Beware of Mike Pilavachi and Soul Survivor. Part A

By Ninos Hadjirousou

(This article encourages the reader to test and examine all things according to Scripture (Acts 17:11) this is for UK readers. )

“Shun profane and vain bablings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who Concerning the truth have erred” (2 Tim 2:16-18)

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears”(2 Tim 4:3)

Many in the UK and no doubt in the USA have heard of ‘Soul Survivor’. It’s founder and one of its theological leaders is Mike Pilavachi. On premier.org.uk he is called ‘the renowned youth ministry specialist and founder of Soul Survivor’. On the Vineyard website’s we find some info about him: “Mike Pilavachi heads up Soul Survivor ministries (a charity that aims to equip young people to live their lives for Jesus) as well as pastoring the associated church – Soul Survivor Watford. Mike speaks at conferences around the world, trying to make people laugh and point them towards Jesus at the same time. He has written a number of books, the latest which looks at themes within the Bible. Mike enjoys cooking, watching The West Wing, tending his grape vines and competing with his mates over anything he can.” [1]

He is also my fellow country-man since he is from Cyprus. My exposure to Pilavachi was when I used to attend the local Newfrontiers charismatic church in Canterbury, UK. Many even in the Christian Union, where I studied my BA and MA, seemed to encourage me to go listen to him. I knew many of my friends who went to ‘Soul Survivor’ meetings every year. Though they tried to encourage me to join them, I never had the opportunity to. Christian families would send their children to these big outdoor events. But is it all safe to say that what these young people are receiving is sound and biblical? Online there are testimonies from Pilavachi and co-workers of young people, sometimes described by the ‘hundreds’ coming forward and accepting Christ as their Saviour. Yet one might ask: what is the teaching like at ‘Soul Survivor’? And what is being taught by Pilavachi and his team?

Here are some things to bear in mind with Pilavachi:

First, Pilavachi promotes TBN Trinity Broadcasting Network, founded by Peter Crouch.

Crouch has elevated popular names in the evangelical scene such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Joice Meyer. TBN promotes their teaching which is known as Word of Faith. It is none other than the wealth and health ‘gospel’. WOF teachers believe Christians are literally ‘little gods’. They teach Jesus was a born again man and that he went to literally hell while being dead for three days. They deny the Sovereign will of God and the sufficiency of Scripture. One in particular said if the Gospel is without sign and wonders then it is an empty shell. In other words, it has no power to save anyone unless there is sign and wonders with it (Benny Hinn said it, who has manipulated thousand into giving money to his ministry). This off course is unlike what the Apostle said in Romans 1:16 which he clearly states that the Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. They believe that God desires us to be prosperous, wealthy and healthy. In short, Pilavachi, who has been on TBN set, knowing that it promotes such heretical doctrines, is guilty of promoting and raising up his flag of approval. His presence promotes TBN doctrines. Scripture is clear that we are not to work with the unfruitful works of darkness, but to reprove them (Ephesians 5:11).

Now the question is, why does Pilavachi not speak out against such erroneous teachings? Why does he not warn the many young people who come at Soul Survivor about the dangerous doctrines promoted by TBN? If he did, he would not be broadcasting with them his teaching series on TBN.UK. Jesus was never polite with false teachers; He calls them ‘hypocrites’ ‘vipers of hell’ and pronounces judgement upon them (Matthew 23). Christ needed to refute them strongly for the sake of their own soul and the souls of others following them. He commands the people to beware and avoid these men lest they fall into hell with them (Mathew 16:6, Luke 12:1). Confronting and warning the people about false teachers is the work of Christ. In this age of politeness Christians need to be strong and not polite to false doctrine since the eternal soul of those watching them is at stake.

Second, Pilavachi promotes Hillsong music style and worship.

Hillsong church have come out publically accepting abortion and homosexuality in the church, refusing it to call it out as it is. This is obviously contrary to the Scriptural teaching which calls believers not to endorse or practice homosexuality or abortion (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Pilavachi does not seem to be too bothered about it; since he says nothing against it. Though he does say in this interview that he would not go with homosexuality[2].

