From encountering God in house churches to declaring His praise in stadiums, contemporary worship has transformed the church in the UK and spread across the world.
As a musician, producer and A&R manager, Les Moir has not only had a front row seat, but has played a significant part, mentoring and encouraging countless worship leaders and songwriters from the UK and beyond.
In his brand new book, Missing Jewel, he tells the story of the worship movement that impacted the nations from the 1960s to the present day.
CCLI are delighted to have been given permission by David C Cook to publish an extract from Missing Jewel. We pick up the story as Soul Survivor founder Mike Pilavachi describes his first encounter with a teenager called Matt Redman, and a friendship that would shape the sound of a generation…
Back in the 1970s the Pioneer movement had created a culture of releasing the next generation. Most of their musicians were young. Under Gerald Coates’ leadership young people were continually encouraged and given the opportunity to lead. Dave Bilbrough was nineteen years old when he led worship at the London house church movement Big Praise gatherings at the Royal Albert Hall.
In other movements some apostolic leaders have chosen caution, but Gerald always wanted to make room for young people whom he saw were anointed. Through this, Pioneer would increase in influence in terms of contemporary worship leaders and creativity, including Noel Richards, Cutting Edge (Delirious?), Dave Bilbrough, Sue Rinaldi and Doug Horley.
That same generous spirit had been in action in St Andrew’s Chorleywood. Mike Pilavachi was in his mid-twenties when he started attending the church, and within a couple of years he was offered the role of full-time youth worker by David Pytches. Mike continued this practice:
‘There was one lad in the group who was thirteen, and I noticed there was something about him from the beginning. In worship, he’d be at the back worshipping his heart out. He was really passionate for the Lord, but also he looked very withdrawn in many ways.
This boy was Matt Redman, and he told me his story about some really difficult things that had happened in his life. I prayed with him, and since we both shared a passion for worship we started talking about how great it would be to go deeper in worship.
We decided that one night a week the two of us would get together in a room in the church and just worship the Lord, singing songs to Jesus for a couple of hours. I remember asking Matt what night of the week we should do and him saying, “Well, Saturday night’s the best night of the week, why don’t we give God the best night?”
For a while it was bizarre. Matt wasn’t that great on the guitar at that time and I certainly couldn’t sing. We agreed that we wouldn’t laugh at each other; we would just focus on Jesus. We would sing songs and then be still and read scriptures, pray in tongues and then pray in English. We would sing in the Spirit and sing in English—everything. After a while two or three others joined us. Looking back, I think that’s where Soul Survivor started. Before we ever had a name, it started in that room.’
As Matt and Mike were exploring the possibilities of worship, their church leaders—David Pytches and Barry Kissell—were wondering if there was enough demand in the UK for a conference dedicated to helping people learn about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1989, they took the plunge and hosted the first ever New Wine conference.
“It sounds like a ridiculous idea to me, but it sounds like it might be from God so let’s have a go.”
Something incredible was happening with the youth in the UK in the late 1980s. I was playing bass at the New Wine conference at the Royal Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet, as part of the worship team with Bryn Haworth. One night we went down to the youth venue, which was held in one of the cowsheds. Mike Pilavachi was there, leading about 600 kids, and Matt Redman was leading worship. It was amazing, God was doing so much. Each evening after our worship sessions in the main venue I would run down to New Wine Youth to be part of it.
For Matt Redman, attending New Wine was a transformative experience: ‘I went just as a delegate first and I totally met with God. It was a real turning point in my life. I just knew that He was really encouraging me with a sense of His power and I felt the strongest calling to be a worship leader. Andy Park [from Langley Vineyard] was leading worship and he spent a few minutes with me, and others prayed for me too.’
For Mike, the birth of New Wine was particularly exciting. ‘As the youth leader of the church, when we started New Wine I ended up doing the youth work there. Out of that I thought “Wouldn’t it be great to have something like this for young people?” I went to David Pytches and said “I’ve got this vision to do something like New Wine, but just for young people.” I thought he’d say no, but he said, “It sounds like a ridiculous idea to me, but it sounds like it might be from God so let’s have a go.”’
It took until 1993 for the first Soul Survivor festival to take place, and in the meantime Matt grew in confidence as he began to lead worship in the youth venue at New Wine. For Mike, those early days of Matt leading at New Wine Youth were compelling: ‘It was a crazy thing because he was just a kid in the youth group. But he led and it was great. I remember just before that he’d written his first song with a guy called Paul Donnelly who was his guitar teacher at school. It was called ‘There’s a Sound of Singing’. At that first New Wine where he led worship, he started singing this song that I’d never heard before. It was beautiful. I looked at it and it had Matt’s name on the bottom. He’d written it just a week before and it was called ‘I’ve Got a Love Song in My Heart’. As we sang that the whole place just erupted.’
Taken from ‘Missing Jewel: The Worship Movement That Impacted The Nations’ © 2017 Les Moir. Published with permission.