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Investigation: Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi Engaged in ‘Systemic Pattern’ of ‘Controlling Behavior’ & ‘Abuse’

By Julie Roys
Mike Pilavachi
Mike Pilavachi speaks at Southlands Church in Brea, Calif., in 2018. (Source: Twitter)

Soul Survivor co-founder, Mike Pilavachi, engaged in a “systemic pattern of coercive and controlling behavior,” leading to “inappropriate relationships, the physical wrestling of youths and massaging of young male interns,” an investigation has found.

The results of the four-month investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) and the diocese of St Albans were announced Wednesday in a statement posted online. The “substantiated concerns” about Pilavachi included “abuse of power,” “spiritual abuse,” and “emotional and psychological abuse.” According to the statement, the abuse spanned Pilavachi’s 40 years in ministry, both before and after his ordination in 2012.

Pilavachi, who’s 65, co-founded the popular Soul Survivor youth festivals in the U.K., which regularly attracted 30,000 people from around the world from 1993—2019. He also served as an associate pastor at Soul Survivor Watford, an Anglican Church in a northwest suburb of London, but resigned in July amid mounting pressure.

The allegations concerning Pilavachi first became public last May. Numerous victims alleged that the popular pastor abused them and ran “a cult.” Among those alleging harm was Grammy-award-winning worship leader and the other co-founder of Soul Survivor, Matt Redman.

According to Wednesday’s statement, Pilavachi has now resigned his license and can no longer minister in the Church of England. The statement added that Pilavachi is also the target of another investigation concerning a “safeguarding concern post ordination.”

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soul survivor pilavachi
Soul Survivor Conference in summer 2018. (Photo via Facebook)

The Bishop of St. Albans, Alan Smith, acknowledged the harm Pilavachi caused and apologized in the statement.

“This has been a painful process for everyone involved, going back over years,” Smith stated. “I am sorry on behalf of the Church for the hurt caused and would like to acknowledge the courage of those who came forward to share their lived experience.”

Similarly, Soul Survivor Watford issued a statement, apologizing to those harmed by Pilavachi.

“We are deeply sorry to all those people who have been victims of spiritual, emotional and psychological abuse, physical wrestling and massage under Mike’s leadership,” the church said. “. . . We are saddened that these behaviours happened in a context that should have provided safety and spiritual support. We are committed to learning lessons from what has happened and to put in place further practices and procedures that will seek to ensure this kind of behaviour does not happen in the future.”

soul survivor watford pilavachi
Soul Survivor Watford in Watford, England. (Photo via social media)

Soul Survivor Watford also announced that it has commissioned Fiona Scolding KC to conduct an independent review, now that the NST’s investigation has concluded. The church said Scolding’s report will be published “in full” and the church trustees “are committed to implementing her recommendations.”

Some have alleged that leadership for both Soul Survivor Watford and the related youth festival, Soul Survivor, knew about Pilavachi’s behavior for decades, but failed to act.

andy croft
Andy Croft (Video screengrab)

Soul Survivor Watford’s statement added that its senior pastor, Andy Croft, remains suspended while the process by the Church of England “runs its course.”

However, it also said safeguarding concerns raised about Assistant Pastor Ali Martin, who was also suspended, have not been substantiated, and Martin will return to ministry.

The Church of England’s statement said that concerns relating to an unnamed “former senior church of England leader linked with Soul Survivor Festivals are ongoing.”

The church encouraged anyone who would like to speak to investigators to email [email protected].

Julie Roys is a veteran investigative reporter and founder of The Roys Report. She also previously hosted a national talk show on the Moody Radio Network, called Up for Debate, and has worked as a TV reporter for a CBS affiliate. Her articles have appeared in numerous periodicals. 



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2 thoughts on “Investigation: Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi Engaged in ‘Systemic Pattern’ of ‘Controlling Behavior’ & ‘Abuse’”

  1. I had watched this man, and as someone late to the Word of God it was so plain to see this man’s behaviour it was so obvious I couldn’t bear to watch, and the others involved with this in my humble opinion should all step down they have turned a blind eye or joined in, it is sickening and dose nothing to help bring the gospel to people, anyone out side of the church would be able to see this man’s game. I really Love Jesus but I can’t find anything in the Bible that says we should be cowardly door mats. Please enlighten me if it dose. I it heartbreaking to see SO So many abusers through Julie’s work coming to light. At least she is not a coward. Still waiting for John MacArthur to appolizes to Julie and the lady he abused by expecting her to put her life and the life of her children on the line to protect Grace church. I am feeling angry now, we are but filthy sinners but I had no idea how bad it was in the churches, not to meantion the world. But we in Christ are not surpose to be of this world. Come Lord Jesus please come now.

  2. It’s refreshing to see a mainline denomination and its senior clergymen/women apologize, acknowledge their accountability, and hire a truly independent party to investigate the situation. John MacArthur and *so* many others could learn from their example.

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