The Sandy Foundation of the International House of Prayer (IHOP)
November 13, 2012 25 Comments
[The following, except for the opening 6 paragraphs, was initially the final section (excepting the brief conclusion) of a very lengthy two-part article. I deem it important enough to be its own stand-alone piece. It was necessary to make some very minor alterations.]
To this day, the Mike Bickle led International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri proudly claims as part of its heritage Kansas City Fellowship (KCF) aka Grace Ministries.1 Bob Jones, along with Paul Cain – who were both important “prophets” associated with KCF – continue to be lauded as Bickle’s “spiritual fathers”2. It was Bob Jones’ purported “drought prophecy” which was said to have legitimized the Kansas City Fellowship - and now International House of Prayer (IHOP) – “movement”.
Back in late 19823 a young pastor named Mike Bickle moved to Kansas City, MO to found Kansas City Fellowship. On May 7 of ‘83, Bickle and his growing congregation began a 21-day fast which he claims was brought about by prophetic revelation.4 On the eve of May 28 “prophet” Bob Jones gave a “word from the Lord”5 which, if it were to come to pass, would 1) be a further sign that Bob Jones was a true prophet of God; and, 2) serve as confirmation that God was beginning a new movement in Christianity6 which would “change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one generation”.7 This new ‘expression’ would be a “great outpouring of the Spirit that will cross all kinds of national, social, ethnic and cultural barriers”.8 This “change” in “the understanding and expression of Christianity” Bickle believes to be referring to our current generation.9
Bob Jones’ “word from the Lord” concerned a forthcoming three month drought.10 What were the circumstances surrounding this “drought”? A bit, uh, cloudy, it seems.
A number of tapes offered for sale by KCF/Grace Ministries in the mid to late ‘80s until 1990 included talks by Mike Bickle detailing his church’s “prophetic history” including, of course, the Bob Jones ‘drought prophecy’. Interestingly, the account changed with the passage of time. Initially, it was recorded that the drought was one of no rain beginning in June of ’83. Subsequently, it was changed to one allowing for ‘sprinkles’ of rain. Subsequent to this, it was further altered to include a shifting in the actual start of this “drought”.
These changes were precipitated in large part by a report authored by Ernie Gruen (and some of his staff and elders), the pastor of another church in the same locale as KCF. In response to Gruen’s May 1990 Documentation of Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries), in which it was shown that Kansas City actually had higher than normal rainfall in June of ‘83, John Wimber/Vineyard (KCF came under the Vineyard umbrella in May of that year in apparent response to the controversy) shifted the timing of the ‘drought prophecy’ from a start date of June 1 to July 1.11 The KCF/Grace Ministries tape titled The Prophetic History of Grace Ministries, listed as “by far our best seller” in a then-current catalog, was among a number of tapes deleted in June of that year at the height of the controversy surrounding the Gruen Document and KCF.12
Various attempts have been made to discredit the Gruen document and some have tried to use Gruen’s reporting of the Jones/Bickle ‘drought prophecy’ toward that end. Let’s look at the particulars.
A Drought Evolves
From the opening in the Gruen Document:
For example, Mike regularly retells the story of how the so-called “prophet” Bob Jones predicted [on May 28, 1983] a 3-month drought which would finally end with a “drought-breaker” on August 23.
In telling this tale, Mike makes such statements as, “We watched it day by day…June, no rain…then on August 23, three to four inches of rain!” This is portrayed as God’s confirmation of their “Movement.” It sounded like a pretty impressive miracle until we checked with the National Weather Bureau and the daily newspaper accounts for that timeframe. We found the following:
a. Actual readings from the former Richards Gebaur Air Force base, which is only a few minutes from Kansas City Fellowship, show over seven inches of rain in June, which is well above normal!
b. The “drought-breaker” on August 23 actually produced less than one-third of an inch.
c. Of the 12 days it rained in June, [six] of them produced records of rains heavier than the “drought-breaker.” One day alone had over seven times the rainfall on August 23 – 2.35 inches. (See Section I)
From the beginning this could have never been considered a true prophecy.13
Gruen lays out the specific parameters as set forth in the Bob Jones “prophecy” as gleaned from the earliest recording of this event . This ‘drought’ was to be one of no rain from the time of Jones’ purported proclamation at the end of May until August 23rd, at which point there was to be a drought-breaking rain. This is both very well defined and very straightforward.
