The worship music, throbbing soft-rock appeals performed by live bands, has continued here without pause, day and night, since May 1999. Voices calling to Jesus or pleading with God to help tornado victims or make Congress ban abortion resound in an auditorium that is the physical and spiritual heart of the International House of Prayer, a Christian ministry rapidly blossoming into a movement…
Mr. Bickle has won praise from many evangelicals, but he has also been criticized by some pastors for what they describe as unorthodox theology and a cultish atmosphere, charges that Mr. Bickle rejects. Some former students said they had been expelled for questioning the fascination with mystical healings, prophesies, angels and demons.
The ministry has also drawn fire for helping Gov. Rick Perry of Texas plan a day of prayer in Houston, which is scheduled for August and will be dominated by ardent opponents of abortion and gay rights. Mr. Bickle said he avoided direct involvement in partisan politics himself, but a member of his leadership group, Lou Engle, has a side group, The Call, that organized stadium revivals to promote California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
But many young followers here said they were drawn by their sense of visceral communion with God and had given little thought to such issues.