Moreover, Pilavachi, like Hillsong church, promotes the modern contemporary style of music as a hook to entice young people to come to his large youth camp. It is a modern church strategy that numbers matter more than souls. This tactic is founded by men such as Rick Warren and Robert Schuller in the Purpose Drive life and Purpose Drive Church and Self Esteem. Their methodology was to use carnal means in order to bring carnal people into the church by keeping them entertained. Pilavachi said in an interview:

“True worship becomes real in the context of a committed community adoring Jesus together. While I hate entertainment worship, we need to make a distinction between what I call ‘temple’ worship and worship for the streets. The old ‘Come Together’ musicals were a mixture of worship and evangelism! They were playing songs, but there was also an element of outreach and there was a bit of entertainment in it as well. Yet it was all pointing to Jesus”.

He added

“At the same time I passionately believe that anointed, Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, adoring, praising, thanksgiving worship is the best evangelistic tool we have, because people sense the presence of God”[3]

Notice the italics that I have used. Pilavachi believes worship is a tool for evangelism. But so does Rick Warren and Robert Schuller, who also had to avoid preaching on sin for evangelistic purposes. The strategy is ‘if it works, it is right’. It is rooted and grounded in this: if you can know the heart and desire of every individual felt needs, you can make a great church. That is the purpose driven marketing strategy, to meet with people felt needs in order to bring them to church. Robert Schuller wrote: As a missionary, I find the hope of respectful contact is based on a “human-need” approach rather than a theological attack ….”. Since his primary target is the unbelieving audience, the faithful preaching of God’s word must be exclude with some very important doctrines that might offend them to leave, such as: sin, judgement, turning away from evil, separate from influence of the world; doctrine, study, etc, in order to make the church more attractive to the outsider. Rick Warren who also followed this philosophy, regarding worship in church service, by quoting 1 Corinthians 14:16-17, he said: “Being sensitive to unbelievers who visit your worship gatherings is a biblical command. To ignore this command is to be both disobedient and unloving”[4]. Again, if the targeting audience in the worship service is to reach the unbeliever, then Warren said:  “Create a service that is intentionally designed for your members to bring their friends to. And make the service so attractive, appealing, and relevant to the unchurched that your members are eager to share it with the lost people they care about”[5].

‘The music style should therefore be that preferred by the target audience (p280), and the preaching should focus on those passages that require no previous understanding and that “show the benefits of knowing Christ” (p298).’[6]

But this thought of ‘worship’ being ‘an evangelistic tool’ in unheard of in Scripture.

For one, it distorts the reverential worship of God whom we are commended (only to believers) to worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Moreover, it is the reverence of God that we do in the worship service, without using the latest styles and trends, causes the unbeliever to see the reality of God’s existence. Worshiping God is not a causal matter, but a serious one. Why would the method of the world in attracting unbelievers be necessary for the church of Jesus Christ? Christ is beautiful in the eyes of the believers who He opened their eyes to the truth of the Gospel. Worship in the Bible has nothing to do with evangelism. Pilavachi believes in a worldly method of worship in order to make what is called ‘Christianity’ cooler and relative to culture in order to attract a young unchurched audience. ‘So bring the styles and methods of worldly music and entertainment’ they say! ‘Redefine old hymns and make them worldly. Redefine God in order to make people like Him’. Dear reader, is this biblical? Christ never attempted to become relative or ‘cool’ according to the culture of His day. In fact the word Holy in the Bible is used to literally mean ‘separate’. God is transcended and so is Christ. Christ became human, but He was God in flesh. And He was Holy as God was Holy. Yet this is the beauty and glory of God, His Holiness. Isaiah’s reaction is not a casual moment when God comes to Him. Isaiah did not find the help of entertainment to show how glorious the Lord was. In fact, Isaiah’s only words uttered were ‘I am an unclean man, with unclean lips’ (Isaiah 3:1-6). Worship must produce in us a sense of reverence before God. There is nothing sinful or unbiblical for being solemn. And it is God’s glory which will lead people to repent and believe the Gospel of Christ. Only God’s holiness will make us better Christians. Furthermore, God has already given us prescription on how we ought to worship Him in the Scriptures. So rather than going to Scripture (Colossians 3:16), Pilavachi chooses to trust the methods and ideas of men to tell him what the worshiping God is.

Furthermore, Warren quoted 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 to be sensitive to the unbeliever in worship. But the text says otherwise. Paul is dealing with the Corinthians who have taken the gift of tongues and have abused it for their own benefit. They were not edifying the church nor bearing good witness to the unbeliever who would visit them. Paul is not commanding us to be extra sensitive to the unbeliever by compromising the very essence of our worship to God to make it suitable for them. Paul is simply making a point here: he was sarcastically proving to the Corinthians, the fake tongues speakers, by hypothetically illustrating to them that even the ignorant will not understand their ecstatic gibberish words. If none can understand, what is the point of saying ‘amen’ in the worship? To be a tongue speaker their also was needed an interpreter which the Corinthians did not have. Thus both unbeliever and believer could not understand. Hence the point of exercising this counterfeit ‘tongues’ is pointless.

