Book Review: Defining Deception by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood

Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement

In their book, Defining Deception, Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood provide a behind-the-scenes look at the mystical-miracle movement. The mystical-miracle movement is a heretical movement that is filled with deviant doctrine, fueled by counterfeit miracles, and funded by false prosperity teaching. There are many men and women in this movement who pose as modern-day prophets, apostles, and miracle-workers.

At the center of all of this deviant activity is Bethel Ministries and their leader, Bill Johnson. In the book Defining Deception, Hinn and Wood do a thorough case study of Bill Johnson’s ministry, writings, sermons, and associations to reveal the danger of his doctrine. The authors accurately pinpoint Johnson as a central figure in the Third Wave or New Apostolic Reformation.

By God’s grace, Hinn and Wood approach this topic with love and pastoral care. Costi Hinn was once heavily involved in the global ministry of false teacher Benny Hinn. He now serves on staff with co-author Anthony Wood who is the pastor of Mission Bible Church in Orange County, California. Together, they have carefully and biblically exposed this particular strain of false teaching without coming across as angry or vindictive.

Defining Deception is not a hit job on Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement. It is also not an argument that all signs have ceased (a theological position known as cessationism). Instead, they are hoping that charismatics and non-charismatics will unite against those who have “turned Jesus into a commodity”.

The first chapter gives a biblical definition of miracles and briefly documents some of the abuses of Bill Johnson and Bethel Ministries. For example:

  • Bethel youth travel to rest on graves of historic leaders “sucking” their spirit.
  • Feathers and gold dust are said to miraculously fall from the ceiling during Bethel worship.
  • Bill Johnson teaches that God wants everyone healthy, and sickness is evidence of sin.

The authors compare these abuses (and others) to the desired miracle manipulation of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 and other historic examples throughout church history.

Next, Hinn and Wood profile some of the leaders in the Third Wave/NAR family tree. This section includes descriptions of the heretical teaching and practices of Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Temple McPherson, and Oral Roberts, to name a few. The authors then turn to the influence of C. Peter Wagner on Bill Johnson’s own thought and teaching. This is followed by a chapter that covers the heretical teachers Bill Johnson has chosen as his associates, including Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, and Todd White.

Finally, in the remaining chapters, Hinn and Wood expose the deceptive logic, false doctrine, and manipulative practices of Johnson and Bethel Ministries. In contrast to such false teaching, the author’s carefully present a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, and Scriptures. When placed side-by-side, this contrast between Johnson’s ministry and biblical doctrine is very stark.

When I received the advance copy of Defining Deception, I was given some context for it and told that it can be a bit technical in some places. However, it is very readable and every chapter held my attention and was written clearly and compellingly. The chapters are just over a hundred pages which is then followed by five helpful appendices that take up another fifty pages. The appendices include testimonies from those rescued from deception, a frequently asked questions section, and further information on understanding biblical tongues, the myth of being slain in the Spirit, and the answer to the question, “Can you be healed by a false teacher?”

Defining Deception is a book for today’s church. Throughout the history of the church there has always been manipulation and doctrinal deception. And there will always be a need for pastors, theologians, and thoughtful Christians to discern the Truth. Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood have risen to the challenge. The author’s unique perspective and deep theological reflection has shaped this book into what John MacArthur says, “could be one of the most important books of the decade.”


6 Habits of Highly Destructive False Teachers

Many of the nearly 350,000 pulpits in America are filled with false teachers. From doomsday prophets and prosperity hucksters to cult leaders and faith healers, there are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

false teachers

If we didn’t have family and friends caught in their deceptions; and if the way of truth wasn’t being maligned; and if false teachers weren’t destroying our society – then maybe we could just ignore them.

But the danger is real and we must “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (Jude 1:3b). We simply cannot allow dangerous doctrines and hazardous heresies to go unchallenged.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has given us a lot of guidance on how to spot false teachers. 2 Peter 2 describes false teachers, as does the parallel descriptions in the book of Jude. Many of the Old Testament prophets talk about false teachers and prophets.

