Worked over by John Maxwell

One of our co-contributers, a fellow Scraphead Pastor recently posted a comment about “hating” John Maxwell. Thanks for the candid comment! The postulations of Maxwell, far from being helpful became a rod for his back.

I went and saw Maxwell speak at a hugely popular conference a couple years back and he was riveting. Far better in person than in print, so our blog doesn’t seek to defame him whatsoever. But I know what our contributer is talking about.

Interestingly I am halfway through a Masters of Arts degree with a leadership major at a national bible college. Maxwell is never mentioned at all.

See the problem with Maxwell and other similar pseudo-christian leadership guru’s is that what they spouse, are truisms. A truism is a statement which is so obviously true that it is almost not worth saying, like “when it comes to health, prevention is better than cure”. Truisms are a bit like platitudes or cliche’s, but if it’s the first time you heard it you think “wow, that’s so true!”

So Maxwell kicks off with a riveting true story and then comes out with stuff like “if you’re a true leader, you must be far enough out front to lead, but not too far out to stay connected”. It makes sense. It’s truistic. The masses will get it. Makes for good reading and to be honest some of the stuff he comes up with can be useful particularly for secular management.

But there are big problems. Most of what Maxwell serves up is stuff like “true leaders do ABC or XYZ.” So you end up wondering “am I a true leader? I’m not sure I’m doing ABC like he says”. And if you’re sure you’re a leader (like me), then you end up pondering over the above truism and wondering “exactly how far in front am I?” “Am I in front?” Am I too far in front?”

Unfortunately that’s about as deep as Maxwell takes things. There is no diagnostic tools, reflection tools it’s just truism after truism and great story after great story. It’s easy reading. Basically Leadership for Dummies. If you get into any serious leadership research, you’ll find it nothing like the stuff that Maxwell churns out for the popular masses of wannabe leaders who want to grab something they can read quickly and head out to the coal face and do something.

To be fair to Maxwell, he is committed to taking biblical ideas and packaging them for the secular management market (which is massive) and I’m sure he has his place there. I’m also sure he is a genuine committed christian doing what he does best.

Here’s the kicker. Forget about what Maxwell says. Figure out how Maxwell learns the stuff he learns. I’m not suggesting you figure out some new truisms (or dress up old ones as is sometimes the case), I’m suggesting that the power of ideas comes from where those ideas are coming from. And if good ideas are coming from God, then it’s the connection TO God that gives our life momentum and abundance, not the information FROM God alone (which is what Maxwell is doing). Simple… sort of.


One Response

  1. I dont want to judge Maxwell’s intentions. I can’t. What I would like to do is to de bunk some of his “leadership” principles whoch he claims are christian leadership principles. Especially since a lot of the church (especially the country I come from) buys into Maxwells teachings. I thnk it has detrimental effect on church. A fellow pastor once said “I am sick of Maxwell’s teachings. I think its destroying community”. I can understand his sentiments.

    I am no Maxwell expert, but one of his principles was “surround yourself with 9’s and 10’s if you want to progress” or something like that. I find this so contradictory to the way o Christ. Jesus surrounded himself with a rag tag group of people. Not “A” type personalities. The worst thing is that this causes the perceived lesser people on the fringes of any ministry/work in the church. It de- values people. It promotes the idea that people are only valued for what they ca do and not for who they are. How is this true faith?

    Maxwell’s teachings needs to be scrutinized by more people so that they dont just accept it.

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