Spending time at IHOP's annual Onething.

Crashing IHOP's annual Onething 

Spending time at IHOP's annual Onething.

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"These questions are not complicated," he says, slowly pacing the stage. "But if you don't have a biblical foundation, a good communicator can twist all of these around and spin you in circles. But the truth is, the answers are quite straightforward and quite simple. It just a little bit of biblical foundation to have confidence in these answers."

I move closer to the stage to get a look at Bickle. He's a solidly built man, wearing a silky button-up shirt. I snap a picture of stacks of tithing buckets, which I never see deployed, even after Bickle's made-for-TV pitch on how Jesus dealt with the lukewarm.

"Tell them that I will vomit them out of my mouth," Bickle yells. "That doesn't mean that they are repulsing to Jesus. What I believe this phrase means: Jesus is not saying, 'You're repulsive to Me.' He's saying, 'When I look at the way you're living in responding to the Love of God ... my stomach hurts when I look at how much I love you! And how little you respond! And how little you understand the delusion you're in! My stomach is hurting because of the relationship of love! Do you know who I am? Do you know who you are to me? Do you know the deception you're in? My stomach hurts when I look at you!' "

I feel a serious hunger just before Bickle announces a 10-minute break, so I make for the Brookside Grille, hoping to beat the concession lines and break my fast with a lamp-warmed cheeseburger.

Two women sit nearby on the floor, one in tears of prayer. I saw the crying woman the day before in the prayer room, where she wept and swayed to the beating heart of Jesus, her hands pressed on her big, beautiful curls.

Later, I listen to Bickle's How to Recognize Cults CD. He says cult activity could happen anywhere. It's foretold in prophecy, and it's up to us, the believers, to keep watch and to challenge it.

"Some of you are actually going to change the way you function in leadership," Bickle says, paraphrasing the Holy Spirit. "You'll speak perverse things. You will become cult leaders, some of you. I mean, that's in the Bible. I read that and thought, Oh my goodness! So Paul tells them: 'Watch not only the new leaders coming in, watch even your own leadership.' Now he's not trying to make everybody suspicious ... so everybody's guilty until proven innocent. But he's saying, 'Be alert, be attentive. The problem will never go away.' "

Inside the Onething program is an advertisement for next year's conference. The top of the page is washed out in off-white light that bleeds from an image of a stage to a view of thousands of young adults with outstretched arms, on fire with passion for Jesus. "Come back next year," the tag line reads.

Many will — likely many more — as long as Jesus doesn't come first.

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