The Evangelistically Healthy Church

6 Actions Leaders Can Take To Lower Their Church Conversion Ratio

On average, it takes 50 church members a year to lead one person to Jesus.

Thom Rainer suggests that an evangelistically healthy “church conversion ratio” (CCR) is about 20:1 (that is, 20 church members leading one person to Jesus per year).

Less than 5% of churches in the U.S. hit this particular target.

But is it possible to move closer to, say, a 3:1 church conversion ratio? Or (and this is really going to blow your mind), what about a 1:3 church conversion ratio?

Imagine every member in your church making at least one disciple each year! 

What would it take to get there? 

Christian, Stop Reading Your Bible!

If you are hungry, reading a recipe from a cookbook won’t fill you up.

You could read one recipe from a cookbook every day, or even read the whole thing in a year, but if you never eat, you will die.

So, if you don’t want to die, you will need to read and follow the recipe. But even more than that you will need to cook the food, serve it, sit down at the table, take a bite, and then chew that bite until it can be swallowed and digested.

Then you take another bite.

Stop Reading Your Bible

You’ll never read in the Bible that you should read the Bible.

How To Become A Disciple-Making Church

What This One Bible Verse Says Has The Power To Transform Your Church

Most churches in the United States are declining or dying. While there are a variety of reasons, the simple explanation is that many churches are not proclaiming the gospel or making disciples.

DM Church

Thankfully, the Bible gives us ample instruction and encouragement to become powerful witnesses and grow our churches once again. In fact, there’s one verse that sums up what it will take to become a disciple-making church:

Mark 4 Discussion Guide for Disciple Makers

12 More Questions To Guide A New Disciple Towards Maturity

discussion-guide-for-disciplers-markThis is the fourth post in a series of discussion guides on Mark’s Gospel that can be used by disciple makers with new disciples. These questions are intended to help a new disciple learn how to study the Bible and apply the Word to his or her life.

Click to download a free PDF of these questions.

Discussion Guide For Disciple Makers (Mark 4:1-41)

  1. [v. 1] From the last couple of chapters, what have we learned about the crowds and why they are following Jesus at this point? What is He doing to draw such large crowds?
  2. [v. 2] What is a parable? What was Jesus’ purpose in teaching the crowds in parables?
  3. [vv. 3-9] Does anything about this parable bother you? Was this the typical farming practice in the first century?
  4. [vv. 10-12] To whom is Jesus willing to reveal the “secret of the kingdom of God”? Why is He intentionally secretive with the crowds?
  5. [vv. 13-20] If you hadn’t read Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower, would you have been able to come up with these four explanations on your own? How would you explain this parable in your own words?
  6. [vv. 21-25] What is Jesus’ point about the light and standard of measure? What is the application to your life as a follower of Jesus?
  7. [vv. 26-29] What does the Parable of the Growing Seed tell us about our role in evangelism? What is God’s role?
  8. [vv. 30-32] How does the Parable of the Mustard Seed give us hope that God’s kingdom will advance?
  9. [vv. 33-34] Jesus explained everything to His own disciples. How does that inform your agenda as a disciple and as a disciple maker? Was Jesus’ secretive teaching temporary? Or should we be teaching the same way today?
  10. [vv. 35-41] How does the story about the fierce windstorm reveal Jesus as human and as divine? Why do you think Jesus’ disciples were terrified to discover Jesus’ power over the wind and waves?
  11. What is the most remarkable thing you learned about Jesus in this chapter?
  12. What does this chapter inspire you to do to be more like Jesus?

Additional Resources

You can find the other discussion guides here as they come available (about one a week): Mark 1 | Mark 2 | Mark 3 | Mark 4 | Mark 5 | Mark 6 | Mark 7 | Mark 8 | Mark 9 | Mark 10 | Mark 11 | Mark 12 | Mark 13 | Mark 14 | Mark 15 | Mark 16