Leadership Conversations with Nicky Gumbel Podcast: Mike Pilavachi

In this episode, Nicky sits down with Mike Pilavachi, co-lead pastor of Soul Survivor Watford, and discusses learning to read the room, how to spot young leaders & why some good initiatives must end.


For this episode, Nicky sits down with Mike Pilavachi, co-lead pastor of Soul Survivor Watford. Mike’s story holds a plot that no one except God could write or expect. Mike went from fearfully hiding from peers during lunch time in primary school, to working a desk job as an accountant, to building a youth ministry that birthed some of the church’s greatest leaders, to running a festival that impacted hundreds of thousands of young people from the UK and around the world.

Nicky and Mike spend the bulk of the conversation talking about Soul Survivor, the summer festival that began in 1993 which saw thousands of youth give their lives to Jesus over the decades. Since choosing to conclude the festival in 2019, many, including Nicky in this interview, ask Mike how he’s feeling about the decision to shut it all down. With a ministry of that kind of magnitude and influence, one might assume the leader’s identity would be wrapped in it. But that isn’t the case for Mike. With a content smile on his face, Mike shared with Nicky “It’ll be fine – Jesus isn’t stopping. God never said he would build His Soul Survivor, He said He would build His Church.” Mike’s peace and contentment in the decision is the fruit of someone who clearly sought not to build their own empire, but to truly build the Kingdom of God.

With leaders like Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Ben Cantelon rising out of Mike’s influence, Nicky asks what Mike’s secret is to spotting and building great leaders. Mike shares his counter intuitive approach of looking past the front of the room to the hungry and humble at the back. With deep emotion and conviction, Mike shares about how young people just need someone a little further along to come alongside them with encouragement.

The conversation naturally goes on to explore how to read what the Holy Spirit is doing in the room, Mike’s journey with singleness and why Mike thinks the Church must drop pharisaism to pick up Jesus-infused acceptance. Interwoven into each section of the conversation are hilarious, and gripping stories from Mike about his mistakes and the marvel of what God has done around Him.

Any leader who listens in to this interview is sure to be inspired by the humble, gentle and always-believing leader of Mike Pilavachi.


Show Notes

Alpha Online

Take Heart Podcast

Sings of Fathers by Michael Emmett

Soul Survivor Watford


Mike Pilavachi is the co-senior pastor of Soul Survivor Watford church alongside his friend Andy Croft. Over the past 26 years he has also been the co-founder and leader of Soul Survivor ministries (a charity that aims to equip young people to live their lives for Jesus). 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 of which is called ‘Lifelines’.

In his spare time, he loves to cook, watch the West Wing and tend to his grape vines!

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