John C. Maxwell Exposé


See also: John C. Maxwell: General Teachings

By:  Beacon of Truth

Author and speaker John C. Maxwell is considered to be an expert in leadership and people from all walks of life look to him for wise counsel in becoming great leaders in their field of work. Maxwell is looked upon by many pastors as an expert in church leadership too. However what most of these pastors do not take into account is the lack of any serious theological or biblical character of Maxwell’s principles of leadership.

 Dr. Richard G. Howe, Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics and Director of the Ph.D. program at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC has written a very excellent paper on these dangers of Maxwell’s teachings. Dr. Howe says his paper is an “attempt to alert the reader to the explicit and implicit dangers in the writing of John C. Maxwell.”[1]  Dr. Howe humbly affirms that he does not doubt whether Maxwell is a sincere Christian, “but his misuse of Scripture, his tacit endorsements of New Age writers and doctrines, and his questionable doctrines of psychology and theology should give any Christian concern in the use of his material in otherwise legitimate local church initiatives. It is with that concern that this paper is offered.”[2]

 Dr. Howe’s “main concerns about the Maxwell material, broadly speaking, are:

 First, the manner in which Maxwell handles the Scriptures to “teach” his principles is sometimes egregiously mistaken. It is my contention that the Bible is not necessarily teaching the principles that Maxwell thinks. His handling of the Scripture indicates that Maxwell does not know (or at least is not utilizing) the proper methods of biblical interpretation. This is not to say that I necessarily disagree with the principles themselves. I might agree with some of them and disagree with others. But I believe that it is of paramount importance that we let the Bible teach what it does and not try to justify our own ideas (even if those ideas are true) by a violation of sound principles of biblical interpretation. I regret that the use of Maxwell’s materials sends the wrong signals to the church family as to how to use and interpret the Bible. This is especially of concern regarding the younger Christians in the church family.

 Second, Maxwell either implicitly or explicitly endorses some New Age teachers and doctrines. Even if Maxwell himself (or the church leadership) understands the dangers of New Age doctrines, it is a dangerous thing to give such tacit endorsement in front of a church family, especially considering those who are younger in their faith.

 Third, in addition to the New Age elements that are peppered throughout his material, Maxwell also employs questionable theological doctrines such as a mistaken notion of the miraculous, a conspicuous absence of the cross and questionable psychological doctrines including self-esteem psychology and temperaments psychology. It is to each of these concerns that I would now like to direct my attention.” [3]

 First, Dr. Howe enlists some of the common verses used by Maxwell to “teach” his principles, shows how what Maxwell is saying from these verses cannot hold under a proper examination of the verse and its context. Some of these texts are just part of a verse and when quoted in full, has little to do with what Maxwell is teaching.  After working out on these texts, he enlists the New Age teachers and their doctrines which are endorsed by Maxwell. Dr. Howe here gets into discussing each of these New Age teachers and shows how their doctrines are unscriptural and dangerous. The paper then moves to the third section where key theological problems of Maxwell are discussed briefly.

 Dr. Howe’s paper employs a language that is both gracious and perspicuous. His arguments are for preserving biblical fidelity in matters of theology, doctrine and practice. Unlike some of the cheap discernment ministries available on the internet, Dr. Howe does not appeal to any ad hominem arguments. Dr. Howe rather employs his scholarship in a wise and pastoral manner to serve the church in discerning the dangers of one of the most popular leadership gurus of our time.

 Recommended for  everyone, especially pastors.