[1] http://www.vineyardchurches.org.uk/insights/the-soul-survivor-story/

[2] http://jesus.org.uk/blog/interviews/talking-to-mike-pilavachi

[3] http://jesus.org.uk/blog/interviews/talking-to-mike-pilavachi

[4] Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, p. 104, Zondervan, 2002

[5] Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church, p 253

[6] https://www.9marks.org/review/purpose-driven-church-rick-warren/

15 Comments

  1. Now that you have mercilessly attacked this man and his ministry please let us know; What was the aim? Who then in your opinion meets your standards of how the gospel should be preached? I’m certain that you will recommend yourself. 🤦‍♀️ smh 🤦‍♂️

    1. Hi there

      The aim was to encourage those who follow him and admire him to re-examine the reasons why they are following him and is it following according to the Word of God. To encourage people to be good bereans (Acts 17:11) on important matters.

      Answering your second question : Actually, you probably don’t know this, (since you mentioned me) it is the Word of God alone that is the standard by which we as believers measure whether or not someone preaches the Gospel.
      You will known them by their fruits.

      That is why we must know what the Gospel is and how we ought to present it.

      Lastly, can you share with me what wrong have I said concerning Mike Pilavachi? Have you found any points that I have made about the way he does things wrong?

      Please be specific and show me proof.

  2. Luke 9:49&50 “‘Master,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said, ‘for whoever is not against you is for you.’”

    1. Test all things my friends if they are according to Scripture (1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11).
      “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” “Many will say, to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied inn thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils?” “And then will I profess unto them, i never knew you; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity”(Matthew 7:21-23).
      Its interesting the words of our Lord “workers of iniquity” the actual Greek says ‘anti-nomian’ those who don’t obey his commandments.
      Anyone who does not obey Christ commandment, is hardly someone who would also be for Jesus, but rather that person is against the authority of God’s Word. I would love to hear back from you.
      If you have found something in my article which is concerning, then please do share. I would like to know.
      Ninos Hadjirousou

  3. This is really awful, harmful, and slanderous (libel) – which, is sinful. Where is your building up? Truth isn’t to bring disunity and chaos – but your article does. You mentioned that believers will be known by their fruit – I’m afraid you show no fruit here.
    You’ve mentioned testing all things against Scripture – we’ve tested your article, and in doing so have concluded that you’re not trustworthy. I would recommend taking down the post and examining your heart & mind carefully.
    Perhaps if you actually knew the man, you would know his heart – but you don’t, so stop speaking death.
    This really saddens my heart.. be careful with your words & opinions, otherwise you’ll let the enemy have a field day.

    1. Esther, I am interested to know exactly two things which you have not mentioned at all which I find rude but please do share:
      a) By what standard to you say that this article; and conclude that I am not trustworthy..

      b) what exactly is it that you can please show those who read the article that what I am writing is wrong and a false representation?

      The burden of proof is upon you to show us and I will look forward reading your next comment. I would encourage you not to respond when you are emotional but objectively respond back and show me where so that I may know.
      Bye for now

      1. Brother Ninos you are right its hard to accept the Word of God these days the SOUND DOCTRINE,prosperity,health the fruits of the flesh.JESUS said:we cannot follow two gods the true GOD and mammona{god of money worshiping by the siriens}.
        grace to u all..silas

  4. Thank you for being brave enough to write this article. People start to get annoyed when you are critical of their favourite preachers, but the truth is that all preachers, and all Christians in fact, should constantly take a critical look at their beliefs in the light of the Word. One thing you quoted leapt out to me especially – Rick Warren saying “make the service so attractive, appealing, and relevant to the unchurched that your members are eager to share it with the lost people they care about.” There is nothing in this universe that is more attractive, more appealing, and more relevant to unbelievers than the Gospel. There is a reason why people don’t find it attractive, appealing and relevant, and that reason will not be overcome by trying to create glittering man-made baubles to entice them into a service. Someone in my former church who was planning an invite-your-friends event remarked “whatever we do, we can’t include any Bible or nobody will come.” This is the legacy of men like Warren, and you are right to call it out for what it is.