Even though there was in fact a drought defined as ‘a prolonged period of less than normal rainfall’ in the late summer of 1983 beginning in July, Gruen’s point was to merely disprove the specific parameters of Jones’ “prophecy” which proclaimed a ‘no rain whatsoever’ drought to encompass all of June, July and August up through to the August 23rd ‘drought-breaker.’ To do so, all he had to show was that there was rainfall in June thereby negating the drought’s beginning and then show that even though there was rain on August 23rd, the amount was very small, much less than the reported 3 to 4 inches of ‘drought-breaking’ rain as reported by Bickle.
The Gruen Document transcribed two different tapes of this “drought prophecy.” The earliest, from Spring 1986 titled The Prophetic History of Grace Ministries, Volume 2, follows. This starts out with Bickle quoting Bob Jones:
‘This is the sign in the heavens, again…For three months there will be a drought in this city.’…The sign is (that) there will be a pattern in the heavens – a weather pattern, and you can’t manipulate weather patterns, so we said, ‘Okay, if it comes to pass, we know the word is true.’…But he says, ‘On August 23, God will send a sign from heaven…’ I said, ‘Bob, I hope this is right.’ Cause it was terrible. June – no rain…August 23, 6:00 at night, it rains, what, 3 to 4 inches of rain…It was a sign in the heavens that no man could have manipulated; it was spoken publicly for all to hear.14
Gruen left out a bit from the audio here (illustrated by the ellipses […]) as, again, his point was to show that the Bickle claim of no rain for the month of June and a pouring rain of 3 to 4 inches on August 23rd were both untrue. Thankfully, we also have David Pytches’ Some Said it Thundered (original, unrevised first edition)15 rendition of this “drought prophecy” which corresponds to the Gruen account above while filling in some of the information missing in the ellipses.
Pytches transcribed KCF tapes as he states this in the “Acknowledgements”: “I want to express my appreciation to Kansas City Fellowship for their ready permission for me to quote from their unedited tapes…”16 Unfortunately, Pytches’ work does not provide footnotes and does not include any tape titles or numbers in the list of references in the back of his book. However, it appears as though he paraphrases a bit rather than quoting directly since some of the words don’t exactly match up to Gruen’s even though the basic details do:
“…[T]here will be the total withholding of everything for three months, although God will allow a little bit of liberty.
In this city everything will be withheld. For three months there will be a drought. That’s the sign! God has spoken!…for three months there will be no rain – not until 23 August.”17
Once again, to restate, according to this “prophecy” there was to be no rain at all, not a sprinkle, until August 23. Picking up where we left off:
Bob had given a specific date for the end of a drought which he predicted was about to begin.
This level of prophecy could certainly be nervy! Mike found himself becoming an expert weather watcher…To quote Mike:
“…For the whole month of June there was no rain! It was terrible! For the whole month of July there was no rain! It was terrible!
“No rain still during the first week of August or the second or the third. It was terrible! Bob Jones said the Lord had told him it would come on 23 August. We had all been poised since early dawn that day but by 1 p.m. there was still no rain. By six o’clock we were just resigned to wait for another day when suddenly it began. And did it rain? It poured! No man could have manipulated that. It just had to be God!”18
As Pytches’ clearly describes, the claim is that as “an expert weather watcher” Bickle saw not a drop of rain for the entire period of June, July and August until August 23rd at which time “It poured!” Yet when this is compared to actual rainfall as the Gruen Document states, June had above average rainfall for the area with six of those days well exceeding the .32” of rainfall on August 23rd.19 Furthermore, July and August, while having much less than normal rainfall, did indeed have some rain.20 According to National Weather Service archives, actual monthly rainfall in Kansas City in 1983 for the summer and early fall was as follows: June: 6.46”; July: 1.17”; August: 0.97”; September: 1.91”; and, October: 4.15”.21
Apparently, Bickle found out there really was some rainfall during the period of June 1 through August 22 since he revised this “prophecy” a bit as evidenced by the transcription of a recording from May of 1989 titled Overview of Our Prophetic History in the Gruen Document. Bickle backpedals a bit:
Then Bob stands up at the end and he says, ‘I got bad news.’ He says, ‘The Lord told me that there isn’t gonna be a revival being poured out at the end of this 21 days.’ He said, ‘Worse than that, we’re goin’ to the three months of total barrenness. And there’s gonna be a drought upon the city.’ He didn’t say that there would be, you know, not a, not a sprinkle of rain. He said there’d be a drought. He said through the city. And ah, I checked the newspaper once and found out that it rained an inch in the north over the summer. But ah, you know, I’m not sure exactly how much, or somebody did – I can’t remember all the those details, but we watched it day by day and there was a drought through those three months…22
In the earlier account there was the emphatic declaration of no rain yet the later account claims that Bob didn’t say there would be “not a sprinkle of rain.” The first account was three years after this all important prophecy was spoken in 1983, yet in 1989 it seemed they didn’t recall it quite right in the earlier account of 1986. Given that this was purportedly a “word from the Lord,” wouldn’t this have been meticulously recorded? This should have been especially important to write down as this “prophecy” was to confirm the “movement” at KCF.
