Almost 15 years ago, on a shoreline outside of Athens, Greece, I stood confident in my relationship with the Lord and my ministry trajectory. I was traveling the world on a private Gulfstream jet doing “gospel” ministry and enjoying every luxury money could buy. After a comfortable flight and my favorite meal (lasagna) made by our personal chef, we prepared for a ministry trip by resting at The Grand Resort: Lagonissi. Boasting my very own ocean-view villa, complete with private pool and over 2,000 square feet of living space, I perched on the rocks above the water’s edge and rejoiced in the life I was living. After all, I was serving Jesus Christ and living the abundant life he promised.
Little did I know that this coastline was part of the Aegean Sea—the same body of water the apostle Paul sailed while spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was just one problem: We weren’t preaching the same gospel as Paul.
Growing up in the Hinn family empire was like belonging to some hybrid of the royal family and the mafia. Our lifestyle was lavish, our loyalty was enforced, and our version of the gospel was big business. Though Jesus Christ was still a part of our gospel, he was more of a magic genie than the King of Kings. Rubbing him the right way—by giving money and having enough faith—would unlock your spiritual inheritance. God’s goal was not his glory but our gain. His grace was not to set us free from sin but to make us rich. The abundant life he offered wasn’t eternal, it was now. We lived the prosperity gospel.
My father pastored a small church in Vancouver, British Columbia. During my teenage years, he would travel nearly twice a month with my uncle, Benny Hinn. Prosperity theology paid amazingly well. We lived in a 10,000-square-foot mansion guarded by a private gate, drove two Mercedes Benz vehicles, vacationed in exotic destinations, and shopped at the most expensive stores. On top of that, we bought a $2 million ocean-view home in Dana Point, California, where another Benz joined the fleet. We were abundantly blessed.
Throughout those years we faced countless criticisms from both inside and outside the church. Dateline NBC, The Fifth Estate (a Canadian news program), and other shows did investigative work. Well-known ministry leaders took to the airwaves warning people about our teachings, and local pastors told their congregations to steer clear of pulpits filled by a “Hinn.” At the time, I believed we were being persecuted like Jesus and Paul, and that our critics were just jealous of our blessings.
Within the family, we didn’t tolerate criticism. One day I asked my father if we could go heal my friend from school who had lost her hair due to cancer. He replied that we should pray for her at home rather than going to heal her. I thought to myself, Shouldn’t we be doing what the apostles did if we have the same gift? At that point, I didn’t question our ability to heal, but doubts began to stir about our motives. We only did healings in the crusades, where music created the atmosphere, money changed hands, and people approached us with the “right” amount of faith.
Other doubts would surface. What about unsuccessful healing attempts? I learned that it was the sick person’s fault for doubting God. Why would we speak in tongues without interpretation? “Don’t quench the Spirit,” I was told. “He can do what he wants.” Why did many of our prophecies contradict the Bible? “Don’t put God in a box.” Despite the questions, I trusted my family because we were so successful. Tens of thousands of people followed us, millions packed stadiums annually to hear my uncle. We healed the sick, performed miracles, rubbed elbows with celebrities, and got incredibly wealthy. God must be on our side!