The nephew of Benny Hinn, who is a pastor in Southern California, has shared practical advice for how Christians should engage with loved ones who are caught up in false teaching — like his uncle's prosperity theology.
Costi Hinn, who rejected the teaching of his "Uncle Benny" after working alongside him for years, recently told Todd Friel, host of the Wretched podcast, that he was able to see the hypocrisy in the prosperity gospel after witnessing the authentic faith of his Baptist friends.
"I remember watching their lives," he said. "I had relationships, and as I observed them live out their faith, I couldn't find a lot of holes. There was pursuit of holiness, there was love for Christ, there was a passion for the Gospel. It was so different than me that at first I thought, 'Oh, they don't have the Holy Spirit.' But as I began to see the fruit in their lives, I'm going, 'Wow, maybe I'm missing something.' And I started to question."
Instead of berating him with insults and "flame-throwing," Hinn said his Baptist friends simply asked him questions.
"They didn't say, 'Hey, you know your uncle's a heretic and you know you're unsaved, right?' While there might be a moment for that, there were questions," he said. "They would say, 'Costi, I got a question for you. What was going through your mind during those crusades?' Or 'What are your thoughts on your uncle in the ministry? Did you ever have any concerns?' Asking questions so I could be talking and begin to verbally process things I'd already thought, but nobody had ever given me a safe place to discuss."
Hinn, who is now an executive pastor at The Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California, clarified that there are times when it's necessary to keep "the worst of the worst, the heretics, at a bit of arm's length and pray for them, but we don't need to be going for Sunday brunch with them and muddying the waters."
However, there is a clear model in the Bible for keeping relationships with people for the purpose of evangelism, Hinn contended.
"I want to keep that bridge up," he said. "Flame-throwing and being angry and going ad-hom on arguments and character assaults of my unsaved or charismatic friends or third-wave followers is not going to get me anywhere."
The Bible gives instruction on how to address loved ones who are caught up in false or misleading teaching, Hinn said, referencing Jude 22-23. The passage states, "Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."
"I've let my Uncle Benny be in that third category," he said. "I have mercy on him with fear. I'm very concerned for his salvation, I want him to be saved, I hate the sin, I hate the prosperity gospel, but I don't hate him. I want to see him saved."
Still, there are others who need to be "snatched from the fire," Hinn said, but it's impossible to do so "if I have spent my time with people insulting them and debating foolish controversies and spending too much time in vain wrangling."
"I'm not going to get the opportunity to be the one to harvest that soul," he explained. "God will use somebody else, because He's gonna save who He's gonna save, but we have to make sure we are keeping those relational bridges up. When people are ripe for the picking, I want to be ready. I want to have relationships with people who know they can come to me. So we need to keep our doors open and our Bibles open and our hearts and ears open."
Pointing to Jude's emphasis on mercy, Hinn cautioned Christians against coming at their loved ones with "aggression and condescending rhetoric."
"We need to be careful and ask questions and learn to keep our emotions in check and speak the truth in love," he said. "You gotta live in the tension. On one hand, we are responsible for sharing the truth. On the other hand, we don't control salvation. God does. He's the author and finisher of it. He'll do it. And He'll do it in His good time. But we need to remember how inferior we are to Him. We are truth bearers and truth-tellers, but we aren't the originator and author of salvation."
A relationship, Hinn added, isn't a "one-way lashing."
"I need to be able to relate to people," he said. "The New Testament doesn't just come in to reprove and rebuke and exhort. There's a gentleness and patience to what Paul was saying to Timothy as well."
Previously, 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). He, along with his uncle, lived a lavish life complete with private jets, palatial mansions and fancy cars.
To justify his lavish lifestyle, Benny Hinnn used "twisted" theology, his nephew explained.
"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. 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."
His comments on the Wretched podcast come one day before his uncle admitted in a Facebook live video that he took the prosperity gospel "too far."
The controversial televangelist said that as he has grown older and come to understand the Bible more, he now realizes that some of the things he's touted in the past aren't necessarily biblical.
"We get attacked for preaching prosperity, well it's in the Bible, but I think some have gone to the extreme with it sadly, and it's not God's word what is taught and I think I'm as guilty as others. Sometimes you go a little farther than you really need to go and then God brings you back to normality and reality," Benny Hinn said.
"I was influenced by the preachers who taught whatever they taught. But as I've lived longer I'm thinking wait a minute, you know this doesn't fit totally with the Bible and it doesn't fit with the reality."
The 65-year-old televangelist noted that he no longer flies in private jets and instead has been flying commercial for years.
"It's time to live biblically," he said. "You know it all comes down to one thing. Do we love Jesus, yes or no? If we love Jesus then it's all about Jesus. If we don't love Jesus then it's about other things."
Correction: June 14, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Todd White is the host of the Wretched podcast. The host is Todd Friel.