    1. Nonsense – Rick Warren has never said to leave the Bible out. He speaks from the Bible in every talk he gives

      1. Yes, he does, however sadly they are out of context most of the time. Not always. I am planning to show from his book ‘Purpose Driven Life’ and contrast it with Scripture if you are interested to check? (Acts 17:11).

  5. It makes me sad the amount of criticising and backbiting you get in the church. You can put any Christian leader and the word heretic into Google and so much comes up. Mike Pilavachi has been active for decades in the very difficult area of youth and young people ministry. I have personally come across people who are now vicars ministers etc doing amazing ministry who owe a lot to this man helping them through those difficult adolescent and young adult years.. None of your criticisms are very substantial – they are all by association or just no more than nitpicking. You might not have noticed but the church is in massive decline in this country and has been for decades. What are you doing to reach young people for Christ? Perhaps you should go out and do something yourself instead of carping and criticising someone who though not perfect is doing his best to reach and disciple young people for Christ. Very sad!

    1. Dear rayprab thank you for your comments.

      We must take some thing into consideration.

      First of all- you are assuming that I don’t go out and do something for the Lord-but instead , you assume that I am someone who just seats on a chair and makes criticism of people because I like doing that sort of thing.
      Well, let me ask you: how do you know? I am happy to let you know that I am actually witnessing to young people and working with youths at church church, and preach the Gospel in the open air for my local church and even encouraging people to come and listen to sound doctrine at my local church I have been doing it actively and give God all the praise for it. These are just some. But may I encourage you that before writing anything of a criticism (which what you are accusing me of) do it properly and not dishonest by painting a picture of who I am without knowing. It is dishonest. Others may not take it well.

      Secondly, I would encourage you to find me from the Scripture that I have chosen and the evidence which I have shown in the article – (after reading all parts of it) where am I wrong.
      All I am reading is that somehow Pilavachi is right and he does allot of work and I am criticism him…
      Lets consider:
      if we believe a Christian, no matter what their doctrine maybe ; is okay because they do allot of things; then would not the Roman Catholic church or the Mormon prophets count for that? They have hospitals and have blessed many indeed. Should we credit them as men who follow the Lord?
      I hope you would say no. Then I am in agreement. Because that is what you are writing me. As much as I would like to find a good reason to change my mind, I don’t. In fact, I have read and heard Pilavachi books and sermons and to be honest, the Bible shows that we must be careful of him.

      Please provide for me what is your criteria of “very substantial” critic and then show me biblically how that is supported. I would be happy to consider.

      Thirdly, you mentioned associations- indeed you are correct. I would encourage you to listen to my podcast on what is biblical separation and why it is important for us to know. Just click on separation and find podcast or even articles if you like to make sure.

      Fourthly, I appreciate your attempt to show me your perspective of things. However, I must disagree with you. But I would like to encourage you to show where (from the points I am making) showing that I am in error.

      Fifthly, I agree with you as you said many people like to do witch hunting or heresy hunting on the internet. I will truly say that I don’t enjoy it either. But when there are people who are following a false teacher like Pilavachi who don’t clearly preach the Gospel assigned to him, then it is my responsibility to warn others about this.

      Please, take the time to deal with your criticism to me and deal with the points I have raised regarding Pilavachi and examine them biblically. I assume you have gone to the sites and links I have referenced on the article to see if what I say is true? (correct me if I am wrong).

      Kind regards
      Ninos Hadjirousou

      1. Dear Ninos, I apologise for implying that you don’t do much for the spread of the gospel, though judging from your blog, you clearly spend a lot of your time and energy “looking for the speck in other believers’ eyes”. The moonies and other cults are clearly unsound due to their incorrect view of Christ and the Bible. It’s a pity you can’t be a bit more generous towards those who are on the same side as you and fighting the same battles but maybe in a slightly different way.

  6. Dear Rayprab

    Thank you for replying: the truth is-this week I had a bit more time.

    But honesty, I am an ordinary person who has a job and a is being an active church member and dealing with other things in my life which come in my way. Is this blog and the podcast important for me. Yes, but not as important as spending time serving others. I try to make time when I can because people are being blessed by the podcast and the Blog.

    I appreciate your apology. You are loved brother by the Lord. I am not against the truth of the Gospel-not at all. In fact, it is a blessing.

    But what does bother me and it should concern you (I hope), is that there are men who preach a Gospel which takes out: God’s Justice, God’s Judgment and defines sin as a ‘mistake’ rather than a wicked act against a Good and Holy God. It is wrong to leave those elements out of the Glorious Gospel message. -This will be presented at another point as I do have a book he wrote just to keep clarity and not take him out of context. I believe this is a great concern for the church today- not to explain the Gospel clearly.