Bickle “can’t remember all those details” yet he “watched it day by day”? Are we really to believe the “details” of something this important would not be remembered in view of the fact there was so much at stake? And he maintains there was a “drought those three months” including June in which, as stated, there was almost 6.5” of rain with more than a few of those days much more than “a sprinkle.” Continuing:
He (Bob) said, ‘The Lord will break the drought in the natural over Kansas City, and it’s a sign that He will, on an appointed time, break the drought in the Spirit, but not until He appoints the time.’
…And, ah, we’ve had several different theories when that drought was gonna break, but it hadn’t broke yet. And, ah, so, so much for all our theories. But there is an appointed time when the drought breaks in the natural as well as the Spirit. And he said, ‘And here’s the proof that there will, it will break on an appointed day in the natural.’ He said, ‘On August 23, the drought will end and the rains will come to the city. 23
Once again, Bickle makes the claim that August 23rd would be the drought-breaker at which time “the drought will end and the rains will come to the city.” Bickle goes on reiterating how no one could humanly predict that it was to rain on a particular day three months later “to break a 3-month drought.” He proclaimed, “It was a supernatural sign to us.”24
Once Wimber/Vineyard took over the reins of Kansas City Fellowship, the “drought prophecy” was analyzed and explained in a much different way. Their claim was that Gruen was wrong in his dogmatic statement: “There was no drought…This prophecy did not happen. It was a total fabrication to promote ‘The Movement.’”25 Unfairly, they left out a very important part of Gruen’s complete statement which follows:
There was no drought. Anyone who went outside or read the newspaper could not have considered June a month of drought. The sprinkle of rain on August 23 was not considered a drought-breaker. This prophecy did not happen; it was a total fabrication to promote “The Movement.” From the start, this prophecy could never have been considered true.26
To reiterate, Gruen’s point was that the drought as “prophesied” was stated to have begun right away with the specific claim that June had no rain when in fact the rainfall that month was above normal. Gruen does not deny there was a drought as defined by ‘a prolonged period of less than normal rainfall’ as he earlier stated, “July and August were below normal in rainfall;”27 however, it would have been better if he had qualified his initial statement with something like “There was no drought as ‘prophesied’ by the specific parameters set by Jones.” Gruen’s conclusion “From the start, this prophecy could never have been considered true” is absolutely correct given the heavy rains in June.
The Wimber/Vineyard defense consisted of shifting the “prophecy” to one of very limited rainfall instead of no rain simultaneously moving the start date from June 1 to July 1. In addition, the August 23rd date was changed to merely a date of “prophesied” rain (admitting Bickle’s “mistake” in proclaiming a 3 to 4 inch downpour) instead of the drought-breaker, yet no new drought-breaking date was specified claiming instead merely that the drought ended “in early October.”28 What was the date of the definitive drought-breaking rain?
Among other reasons, Pytches would publish a “new edition” of his book as he “corrected details in the case of one prophecy”, which lined up with Wimber’s revised version.29 Using some of the portions already quoted above, we’ll compare the original Pytches rendition with his revised account by listing the ‘uncorrected’ followed by the “corrected” version:
…for three months there will be no rain – not until 23 August.
