John Maxwell – What Does He Believe and Teach?

John MaxwellComment sent in by Robbie who just watched a video produced by John Maxwell. His laws, qualities and principles are used in churches and in the corporate world.

John Maxwell (born 1947) is an American author, speaker, and pastor who has written many books, primarily focusing on leadership. Titles include The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. His books have sold millions of copies, with some on the New York Times Best Seller List.

John Maxwell and Robert H. Schuller:

John Maxwell’s mentor, Robert H. Schuller, had a variety of noted evangelical pastors preach at his megachurch after his son, Robert A. Schuller, resigned as senior pastor in 2008. Maxwell returned to preach at the Crystal Cathedral several times and his messages were broadcast on the Hour of Power television program.

Robert Schullers - Crystal Cathedral

Robert Schuller studied at Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, and received a Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary, which follows the theological tradition and Christian practice of John Calvin, in 1950. He was ordained as a minister in the Reformed Robert Church in America.

Robert Schuller focused on what he believed are the positive aspects of the Christian faith. He deliberately avoided condemning people for sin, believing that Jesus “met needs before touting creeds”. Once in a relationship with God, Robert Schuller emphasized, someone who is sowing positive faith in his heart and actions will discover that the by-product is a reduction of sin. He was known to say, “Sin is a condition before it is an action.” Robert Schuller encouraged Christians and non-Christians to achieve great things through God and to believe in their dreams. He wrote, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”

John Maxwell – Methodist background

John Maxwell speaks annually to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and organizations. John Maxwell serves on the Board of Trustees at Indiana Wesleyan University and has a building named after him there, the Maxwell Center for Business and Leadership.

Methodist church logoMethodist Church

John Wesley28 June [O.S. 17 June] 1703 – 2 March 1791) was an English cleric and theologian who, with his brother Charles and fellow cleric George Whitefield (a Calvinist), founded Methodism.  Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that dominated the Church of England at the time.

In the year of his ordination he read Thomas à Kempis and Jeremy Taylor, showed his interest in mysticism, and began to seek the religious truths which underlay the great revival of the 18th century. The reading of William Law’s Christian Perfection and A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life gave him, he said, a more sublime view of the law of God; and he resolved to keep it, inwardly and outwardly, as sacredly as possible, believing that in obedience he would find salvation.  


Church emblem featuring the Agnus Dei.
Stained glass at the Rights Chapel of Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States

  1. Wesley allied himself with the Moravian society in Fetter Lane. In 1738 he went to Herrnhut, the Moravian headquarters in Germany, to study. On his return to England, Wesley drew up rules for the “bands” into which the Fetter Lane Society was divided and published a collection of hymns for them.  The Church places a high value on ecumenism, personal piety, missions and music.

John Wesley laid the foundations of what now constitutes the organisation of the Methodist Church. 

In John Wesley’s Christian Library (1750), he writes about mystics such as Macarius of Egypt, Ephrem the Syrian, Madame Guyon, François Fénelon, Ignatius of Loyola, John of Ávila, Francis de Sales, Blaise Pascal, and Antoinette Bourignon. The work reflects the influence of Christian mysticism in Wesley’s ministry from the beginning to the end. [Emphasis added]

Now let us analyse some of John Maxwell’s inspirational leadership teachings vs The Bible:

  1. God does NOT call us to to be leaders or to be more than we can be, but rather to decrease ourselves that Jesus Christ Himself may increase us that we become spiritually rich and our souls are SAVED from eternal damnation.
    • John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
    • John 15:19  “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
    • Luke 12:16-20 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
  2. No where in the bible are Ministers called to mentor individuals. Pastors are called to shepherd their flock in biblical teaching and biblical living.
    • 1 Peter 5:2 “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;”
  3. The church is not called to motivate or coach individuals to greatness but to preach the Word of God and let Jesus Christ teach us to be holy.
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:7 “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
  4. Uplifting initiatives and Inspirational leadership is not a biblical approach to impact Christians. God has given us His Word for discipline and holiness.
    • 2 Timothy 3:16  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
  5. Our desire SHOULD NOT be to leave our mark on the world so as to be remembered as some great individual but to be faithful disciples to Jesus Christ only.
    • 2 Timothy 2:1-26 1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. 6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. 7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. 8Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: 9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. 14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
  6. The Church is the Body of Christ, it is NOT a business where the pastor teaches you leadership skills to go out and open your own business, hire people and in that way make the world a better place through job creation thereby becoming an entrepreneurial hero.
    • Romans 16:18 “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
  7. The Word of God and the corporate world do NOT mix, if your so called biblical teaching in church can be applied in the corporate world as well then there is something seriously wrong with your so called ‘biblical’ teaching.
    • Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
    • James 4:4 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
  8. Achievements and success is not characterized by upward trend patterns. God can achieves His plans in our lowest moments in life through the convicting of our sin to bring us back to Him through repentance.
    • James 4:7-10  7Submit yourselves therefore to Go d. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
  9. The world rises and falls on strong leaders with wicked hearts who make the right connections with equally successful people.  God is sovereign and He will bring to pass His plans no matter how successful you think you are.
    • Isaiah 46:8-11 8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. 9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
  10. The churches of today preach that we must all be leaders and successful to spread the gospel across the world.  Jesus Christ is the only LEADER of the church which is the Bride of Christ – His body.
    • Colossians 1:17-18 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
    • Ephesians 5:1-33 1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Matthew 6:19-21 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Today John the Baptist would be kicked out of church because:

  • Matt 3:1-7 (KJV)  1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
  1. He would have been looked down upon because he was a wild man that lived in the wilderness, wore animal skins, ate locusts and wild honey.
  2. He didn’t wear a suit.
  3. He didn’t write self-help DIY books.
  4. He certainly didn’t look or speak like those one would consider today to have the qualities of a leader.
  5. He certainly didn’t make the right connections.  Engaging with the Pharisees and Sadducees calling them vipers is not how you make a connection according to John Maxwell and other leadership experts.
  6. John the Baptist preached the gospel of repentance of sin to save the soul – this is a very negative message.

