Costi Hinn once lived a life of luxury, touring around the world with his infamous uncle, prosperity preacher Benny Hinn. As an eager young man, he worked as an usher at the sprawling crusade events — or in his words, “carried around uncle Benny’s Louis Vuitton bag.”
As he grew older, Costi left his uncle’s problematic theology beyond, but he never lost his faith. Today, he serves as Executive Pastor at Mission Bible Church in Tustin, California. He even shepherds the church’s finances — something he admits is “ironic for a prosperity preacher guy.”
Costi Hinn’s journey from a charismatic belief in “health and wealth” theology to a less glamorous devotion to biblical scriptures did not take place overnight. Once heavily embroiled in the prosperity gospel or “word of faith” movement, Costi embarked on a whirlwind voyage of Biblical exploration, eventually concluding that the gospel his own uncle preached was ultimately heretical.
In a recent interview with minister Justin Peters, Costi opened up about his extraordinary journey.
“We lived the dream. Expensive hotels, cars, travel. The biggest being that ‘Jesus provided all of that.’ You didn’t touch the Lord’s anointed … we revered our leaders,” he explained. “We believed that we were part of an anointed heritage of leaders — they were all men of God. They could heal and operate in the five-fold ministry: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher.”
During his college years, Costi began to travel with his uncle Benny. He decided to take a year off and “sow” into his future, trusting God for success.
“The reason I took a year off was because that’s how you sow a seed of faithfulness for what you want,” he explained. “For me, I played baseball in Canada. It was hard to get from Canada to the U.S. as a baseball player. I thought ‘it’s a long shot but I think I can do it.'”
God is Your Magic Genie
Costi believed that if he could only play his cards right, God would do absolutely anything for him.
“I thought the ultimate door here would be to work for my uncle Benny, to put God first, and God would open a door,” he explained. “That’s how it works in the prosperity gospel movement — God is your magic genie. You rub him right, you do the right things. Give right, serve right, make decisions right, believe right, think right, and you’ll get what you want.”
“I worked for my uncle for well over a year,” he continued. “We would go to London, Australia, Greece, Israel, preaching our version of Christ. I carried his Louis Vuitton briefcase. I stayed in his hotel rooms in places like Dubai. The royal suite there was a $25,000-a-night bill, along with the other suites that we had.”
Hinn candidly admitted to Peters that he was young and “liked all the perks” that came with the ministry trips. But that feeling didn’t last long, and things quickly took a turn.
“Along the way I got big questions in my mind,” Costi explained. “Like why certain prophecies didn’t come through. And why would mass amounts of people speak in tongues? The bottom line is, when you see a whole bunch of people speaking in babble … you look in the Bible and you go ‘well, I don’t know what that is.'”
Things were not adding up for a young and inquisitive Costi. He recalled meeting a young girl with a severe deformity and being utterly baffled at the fact she did not get healed.
“They brought her to the back. We prayed for her, my uncle prayed for her. I was bawling my eyes out later that night saying ‘God why didn’t you heal her?! Everyone was supposed to get healed,” he explained.
Costi noted how his uncle Benny would often declare that “everyone would be healed” at his vast crusade events and that once, Benny even insisted that Jesus was going to physically appear during a massive gathering in Kenya.
“You want that when you’re in it. I was a charismatic to the core,” Costi explained. “I wanted those experiences. I wanted it to be real, because Jesus could heal and solve all these problems. When he didn’t, the God I believed in and the God of the Bible were against one another. The Bible said one thing, our theology said a different thing. We used the Bible and twisted it to match our version of God. Ultimately, I was very confused.”
Then, things really began to unravel for Hinn. The gap between what he was reading in the Bible and what his famous uncle was teaching began to widen dramatically.
“It was something I would think about but lightly question,” he said. “So I would hint to my Dad ‘Hey, why didn’t this happen?’ One friend had cancer in high school. I just thought ‘Let’s pray for her, we’ll get her healed.'”
Costi was shocked when the family and friends that surrounded him suggested that because this girl’s family did not belong to the same denomination as them, it was unlikely they would be able to “tap in” to supernatural healing power.
“It got really weird,” Costi explained. “Why aren’t we being the hands and feet of Christ?”
“And yet we couldn’t unless there was money and music and atmosphere,” he added. “So there were big questions.”
Costi recalled how his uncle came out with some extraordinarily offensive and controversial remarks during his ministry. When he would question some of these, he was told “don’t put God in a box, don’t touch the Lord’s anointed,” adding that the “ultimate safety net under it all is ‘well, we are fallible men, we are sinners, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t anointed.'”
“There is a lot of twisted hermeneutics that go into the excuses. My questions didn’t get answered,” he said.
Costi went on to attend Dallas Baptist University, where he says a sports coach completely changed his theological outlook.
“He begins to just plant ‘seed bombs,'” Costi said, in reference to the “seed faith” theology of his uncle. “They were gospel bombs getting dropped in my life. One of them was the sovereignty of God.”
“After being discipled there for DBU, I go on to graduate and meet a girl,” Hinn continued.
The only problem was, his girlfriend was not from a rich family — a big issue for wealth-obsessed relatives.
“One of my family members came to me and said ‘God spoke to me last night in a dream — she’s not your wife.'” Costi added.
His family was also concerned that the girl did not speak in tongues, a sign that she was not “filled with the spirit.”
“My Baptist education taught me you can’t tell people they are not saved, you can’t tell people they’re not filled, they’re not baptized by the Holy Spirit if they don’t speak in tongues,” Costi explained. “Biblically there is one baptism — we’re baptized into the body of Christ at conversion — Paul was really clear about that.”
As Costi continued to study scripture for himself, he came to some startling conclusions.
“You can’t tell everyone to speak in tongues. You just can’t,” he said, referencing 1 Corinthians 12:29-30.
“So a domino went down, and all of a sudden another one and another one,” Hinn explained. “You can’t force everyone to speak in tongues. There are no second-class citizens in Christ. That was another truth-bomb.”
Costi went on to join a new church plant under pastor Anthony Wood that was initially called “Moment Church.”
“We were very trendy,” he laughed. “We were a lot attractional. The church planted out of the kinda entrepreneurial, megachurch vibe. You can imagine, that’s not the way we are now. So, there’s a whole other story there. But the Lord was doing a mighty work and we were maturing.”
Costi explained how refreshing it was to be treated as a normal follower of Christ, without being limited by his name and the connotations it had in relation to the prosperity movement.
“People often asked pastor Tony, ‘what are you doing hiring the Hinn kid?'” he laughed.
“I was a young guy — my wife and I was connected with the congregation, and they thought, ‘Hey, we need a youth guy. Costi’s pretty passionate, seems to want more of the word. Bring him out!'”
“Pastor Tony could care less what my name was,” Costi added. “That was a big kicker for me.”
As his church began to develop, Costi began his theological training and was given a passage to teach on, John 5: “The Healing at the Pool of Bethseda.” He was handed a John MacArthur commentary. At one point, MacArthur was an arch-enemy of Benny Hinn due to his secessionist beliefs about the work of the Holy Spirit in the modern age.
“That’s who my uncle wanted to get his Holy Spirit machine gun and blow his head off with,” Costi explained.
As he read MacArthur’s commentary, he was re-introduced to that “truth-bomb” of God’s sovereignty.
“One of the cruelest lies of faith healers today is that if you just have enough faith, God will heal. He begins to commentate that God is sovereign in healing. There comes back the sovereignty seed, the truth bomb from my coach,” he recalled. “I just began to cry. I was done for.”
Watch the full interview above and check out more about Mission Bible Church here.