The nephew of Benny Hinn, who is a pastor in Southern California, is criticizing his uncle's prosperity theology and teaching, explaining how it cost him personally as a member of the Hinn family. The theology his uncle espouses is "twisted," he said.
In an HLN exclusive interview with Carol Costello, Costi Hinn described growing up in the Hinn family as a hybrid of being a "royal family" (lavish riches) and the "mafia" (strict enforcement of the mafia).
"You keep to your own, you defend your own. You never, ever, regardless of what the truth might be, do anything to harm or expose at the expense of family. It's just a tight-knit, tight-lipped community," Hinn explained.
He recounted that the first time he ever said anything publicly about his family — as people had been asking — he got a phone call from a family member who told him "you need to pipe down, don't talk about family."
Hinn further explained that the luxurious way of life that he had was "living the dream," with flights on a G4 or G5 private gulfstream airliners, layovers in Monte Carlo, and stays in a fancy hotel suites that cost $25,000 per night.
Costello asked Hinn how they justified preaching the message of Jesus, who was not a wealthy man, with such a lavish lifestyle.
The theology they used was "twisted," he replied.
"If you take the Bible and you take what Jesus taught and you take some of the promises of heaven and the riches of heaven and the wonderful glories of heaven and you make them a now thing, then you really have a model for your best life now."
"That's really not the heartbeat of Christianity," he continued, "the heartbeat of Christianity is, if you have wealth, you want to be generous and rich in good works. If God has blessed you with a lot, you have a great responsibility."
Conversely, if one is poor, he added, God still loves you and has a purpose for your life, and in your poverty He is still with you; and the hope of Heaven is much greater than worldly riches and temporary earthly pleasures.
The heart of prosperity preaching is a formulaic prescription, that if you do certain things you will become wealthy and that is what God wants, he explained. This approach to Christianity fails poor people in impoverished nations who are doing all the steps to become rich and show up and give the last of their money to prosperity preachers in hopes that they will receive material blessings.
"You put a guy on a platform in a real nice suit in a very beautiful auditorium and he'll tell a whole bunch of Americans, 'if you do this, and do this, and do this, you'll get this.' And God is like your magic genie," Hinn said.
"If you rub Him right and do all the right things, your bank's going to grow, you're going to get that promotion, you're going to get that woman that you want to marry, that perfect man, your life is going to be perfect, because that's what God wants for you."
But when that does not happen for people, people get hurt, he said.
"Real pastors and real churches have to stand up and say 'No, that is not Christianity. That's not what the Bible teaches.'"
Hinn told Costello he is "disgusted" with his former self, but thankfully the power of the Gospel became real, and the Gospel includes the good news of hope and the bad news of the reality of sin.
"Our job as preachers and pastors is to give the whole story," Hinn said.
"It's bad news. I was greedy. I was very ambitious for all the wrong things. We were teaching things that were wrong. We were taking advantage of [people], exploiting the poor, using our greed, squeezing every last dollar out of people so we could live the way they could never," while using Jesus to do that, he explained.
But the Gospel is also good news, he would come to find out.
"Jesus died to forgive my sins. He loves me just the way I am in all my mess and all my greed. And if I commit to a change He'll meet me right where I am. And He did. He changed my heart and I just had no taste for it anymore. I did not want that life."
Benny Hinn is reportedly not happy with him, and their relationship is limited, he said. But he hopes that he gets a call from his uncle one day and will spend the next 10 years of his life showing people what the grace of God really is.
Costi Hinn is now an executive pastor at The Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California.