A young pastor on quite the journey

I just read God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel — How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies by Costi W. Hinn, a young pastor in his mid-30s. Costi is the nephew of famed televangelist Benny Hinn. The 200-page book, a very quick read, was released by Zondervan July 1.

In a simple fashion, Costi tells the story of growing up and traveling in the circle of multi-millionaire preacher, his uncle Benny Hinn. Costi had a front-row seat at many crusades around the world. He saw it all. He experienced it all, especially the lavish life-style lived by Benny Hinn and his associates. Costi admits that he took part in the luxury associated with Hinn’s ministry. None of what he describes will surprise you, if you known anything about Benny Hinn and his worldwide ministry of healing and preaching the prosperity gospel.

It was interesting to read that Costi’s father and his brothers, Costi’s other uncles, are disciples of their brother Benny, the kingpin of the worldwide ministry. They serve on the staff of the Orlando Christian Center, that Benny started back in the early 1980s, and they travel all over the world with him.

In the summer of 1968, Costi Hinn’s grandfather and his family (including Benny and his brothers) immigrated from their Armenian, Arabic-speaking home in Jaffa, Israel, and their staunch Greek Orthodox Church life, to Toronto, Canada. They were Arabic speakers and spoke essentially no English!

But while still in his early 20s, Costi — and, among others, the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his 3 young children — began to see the hypocrisy and devastation of his belief system. He saw how poor people gave every dime they had to his uncle’s ministry. This really bothered Costi — thank goodness — and he slowly moved toward embracing the true Gospel message — one that preaches following the narrow road, embracing suffering, often not receiving instant healing and even living in poverty, much of which is the direct opposite of what Costi had heard or seen growing up. Costi slowly came, and is still coming, to understand the many tensions of the now but not yet in the Gospel message.

As of late June, Costi Hinn is an associate pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb. Over the last 10 years, Costi has embraced a conservative theology, one long taught and endorsed by the likes of John MacArthur. MacArthur is a brilliant scholar, but for decades has long been strangely fearful and critical of anything having to do with the charismatic movement, especially any preaching of the prosperity gospel. Even so, apparently Costi has cast his lot with quite conservative theological folks. How interesting to watch the pendulum swing.

You can watch Costi’s late-June installation at the Gilbert, Arizona, church. The link to that service is front and center on the church website. Costi himself is humble (at least he seems to be) and well-spoken. In his installation service, he speaks for a few minutes starting at the 32-minute mark, humbly accepting the call to be a pastor at the Gilbert, AZ, church.

I enjoy hearing and reading another person’s story, and Costi Hinn’s story is at once fascinating, sad and hopeful. He has respect for the Hinn clan from which he hails, and he is not particularly critical or judgmental of them in the book, although he clearly disagrees with their message and their methods. Costi shows respect for his father and his uncle Benny.

Costi is a little preachy when he explains his current theology, especially when he gets to numbering things. “10 reasons the prosperity gospel is dangerous.” “5 reasons we must understand the sovereignty of God.”.

Since Costi is just in his mid-30s, it’s clear there are many chapters of his story yet to unfold. At least I hope so, and I hope they are good chapters. I’ll be interested to see how he navigates the waters in the conservative Bible Church movement in which he is now swimming.

Final thought:

  • Though an aside, it is interesting to note how most Christian publishing houses are operating these days. They generally ask the authors to recruit a launch team that helps them promote their new book through their various social media sites and to immediately review it on Amazon. I have no idea if Zondervan asked Costi to compile such a team. I think it’s likely, as the book has been out for just a few days and already has 20 5-star reviews on Amazon. A 5-star review is the highest rating a reviewer can give a book. Costi’s is maybe a 3-star book. Still, it’s the way of publishing and marketing of new books these days. Thus, some of the 5-star reviews say, in effect, “What an outstanding read.” Or, “One of the best books I’ve read in 10 years.” That’s kind of silly, but hey, it’s the way publishers are trying to get their products out there.