…there will be rain on August 23.30
…Bob had given a specific date for the end of a drought which he predicted was about to begin.
…Bob had given a specific date for rain during the drought which he predicted was about to begin.31
…For the whole month of June there was no rain! It was terrible! For the whole month of July there was no rain! It was terrible!
The drought did not begin immediately. In fact there was heavy rain in June, but for the whole of July it was dry. It was terrible.32
Pytches continues with the same paragraph ending with “It had to be God” as in the original account. Then he continues:
That was still not the end of the drought, however. Although it was not a total withholding of rain, the exceedingly dry period covered a full three months, except for the predicted break on August 23…33
Recall that in the very beginning of the original account – which matches the revised version – are the words, “In this city everything will be withheld.” So, why was this initial verbiage retained? It obviously contradicts with the words above “it was not a total withholding of rain…” And the “predicted break” consisted of a relatively scanty .32 inch which was hardly a break from the “exceedingly dry period” which admittedly contained sprinkles of rain during this time anyway. Pytches, like Wimber, does not specify a new “drought-breaker” date.
So, initially in the 1986 version “total barrenness” meant “no rain” (matching Pytches’ original account), in 1989 it was changed to not mean “not a sprinkle of rain” in view of the fact that there was in fact rain in June, which was changed again in 1990 to the drought actually beginning in July since it was further discovered that June had higher rains than normal (matching Pytches’ revised account). Are we to believe that Bickle’s memory is that poor with respect to the “drought prophecy”, yet he was certain that May 7, 1983 was the starting point of a 21-day fast which had just ended at which point Jones had purportedly proclaimed this “drought prophecy” and Bickle was certain of other specific dates in KCF’s history as well? Why would he have meticulously recorded these other dates and not the beginning and end of the “drought?”
The circumstances surrounding the “drought prophecy” are rather troubling. To quote James Beverley: “…many of Bob Jones predictions were announced ex post facto”34 – after the fact. Given the evolving nature of the “drought prophecy,” was it a ‘reverse engineered’ “prophecy” (at least in part) despite the claim to the contrary?
Given that the “drought prophecy” was to provide legitimacy to the KCF (now IHOP) “movement,” why wasn’t this “prophecy” recorded in such a manner as to prove its veracity, i.e., by tape, or, absent that, a transcript from memory shortly after it was “prophesied”? Given that there is no proof, it would be prudent to remain skeptical – especially given the circumstances as outlined above.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [Matt 7:24-27, TNIV]
1 Bickle, Mike, International House of Prayer Encountering Jesus. “IHOP MP3 stores: Free MP3s” <http://www.ihopmp3store.com/Groups/1000021591/IHOP_MP3_Downloads/Free_MP3s/Free_MP3s.aspx>. As accessed 11/13/12.
2 See disc 1 of above <http://ihopcontent.ihop.org/ihopcntnt/endis/FreeMP3s/Encountering_Jesus_D1.mp3> 18:45 – 19:35. As accessed 11/13/12.
3 Bickle, Michael, M. Sullivant, Growing in the Prophetic. 1996 (5th printing Feb ’98), Creation House, Oakland, FL; p 24.
4 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing pp 38-39
5 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 43
6 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 45
7 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 30
8 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing p 30
9 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing pp 30-31. Bickle equates this with “the last-days outpouring of the Spirit” which he believes “relates to this generation” [p 31]. In addition, Bickle has stated in various ways that he believes we are living in the very last of days, in which the Lord’s return is very close. For example, recently, in another book, Bickle states: “In my opinion, we are in the early days of the generation in which Jesus will return. I believe that there are people alive today who will see the return of Jesus…” [Mike Bickle with Brian Kim 7 Commitments of a Forerunner: A Sacred Charge to Press into God. 2009, Forerunner Publishing, Kansas City, MO; p 13].
10 Bickle, Sullivant, Growing pp 43-45
11 Yet the Bickle/Sullivant Growing states “end of June” [pp 43-44].
12 See this CrossWise post Your Assistance Requested: Seeking Original Audio/Video of Kansas City Fellowship/Grace Ministries as well as the two-part article referenced in the introduction to this current article.
