BREAKING: Matt and Beth Redman Tell of Years-Long Abuse by Mike Pilavachi in New Documentary

The Roys Report [Chicago IL]

April 9, 2024

By Julie Roys

The Redmans say when they eventually reported Pilavachi for the abuse they’d witnessed and had heard others describe, including inappropriate massages of young interns, their concerns were dismissed.

“We approached a senior leader from a church in London,” Beth Redman says in the film. “It was a very emotional conversation—and said about these massages, and said, you know, ‘Who could we talk to? What can be done?’ And this person, not dismissively or unkindly, just matter-of-factly said, ‘That’s just Mike. Nothing will be done.’”

Similarly, Matt Redman recalls, “What would always come back, if you spoke to someone or authority, would be this phrase, ‘That’s just Mike.’ And I’ve heard this phrase from so many people down through the years . . .  It was almost like saying . . . “He’s going to speak. He’s going to be funny—so gifted and talented. He’s got this charismatic personality. And what you have to put up with for all that is there’s going to be this mistreatment side. Now of course, that’s outrageous.”

The Roys Report was unable to immediately reach Pilavachi for comment.

For the first time, Grammy Award-winning worship leader Matt Redman and his wife, Beth Redman, are telling their stories of years-long abuse by now-disgraced Soul Survivor co-founder Mike Pilavachi in a documentary released last night.

Redman has previously stated that Pilavachi, now 66, had harmed him. But in the 31-minute documentary, “Let There Be Light,” the couple recount in detail how Pilavachi—Matt’s former youth leader and Beth’s former boss—abused them.

An investigation by the Church of England last year found that Pilavachi, who started Soul Survivor with Matt Redman when Redman was 19, engaged in a “systemic pattern of coercive and controlling behavior” and “inappropriate relationships.” These relationships often included wrestling with youths and massaging male interns.

Most of the abuse the Redmans say they suffered was spiritual and psychological in nature.

However, Matt Redman recounts in the documentary that at as a teenager, Redman told Pilavachi about sexual abuse Redman was suffering. Though Pilavachi helped Redman report the abuse to police, Pilavachi also would wrestle with Redman for extended periods, sometimes immediately after Redman had divulged details of the sexual abuse.

“Honestly, it was quite often in a hidden room in the church, or it would be around his house, away from everyone,” Redman said. “I thought maybe this is a youth leader trying to break the tension and it was what youth leaders do. Sometimes it could go on for 20 minutes. It was like full-on wrestling. . . . Looking back at it, you don’t feel great about that, didn’t feel good at the time.”

Yet, because Pilavachi had helped Redman report his childhood sexual abuse, Redman said he had an “undying loyalty” to Pilavachi, which prevented Redman from leaving Soul Survivor and reporting Pilavachi earlier.

Redman said he also didn’t want to hurt Soul Survivor—a youth ministry that drew crowds of 30,000 or more to the U.K. each summer from 1993—2019.  Soul Survivor has since paused events indefinitely.

“You’ve got this amazing groundswell, this momentum,” Redman recounts in the documentary. “In a time where they say young people leaving the church, we had tens of thousands of young people journeying with us. And it was just very evident God was breathing on this. . . . It was going to be super hard to walk away from that.”

Similarly, Beth Redman said she was very confused by Pilavachi’s abuse, and cared deeply for the ministry, which kept her from speaking up earlier.  

“There’s all these people going to the festivals. This is wonderful, is all these people coming to faith,” Beth Redman says in the film. “Nobody wants to tear that down. Nobody wants to hurt the church. (I) didn’t want to hurt Mike. I just want this to stop.”

In the documentary, Beth Redman describes how when she first arrived at Soul Survivor, Pilavachi, who was her boss, suddenly became angry with her. Then he didn’t talk to her for six months.

“If I approached him, he would ignore me,” she said. “If I sat down, he would get up. If I asked for a meeting, he wasn’t available . . . I remember one day just feeling like I was so scared to go through those doors. And now, I’m in this situation where my spiritual leader, my boss, whatever you want to call him, is effectively bullying me.”

Matt Redman said Pilavachi would initially make people feel special but turn against them for the slightest of offenses.

“First, it feels like he would bring you in, but then it would go to the complete opposite where you’d be completely shut out and silent treatment, stonewalled,” Matt Redman said. “If you upset him in any way, if you offended him—it could be the smallest thing honestly. Sometimes you didn’t even know what it was.”

