After a crashing overture that was part rock 'n' roll and part angelic choir, mega-preacher Benny Hinn strode onto a stage at the Pepsi Center Thursday night in his trademark white Nehru suit and a message the packed house was waiting for:
"Listen, no matter what you're going through, you're coming out of it! I said, no matter what!"
It's a message that's turned the 52-year-old Texas-based evangelist into one of the best known of the current slate, and, some say, No. 1 when it comes to miraculous healings.
Hinn is in Denver for a two-day Miracle Crusade, which concludes each night with mass testimonies of eyes and ears opened, limbs liberated, and a phenomenon that followers affectionately call "the parting of the Red Sea."
"He sweeps his hands over the crowd, just like the parting of the Red Sea, and everybody falls over - the whole first section," marvels the Rev. George McHendry, a Denver pastor who enjoys Hinn's showmanship but also believes "genuine miracles take place."
The mass collapse, or "slaying in the spirit," indicates a supernatural healing, believers say, and it seems to happen with regularity around Hinn.
"Sometimes people get close to him and it explodes through him - though of course it's not him but Jesus Christ," said Richard Kelly, a painting contractor who came from Colorado Springs hoping for relief from a chronic back problem.
Denver is the latest stop for Hinn's 30-year-old ministry, which has reached 1 billion people in 200 countries, according to Hinn's official biography.
The son of Greek Orthodox immigrants to Tel Aviv, Israel, Hinn migrated to Canada and then the U.S., where he said he was cured miraculously of a severe stutter, and embarked on what his biography calls a "lifelong adventure in pursuit of a divine destiny."
Around Hinn, controversy swirls as flamboyantly as the persona he projects on his revival-style TV program This is Your Day! and his on-the-road crusades.
In garb that ranges from natty suits to Nehru jackets to vaguely Roman-style collars, Hinn entrances crowds with assurances that he has directly communicated with the Holy Spirit. On stage, he'll pause from preaching to swing around and direct the choir like a maestro.
And always, the message: "I don't care what the doctors have said to you," he thundered as some sobbed and waved their arms aloft. "Doctors are men and women, and we're talking about God here!"
The health of the ministry's finances has attracted the scrutiny of the IRS, according to a recent article in The Dallas Morning News. Ronn Torossian, a Hinn spokesman, said Thursday the IRS' interest is part of a routine, ongoing sampling of nonprofits, and the ministry has fully cooperated.
Before the event, Hinn's fans browsed among the line of faith items for sale, including a $75 leather Bible color-coded with Hinn's favorite verses.
As pastor of a cozy 100-member church in Denver, McHendry harbors no envy for his astonishingly successful counterpart on stage. Sure, he chuckled, "When he lines up the wheelchairs and they're all shiny, and now the people can walk - c'mon, Benny. But I think that showmanship is necessary to reach some people for God."