    Now concerning my article- the aim was to encourage readers to simply use their Bible’s and test whether what is being presented is true or false. It is not a banner calling fanatics to join me in a crusade to hate Pilavachi. Not at all. Its simply encouraging believers to look at their Bibles and think objectively rather than follow their emotions which I have been so prone to do whilst i was in the Pentecostal movement for years.

    Because what’s missing in ‘Soul Survivor’ is the exercising of discernment and using the Scriptures sufficiency as the sole authority of truth. This, I pray that we would be strong in as Christians.
    We can judges things and be critical bereans in a Godly manner without hostility.
    It does not have to be a ‘dog fight’ that is my point. It would be absurd for anyone not to weigh thing which are heard and said since God commands us to (1 John 4:1).

    Also let me say that there are two things that we must see in the NT .
    Because what you commented tells me that we should be clear on what we as believers, especially those who are Pastors, ought to do when there is false doctrine surrounding people’s lives. I myself haven’t been shown what a pastor does because of the lack of discernment there is in the Charismatic movement. I mean when I saw Luther the first time on how he spoke or even a man like Spurgeon- I was a bit put off- at first, bu actually they were doing exactly what the Bible conforms them to be – Shepherds and defenders of the truth. if we look at church history, it was the norm to be a godly and discerning believer and pastors would protect their flocks-this is the origins of many of the blessed confessions we hold on to as Evangelicals. This I desire to bring back.

    First, we need to know the manner in which the Apostle’s dealt with those who taught false doctrines in the Church. (read 1 Tim 1:3-4)

    Secondly, the manner in which they dealt with brothers who preach the truth but have differences of views on secondary things such as – the spiritual gifts, modesty in church or church government. Romans 14 is a classic example of believers who differ being instructed to still consider each other as brothers in the Lord.

    Thirdly, why they did it. to defend the truth as a biblical mandate. Jesus said the truth makes us spiritually holy and causes us to grow (John 17:17) If we are listening to half truths and half false or heresies or false Gospel’s then we aren’t being blessed as Christ would want us to.

    So I will take into consideration all you said and I am thankful for the comments you have left. I will use the 3 points I have shown and bring a more clear and biblical response in my next podcast or article because you have shown a great need in our day for us to be clear on.

    Just to let you know also I am not offended by you in any way- in fact, you were willing and patient enough to write back to me.

    Many blessings
    Ninos Hadjirousou

  7. 18-03-20 Hi Ninos this is the first time I have read your stuff and let me say I think you show yourself to be a dignified and thoughtful writer and – of course – committed to the truth of God. I like very much what u say about not making differences / standing up for the Truth a “dog fight” but maintaining a view with brotherly love and determination. Years ago I thought these views were confined to the Word of Faith movement in the USA but we seem to have experienced a colonisation of these views from those places in and through mainstream Christianity and so this seems to be the insidious way these things develop. I am not someone who looks for faults but I feel someone has to speak up and say that what we are dealing with in Word of Faith and its “children” is not really Christian at all but something else: a strange hybrid of success based human centred “achievementism” (sorry for that word it doesn’t exist but its my best effort) It is very attractive as it seems to be a positivist approach to human struggling and a boost to self image and “happiness” but sadly it isn’t the Gospel. It seems to want the results of the Gospel without the cross essentially. This is not unlike the challenges Paul faced in the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians. I would ask people who follow this kind of Christianity to look at and read carefully those 2 books. The people whom Paul defends himself against (and I have to point out that he didn’t name them, although it must have been obvious who they were) were advocating this kind of “Christianity”…one of surface, attractive to the eye, so called success and a very top down approach with dictatorial views and the sense of “super apostles” above criticism.
    I wish this wasn’t the case either but there it is. I get a bit angry about it as I too was in Pentecostalism in the 90s and it was hit hard by these types of movements – unbiblical revelations, hyper charismania, etc etc. Its all in 1 and 2 Corinthians (esp 2 Corinthians – see chap 12 especially). Sometimes – like ex smokers – we can be ultra sensitive to things we used to be “involved in” and its possible that ones tone can seem harsh (esp to new Christians) God is a great opportunist – the best, far far better than Satan – and he is also humble enough to gain new people even from (and out of) these movements. But that of course does not make them Christ or Bible centred.
    God bless, John Tate, Liverpool UK

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