshipping at his feet, reading His word, fellowship with believers, accountability, etc… going back to the basics. The gospel is truly simple and God is very straight-forward. He is not the author of confusion.
I thank God for my Calvary Chapel pastor back home (and the amazing women at my church) who spent every minute praying for me, speaking life over me, and bringing me back to the truth of the Word of God. I almost lost faith and hope many times. But God is so amazing…He spared my life and got me out of there.
I grieve for the people I love who are still stuck within the lies of IHOP and for the many who are recruited to IHOP daily. I pray for their souls and I pray for the truth to be made known to them. If ever there was an “antichrist spirit,” this is it.
I’ve kept all of my journals, notes, books, and materials from when I was there. When looking back on the things I wrote and the things I would say…it’s like I was a mindless drone who repeated everything I heard. It scares me to think that so many people are being deceived, so many families ripped apart…so many lives destroyed….and all in the name of “Jesus”. God help us and God forgive those who tarnish and blaspheme Your name!
[see also Hyper-Charismatica versus True Christianity]