13 Gruen, Ernie & John J. Arnold, et. al. Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries). May 1990, self-published; p 10. / pdf prepared for online posting by Tricia Tillin (Booth) <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/kcp/Aberrant%20Practises.pdf>; pp 11-12. Hereafter listed as pdf first followed by original booklet; e.g.: pp 10 / 11-12. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
14 Gruen, Documentation. pp 41-2 / 55. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
15 Pytches, David Some Said it Thundered. 1990 (first edition, second impression) [unrevised version], Hodder & Stoughton, London, UK
16 Pytches, Thundered 1990 (unrevised) unnumbered page just before Introduction
17 Pytches, Thundered 1990 (unrevised) p 89
18 Pytches, Thundered 1990 (unrevised) p 90
19 Interestingly, data recorded at Kansas City International Airport (MCI), which admittedly is 30 miles north of Grandview, shows that the 22nd was mostly cloudy or overcast beginning at 7am, with a trace of rain [.07”] recorded at 1pm, with the mostly cloudy/overcast conditions continuing into the 23rd. The next day, on the 23rd, data shows rain beginning around 7am with accumulation of .18” by 8am, another .04” by 9am followed by .04” at 10am. The mostly cloudy/overcast conditions continued into the night. This does not preclude the Bickle account of the 23rd from being true including no rain until 6pm, of course, noting the distance from KCF to the airport. This info was gleaned from Weather Underground <http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KMDT/1983/6/1/DailyHistory.html?req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA> by inputting the airport code (MCI) and the applicable dates. As accessed 10/15/11
20 Weather Watcher (see link above) indicates rain at the airport in both July and August. Since the “prophecy” was for the entire city of Kansas City, rainfall at the airport must be included in any analysis. In Pytches’ account, which appears to be the same as Bickle’s, it’s explicitly stated there was no rain whatsoever until August 23rd. In August prior to the 23rd, the airport recorded .12” on the 7th with traces [less than .1] on the 9th, 15th, 20th and 22nd.
21 These totals are from the Weather Warehouse which takes its data from the National Weather Service <http://weather-warehouse.com/WeatherHistory/PastWeatherData_KansasCityDowntownArpt_KansasCity_MO_June.html> As accessed 10/15/11
22 Gruen, Documentation. p 41 / 53. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
23 Gruen, Documentation. pp 41 / 53-54. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
24 Gruen, Documentation. p 41 / 54. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
25 Wimber, John “A Response to Pastor Ernie Gruen’s Controversy with Kansas City Fellowship” Equipping the Saints. Fall 1990, Special UK Edition; p 28
26 Gruen, Documentation. p 42 / 56. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
27 Gruen, Documentation. p 42 / 55. Underscore in original; emphasis added.
28 Wimber “Response to Gruen” p 28. Actual rainfall for October as recorded at Kansas City International Airport (MCI) shows none until the 4th with a mere .21 inch of rain and no further rain until nearly an inch [.93”] fell on the 11th; however, this was followed by no significant rain (there was a trace [.02”] on the 16th) until the 19th with about ¾ inch [.79”] which was followed the next day with ½ inch [.57”] and the next with a bit under ½ inch [.40”]. However, as stated earlier, it’s possible there was more (or less) rain in other parts of KC.
29 Pytches, David Some Said it Thundered. 1991 (revised, “new edition”), Oliver Nelson, Nashville, TN; p xxvii. The revised version also omits some verbiage from Cain’s account of the Lord purportedly appearing with him in his car [Pytches (first, unrevised) p 38]. Specifically, the words deleted were describing items Jesus purportedly wore during the incident: “…dressed in a monk’s black habit and wearing a skull cap.” In an August 1990 letter to Prophecy Today subscribers, Clifford Hill states the original Thundered was “at present out of print” although the publishers “intend on reissuing it” in a revised version. Hill also states, “John Wimber told me that he had identified ‘a number of factual errors’ in the book, and Mike Bickle has sent David Pytches a 60 minute tape of corrections.” Keep in mind that Pytches was given access to KCF/GM tapes for the original issue.
30 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 89] is listed first.
31 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 90] is listed first.
32 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 90] is listed first.
33 Pytches, Thundered. 1991 new edition; p 90. The original account [p 90] is listed first.
34 Beverley, James A. Holy Laughter & the Toronto Blessing: An Investigative Report. 1995, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI; p 128