Another Reformed resurgence?: Inside Costi Hinn's growing Arizona church plant

Shepherd's House Bible Church teaching pastor Costi Hinn (middle) gives a pre-service motivational message to church volunteers in July 2022.
Shepherd's House Bible Church teaching pastor Costi Hinn (middle) gives a pre-service motivational message to church volunteers in July 2022. | Dillon Phillips

"God's glory on three! One … Two … Three!"

Shepherd's House Bible Church volunteers were circled-up to hear their teaching pastor, Costi Hinn, delivering his pre-game, pre-service speech.

"God's glory!" shouted the group of 60 volunteers. It was 45 minutes until the first service would begin at the Chandler, Arizona, church plant. Most had arrived earlier — including a team who arrived at 5:30 a.m. to unload a trailer containing everything from the church stage to the foam mats for children's church — and they all were ready to go.

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From the get-go, it became clear that this wasn't a typical Reformed church plant.

Shepherd's House Bible Church, planted by Redeemer Bible Church in February 2022, in Chandler meets at Valley Christian High School. The church is pastored by Hinn, a well-known pastor who has been given influence after renouncing the prosperity gospel ministry of his uncle, world-renowned televangelist Benny Hinn.

Several factors contribute to the unorthodox nature of this church, ranging from the dress to its musical worship style. Hinn left the prosperity gospel glamour to pursue a very different ministerial route, which has led to this new church plant.

"I wear Nike high tops because we're a church plant, and I'm on my feet for nine hours straight, so I don't need to be in dress shoes," Hinn said, leaning back against the treatment table in the Valley Christian coaches' office. "I wear button-ups and not a suit because it's 112 degrees right now in Arizona. I preach sound doctrine because Paul said, 'preach the word.'"

A critic might assume that Hinn only uses his platform to criticize prosperity theology. If one were to search "Costi Hinn" online, they would have no problem finding coverage of Hinn's views on this.

"Google my name and find all sorts of spicy headlines," Hinn said. "But you could walk with me through a day in the life and be in the most enjoyable meetings and discipleship culture you have seen."

Perhaps the "discipleship culture" is overlooked because fighting wolves makes headlines, and feeding sheep doesn't. Underneath all the headlines spotlighting Hinn's righteous indignation is a pastor of a local church that desires to live the simple life of feeding the sheep.

"I always chuckle at those who say,' all he does is criticize ... all he does is attack his uncle,'" Hinn said. "That's when I know people don't know me and they've never entered our church context. The people here are always confused by statements like that because they're the ones who are here and they know there's much more to our church's ministry than that," Hinn said.

Citing the Apostle Paul's example, Hinn believes in the need for a "balanced diet" in ministry — consisting of fighting wolves and feeding sheep, discerning and encouraging. He also recognized his imperfections in his spiritual growth process.

Even though Hinn has about as much credibility as one could have in addressing the prosperity gospel, his desires come from a different angle.

"I only do that because I love the Gospel," Hinn said. "I only do it because I love Jesus. I only do that because I love people. I don't like to fight for fighting sake. I don't like war just to go to war. I'm not trying to win arguments. I want to win people."

Hinn starts his church planting days at 6:00-6:30 a.m. in "quiet time with the Lord" based on an old motto that he learned from mentor, theologian and fellow pastor Steven Lawson, that "an hour in the morning is worth three in the afternoon."

After that, Hinn's days consist of prayer, sermon prep and meeting with church leaders and volunteers — seeking to further the mission and vision of Shepherd's House in any way he can.

Occasionally, a trip to Orange County is thrown into the mix to film a dozen or so videos for his media ministry, For the Gospel. But on an ordinary day of church planting, Hinn makes it an effort to be home at around 4:30-5:00 p.m. for "dinner, family worship, family devotions," as well as helping his wife put their kids to sleep.

Another key difference to this church plant can be found in its leadership's priorities. Despite being a full-time husband, dad, pastor and seminary student, Shepherd's House Pastor of Family and Discipleship Brett McIntosh still views his wife and children as his "first ministry." Hinn couldn't agree more.

"I've always wondered, especially coming from the prosperity gospel side — where we're obsessed with work, ministry, money, people, fame and building everything — how important it is to think about this," Hinn said. "Part of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 includes managing your house well. If you build this big ministry and lose your family in the process, but everyone praises you for building something, you're still actually not qualified."

To say Hinn and McIntosh are close would be an understatement. Their children play together as they live life together. Their wives, both pregnant, are due within five days of each other.

The leadership chemistry of Hinn and McIntosh is remarkable. Their history goes back to Southern California, where they both became co-laborers, side by side, in the ministry. This is the third church that Hinn and McIntosh are pastoring at together.

The similarities between the two men are uncanny, including playing college baseball simultaneously, never facing each other in a game — but even playing against some of the same players. McIntosh's aspirations changed after he was saved. He went from a college student working as a Los Angeles Dodgers grounds crew member with a master's in kinesiology to pastoring at Mission Bible Church in Costa Mesa, California.

Other ministries have been criticized for building their churches solely around their high-profile teachers. This is not the case for Shepherd's House. Each facet of ministry has its own essential head — all overseen by McIntosh. With that in mind, the most unlikely places have a unique sense of culture.