Redman said once Pilavachi didn’t talk to him for three weeks simply because he added a song to a worship set without Pilavachi’s permission. Redman said Pilavachi would pretend everything was fine on stage. But once he got off-stage, “not a word, he won’t even look in your direction,” Redman said.

Beth Redman said she eventually went to her doctor for help because of the bullying. She finally decided she’d tell Pilavachi she needed to quit. She said his dismissive answer to her was, “I’m Greek.” Then after she and Matt got engaged, she said Pilavachi gave them both the “silent treatment” for months until the night before their wedding.

Reporting abuse and being ‘completely shut down’

Beth said she also noticed a pattern of young male interns coming to live with Pilavachi in his house but then leaving. She said they’d come to the Redmans for help because of Pilavachi’s mistreatment of them. Some of the men also told ministry trustees, Beth Redman said.

“(The trustees) basically in summary, just said, ‘You’re silly boys. You need to grow up,’” she said. “It was completely shut down.”

One day, one person, on behalf of 10 interns, told Matt Redman Pilavachi had massaged them while they were in their underwear, Beth said.  That’s when the Redmans sought help from a senior church leader and were shut down.

“Because he was this powerful leader, and this brilliant communicator, and there were tens of thousands of young people around the Soul Survivor movement, I think he got away with a lot more than he would have,” Matt Redman said. “And that’s a huge lesson for us. If you hear about abuse, you have to report it and it doesn’t matter who the person is.”

Beth Redman said over the years, she’d pray the words from Genesis, ‘Let there be light,’ but didn’t know what else to do. She said she hadn’t heard of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST), which eventually investigated Pilavachi.

Need to ‘live in the light’

The documentary includes interviews with several experts on abuse and trauma, including psychologist Diane Langberg. Langberg says victims often don’t report abuse because abusers manipulate them into staying silent.

“It’s not that they’re going to deal with somebody who’s abusive,” Langberg states in the film. “They’re going to bring down God’s work. And they can’t do that.”

Langberg also explains that people often resist believing that a revered leader can be an abuser.

“I think about Soul Survivor, you’re talking about these patterns, where the people in the church almost see the leader, as Christ-like,” Langberg says. “They’re the important one. . . . They’re the one that hundreds and hundreds, or thousands of people are coming to church for. And so how can any of that be? And so, we want to protect the big person and not the little people, which, for the record, is utterly unlike Jesus Christ. That’s not what he did.”

Also speaking in the film is Amy Orr-Ewing, a former executive for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), who’s expressed regret she didn’t push harder when allegations of sexual abuse surfaced against Zacharias.

In the film, Orr-Ewing says she felt “a responsibility before God” to “be safe” for survivors of Soul Survivor to share their stories. She added that the devastation from Pilavachi’s abuse, and the poor, initial response to it, has been devastating.

“The damage is trauma, PTSD, horrific spiritual fallout—everything ranging from a total loss of faith and not being able to believe in God anymore,” Orr-Ewing said. “. . . There are definitely redemptive stories. But the truth coming out is so critical to this, and so helpful for some victims to feel believed and to feel that someone cares about my story and actually believes that this is true and believes that the damage is real.”

Chi-chi Obuaya, a consultant psychiatrist, states in the film that the “most painful thing” for abuse survivors is “not being believed.” 

“And so it’s really important that we should be slow to draw conclusions and to have advice or a solution,” Obuaya says. “First and foremost, it’s really important to listen to what’s being said. Being validated is one of the most important parts of beginning this journey towards recovery.”

Beth Redman adds that the church needs more reliable systems for people to report abuse.

“It’s a lot easier to live with things in the light, but it is critical that things come to the light so healing can take place and change can take place,” Redman said.

Matt Redman notes in the film that some people still think the allegations are “exaggerated” and are still devoted to Pilavachi. Though Pilavachi resigned as a pastor last July, the film notes that the church of England still has not issued “significant sanctions” against him.

“That’s a really disturbing thing we have to look at in church culture,” he said. “Yes, we’re all for forgiveness. We’re all for moving forward. We do believe people can have a brand new start . . . But this isn’t about forgiveness. I’ve forgiven Mike. But this is about accountability.”