IHOPKC’s Forerunner Church closes with final service amid Mike Bickle scandal

Forerunner Church Senior Pastor Isaac Bennett receives prayer from his congregation on Sunday May 19, 2024.
Forerunner Church Senior Pastor Isaac Bennett receives prayer from his congregation on Sunday May 19, 2024. | YouTube/International House of Prayer

International House of Prayer Kansas City continues to unravel amid founder Mike Bickle's sex scandal as its Forerunner Church held a final service in the fellowship of about 1,000 worshipers Sunday, leaving some in tears.

The final service, streamed on YouTube, follows a statement from the ministry to The Christian Post in April that it would shutter some aspects of the operations this year, including its school of ministry.

"Today as we're celebrating the close of Forerunner Church, it's not anything that we expected to do," Senior Pastor Isaac Bennett told the congregation. "It's not anything that we were planning a year ago, like, 'Hey, we got this wild idea, let's close down Forerunner Church.'"

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Bennett insisted that even though they didn't plan on closing the church, "we believe that it needs to happen."

"It needs to happen so that we can move forward with a new start. And this will mark the fresh start for many individuals and many different areas of our community. Some will regather here, others the Lord is going to reassign to various communities and ministries, and we want you to know that we bless you," Bennett said.

Bennett clarified that IHOPKC's flagship ministry, the 24/7 Prayer Room, will continue to operate over the summer. 

The worship team at International House of Prayer Kansas City's Forerunner Church performs on May 19, 2024, during the church's final service.
The worship team at International House of Prayer Kansas City's Forerunner Church performs on May 19, 2024, during the church's final service. | YouTube/International House of Prayer
Churchgoers attend the final service of IHOPKC's Forerunner Church on Sunday, May 19, 2024.
Churchgoers attend the final service of IHOPKC's Forerunner Church on Sunday, May 19, 2024. | YouTube/International House of Prayer

"And those that really feel a sense of the Lord drawing them, moving them to another state or moving them to another nation, we want you to know that we bless you and we send you with the grace and the love of this house and asking the Lord to prosper you," he added to a smattering of applause.

Citing a leaked recording from leaders at an internal IHOP University staff meeting and an email from IHOP University President Matt Candler, The Roys Report reported in April that IHOPKC was in the process of shuttering for good due to the financial impact of Bickle's sexual abuse scandal. 

IHOPKC permanently cut ties with Bickle last December.

In its statement to CP, IHOPKC insisted that the ministry intends to continue but will phase out certain elements of the ministry. 

"We are NOT closing the 24/7 prayer room; it remains a main stay of our existence. We do intend to review the functionality of various operational locations and will likely consolidate several. We have also decided to conclude the operation of IHOPU, our ministry school, after this year's graduation," the ministry said.

Officials with the ministry also appeared to deny claims that they are seeking to escape liability connected to the allegations of sexual abuse against Bickle.

"We have supported and will continue to support any and all victims of abuse, sexual or otherwise, whether here within IHOPKC, or anywhere in the community. To be clear, there have been no lawsuits filed against IHOPKC; the allegations of prior misconduct pertained to an individual, not our organization," the ministry said.

"As we seek to create a 'bettered' version of IHOPKC, we may close some windows of our mission while opening others, but once again, IHOPKC is NOT closing," officials added.

In the leaked recordings cited by The Roys Report, leaders of IHOPKC, including Candler, revealed that the ministry was losing some $500,000 per month due to donors being too connected to Bickle.

"IHOPKC as an organization is beginning to wind down," Candler said. "We're going to be maintaining our prayer room and eventually beginning a new organization."

In the meeting, Bennett said lawsuits from the victims alleging sexual abuse and misconduct by Bickle presented the ministry with "significant liabilities."

"We're the people to sue at the end of the day," he said. "That produces significant liabilities."

Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham's grandson, an attorney and longtime advocate of sexual abuse survivors who is representing one of Bickle's alleged victims, said if IHOPKC leaders believe the ministry can just shutter, then re-emerge as a rebranded organization to escape liability, they are living in "fantasyland."

"The notion that they can just shut it down and start a new organization and all of that prior potential liability is wiped away is fantasyland," he told The Roys Report. "To suddenly take all the property, put it in name of [a] new organization to limit liability that would what I believe be called a fraudulent transfer. A court would not allow that."

Bennett reportedly said in the leaked recording that while IHOPKC has been looking at different ways to navigate the Bickle scandal, they have found no way around the liability the organization has been exposed to as a result of the allegations of the ministry's mishandling of the abuse allegations.

"In cases where there's clergy abuse, where there's allegations that are outstanding — when there's now interest in having an investigation that goes back through all of our 24-year history to find cases where there's been mishandling of abuse, or where there's been cover-up, or whatever else it is people believe has been gone on — those things will produce inevitably a contingent of individuals who are wanting to get restitution," Bennett said. "And they're not going to go knock on Mike's door because, well, he probably won't answer. But they're not going to knock on Mike's door because he doesn't have any money. But IHOPKC has facilities."

On Sunday, Bennett acknowledged how difficult the last few months have been for him and admitted to making "many mistakes."

"I know that as a leader, I've made many mistakes over the last few months in navigating this incredibly difficult process. This process has not been easy for anyone," he said. "There's no single individual that has experienced the last months of the season that we're in with such ease and grace, except, God himself, I mean He really is the only one that is unmoved and at peace in His heart."

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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