The Shepherd's House parking team consists of a tight-knit group of men in their early 20s, directing cars in the blazing heat while having fun in straw hats. Because of their exclusive Shepherd's House straw hats and polos, their leader, Tallon, joked about needing the biggest budget in the church.

Members of the Shepherd's House parking team take down signs during the church's final service in July 2022.
Members of the Shepherd's House parking team take down signs during the church's final service in July 2022. | Dillon Phillips

Another distinguishing factor of the church is that they have a different approach to children's and youth ministry than most other churches.

In children's church, they don't shy away from difficult Bible stories, including teaching on Sodom and Gomorrah and the book of Job. And in the teen's ministry, the youth pay close attention to 20-minute sermons, taking notes intently, as they learn about topics such as grace and God's law.

Being different has its challenges, but McIntosh has learned to walk in the tension of the sovereignty of God and the hustle and bustle of church planting.

"In terms of the sovereignty of God, if I'm relying upon my own strength and my own wisdom, I'm in disobedience," McIntosh said. "But I'm also in disobedience if I'm going, 'Oh well, God is sovereign. I'm just going to kick my feet back and let things happen.'"

"The sovereignty of God is essential because I'm trusting in His plan, not just for my own life, but for the people in ministry to do it as well. So, with the balance of all those things every day, every day is a good day in ministry," he added. "I don't just say that because it's a stereotypical pastoral answer; I really think that way. It's walking with the guy who's going through a divorce, but then also rejoicing with the new convert."

Hinn and McIntosh are not the only ones in church leadership expecting.

Nathan Howard, SHBC's music director, and his wife (who helps lead musical worship) are expecting a little one as well. Howard explained SHBC's thorough process of creating a worship set for each weekend. Each song is reviewed for doctrinal accuracy.

"When we're picking songs out, the first thing that we do is look at where they're coming from," Howard said. "We look to see if they're coming from a music group that's associated with a church or is sponsored by a specific church, to make sure they are not actively teaching heresies on primary issues."

Shepherd's House Bible Church Music Director Nathan Howard
Shepherd's House Bible Church Music Director Nathan Howard | Dillon Phillips

These primary issues, according to Howard, do not include differing opinions on topics such as continuationism versus cessationism but are more along the lines of a faulty Christology or a heretical view of the nature of God and human beings. Where many churches emphasize musical worship as one-on-one time with God, Howard finds his convictions as a worship leader flowing in a different direction.

"The command of the New Testament for music and for the Church is to come together in singing, described as 'addressing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' so that, yes, we are supposed to have this direct response to God in singing," Howard said. "It's not just you by yourself zoning out — only having this personal one-on-one time with God. The reason we're here together is so we can hear each other singing the truth of God."

The mid-2000s to early 2010s were permeated by the growth of similar Reformed churches.

The movement received the name "Young, Restless, Reformed" after a book by Collin Hansen. Since the book's release, many prominent leaders have stepped down from their ministries due to scandals or similar controversies.

Seeing the shortcomings of leaders in the movement, one might wonder if there is any possibility for another Reformed resurgence. Hinn believes that regardless of whether Reformed doctrine hits the mainstream again, believers must stand firm in their convictions.

"This is not a 'Young, Restless, Reformed' church," Hinn said. "It's a church where I simply preach the Bible. Being rooted in sound doctrine, we call the church to a high bar of holiness because we're set apart."

Costi Hinn (right) preaches a message on Ephesians to his congregation in the Valley Christian High School Gym in July 2022.
Costi Hinn (right) preaches a message on Ephesians to his congregation in the Valley Christian High School Gym in July 2022. | Dillon Phillips

With no suits, ties or dress shoes in sight, one might wonder if the Shepherd's House setting is too contemporary.

"If there is a resurgence of passion for sound doctrine and Reformed theology, I'd hope that It comes with an emphasis on holiness and sanctification," Hinn said. "At the same time, I hope it does not come with the stigma of 'it must look like suits and ties and old hymns, and you cannot raise your hands.' Both are ditches. In the Young, Restless, Reformed 1.0, it was the Gospel and Reformed theology, but only because it was cool, and holiness wasn't prioritized."

Emphasizing holiness hasn't changed Shepherd's House's growth. The church started with an average attendance of 150 members in February and grew 215% to a weekly attendance average of 473 people in July. With this in mind, Hinn doesn't rule out a possibility of a Reformed resurgence, but he is very cautious about its potential.

"What if the culture does something else, and it's not cool?" Hinn said. "Great! We'll be losers for Christ. What if everybody is pumped about this now and there's a resurgence? Great! Let's preach Christ."

Hinn views the Bible as the foundational key for the Church to navigate through the future.

"What if we just filtered every decision through Scripture instead of the traditions of men or the winds of culture? Culture is always changing, and Scripture never does, so I just want to be following Scripture."

Regardless of whatever other churches do, Hinn has one goal for his church.

"My prayer is that truth and time will tell a greater story — which really is about what God does to build His Church."

Dillon Phillips is a freelance journalist currently pursuing a graduate degree at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. Graduating from Colorado State University and majoring in journalism for his undergrad, Dillon enjoys working on various projects in his free time — reporting on stories surrounding God’s faithfulness in building His Church. 

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