By Tawia Acheampong, a writer from Accra, Ghana
The news of Benny Hinn’s public rejection and renunciation of the prosperity gospel has been hailed as a watershed moment within Evangelical Christianity.
However, it remains to be seen whether his “correction of theology” will be equally embraced by the multitude of prosperity preachers permeating Africa, many of whom regard Hinn as a mentor.
Last week, Pastor Benny Hinn admitted the controversial teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth through the “sowing of seeds” is actually unbiblical and “an offence to the Holy Spirit”.
Hinn, once known as one of the most aggressive promoters of the prosperity gospel, told viewers during a live broadcast: “I don’t want to get to Heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we say it like it is: The Gospel is not for sale. Healing is not for sale. Prosperity is not for sale.”
His public reversal on the issue comes in the wake of his nephew, Costi Hinn – who once worked and travelled with him – releasing a damning book titled God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel.
Costi described working in the “Hinn dynasty” as a fusion of “royal family” flamboyancy and “mafia” secrecy, detailing how money faithfully given to the ministry was squandered on mansions, private jets and fast cars and loyalty cherished above honesty.
However, irrespective of the wide-ranging opinions about Hinn and his legitimacy, his influence in the new generation of African preachers is undeniable.
In recent years, Hinn held several high-profile events with Nigerian Pastor Chris Oyakhilome – also a known proponent of the prosperity gospel and faith-healing – the duo even launching a new television network in the US.
He has also held public meetings with Nigerian prosperity preachers Ayo Oritsejafor and Biodun Fatoyinbo (currently in the eye of the storm for multiple accusations of rape and sexual impropriety), Ghanaian Bishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams and Zimbabwean Prophet Uebert Angel.
His style of message and ministration can be seen mirrored by charismatic preachers throughout the continent, with the fixation on “seed faith” championed by the likes of Matthew Ashimolowo, Funke Adejumo and David Oyedepo.
A large portion of Pentecostal church services in Africa is usually dedicated to the collection of offerings and reports of pastors taking money in exchange for prayers and prophecy are rampant.
News and views about the flamboyant lifestyle of African “men of God” dominate gossip sites and social media, with pastors often competing to join the richest list as if material assets somehow equalled spiritual validity.
While many African believers have been vocal in their support of Hinn’s announcement on Facebook (albeit some doubting its sincerity), most pastors have been conspicuously silent.
“Nigerian and African ‘pastorprenuers’, Benny Hinn has told you the bitter truth,” opined Otunba Oliseh on Facebook. “Stop collecting illegal money from your church members!”
“Benny is finally coming to the light! I believe he is watching TB Joshua – one of the only African preachers I know who makes it clear the Gospel is not for sale,”penned Kato Gabakaiwe from Botswana.
Others called on Hinn to back up his repentance with restitution. “If Benny Hinn is genuinely rejecting the prosperity gospel, he needs to do what Zacchaeus did and pay back anyone he has cheated out of their money,”wrote Rich Colon, an African-American, on Twitter.
While Hinn’s recent turnaround is indeed commendable, it appears the damage is done to the African church as the manipulative teachings he once championed will not be quickly undone.
There are indeed genuine ministers of the Gospel in Africa but those who prey on the gullible with a focus on financial incentives are likely to be unmoved by Hinn’s remorse, lest their “business” suffers additional loss.