Today you go to church to:

  • Start the church with a praise and worship rock concert – lights camera and action – jump up and down and ‘praise the Lord’ all for your entertainment.
  • On entering the church auditorium, you are presented with a ‘take a dip raffle bag’ to pull out a lucky number to stand a chance of winning 1 in 3 prizes. 1st prize = Apple Ipad.  I wish I was joking, but I am not, this happened at Bridge Church in Alberton, Johannesburg.
  • Get told it’s all about you and you are mind numbingly pulverized with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life message that God has a purpose for everyone, you just have to tap into God’s presence and Contemplate to find out what your God given purpose on earth is.
  • Hear a positive message, about positive leadership, making positive connections with other positive people to get ahead in life, and in that way change the world through Kingdom Now Theology / Dominionism to usher in a New World Religion with an all inclusive ecumenical God with the Pope at it’s head.

John Maxwell - quoteMake Friends

And Jesus Christ said:

John 15:18-25 “18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.”

Please share:

Deborah (Discerning the World)

Deborah Ellish is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

10 Responses

  1. John Maxwell’s so-called gospel, together with that of Rick Warren, are described in God’s Word as follows:

    But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:8-10).

  2. Robbie says:

    Thank you DTW

    On the web this is what Maxwell says about Pope Francis.

    “Transformational. The guy—just think of the church, and how ruttish it’s been for centuries. This man, you talk about branding, well he’s rebranding the Catholic church, and he’s a great example for leaders to follow.” {Emphasis added]


    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” [Emphasis added]

    Slick… very slick.

    In an essay submitted to a faculty for a doctorate in ministry, Eric Weathers concluded the following.

    “Having explored the teaching and preaching of Dr. John C. Maxwell, his profession that the Bible is his primary source for his leadership principles rings hollow (see Chapter One for Maxwell’s treatment of “The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward” in Luke 16). With the application of LHGH the reader has seen specific instances where Maxwell applies, and misapplies the Word of God. The examples cited in this work are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, yet they demonstrate Maxwell’s lack of exegetical research, spurious extra-biblical revelation, fanciful visions, and conversations with the dead which may lead some of his readers to unbiblical conclusions and applications never intended by the authors of Scripture. What should be a biblical response to Maxwell’s teachings as they relate to his use of the Bible?

    Clearly, believers should not consult Dr. Maxwell for biblical practices in the marketplace.

  3. Thank you Robbie


  4. RJ says:

    Seriously, I was just giving thanks to heaven this very day for your and Tom’s ministry! So unique; so needed! So many “blind” flock who just fall into line & willingly follow anybody!! ~ even if it’s off a cliff!! {and too often, it generally is!}


    On entering the church auditorium, you are presented with a ‘take a dip raffle bag’ to pull out a lucky number to stand a chance of winning 1 in 3 prizes. 1st prize = Apple Ipad. I wish I was joking, but I am not, this happened at Bridge Church in Alberton, Johannesburg.

    Really, Deborah? **ONLY** an Ipad?? “get with the program over there” {totally sarcastic JOKING of course} because have you heard that here in America, some mega churches give away CARS at Easter?? You can google about Calvary Church in Irving doing this a handful of years ago. As well as a church in Minneapolis & other places, too, IIRC. …. along with other “nice BIG prizes”. You know? I’d hate to stand before the Lord on Judgment Day & admit I’d gone to church in hoping to win a car!

    And along with what you say: the mini-rock concerts construed to “entertain”, well that’s everywhere as well. In fact, at Life Church (popular in the Midwest), they also pass popcorn around DURING SERVICE!! Our (young at the time) niece who’s being raised rc (I refuse to capitalize that — but for those who don’t know, stands for roman cath.) had spent the night with a friend & the next morning attended Life Church — where I presume she had herself quite a time. Rock Concert AND popcorn!! :like:

    I try to be funny about it & poke fun at it now & then…. but truth is, I am deeply grieved over what church has become!!! Nothing at all as the Lord intended.

    sigh…. sure makes us feel a lot like…. LOT!! {ref: Luke 17}

    Thx. for the essay on Maxwell…. can you believe (YES, of course you can!!) years ago, I bought a book (never read) written by him — in a CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE??!!! In fact, should I ever find the thing again laying in a drawer around here somewhere — off to the garbage bin it goes!! I should never have bought it, I knew even by the title it had NOTHING to do with real Christianity!! Something along the lines of following your dreams, et al….

    :unhappy: :dazed:

  5. Sola Scriptura says:

    Outstanding article. Maxwell lives and preaches at a “church” in my area and everyone was buzzing about his weekend series in early June. I tell people that they might as well go to a Tony Robbins conference. There is no cross, no blood, no sin and no repentance in these services. Really, the message is “I must increase and everyone in my way better decrease.” Preach Christ crucified or don’t preach at all. I will use this article as a resource for those who think he is sound. Thanks again for your hard work.

  6. Hi RJ. Thanks for your comment. As you can see I edited out the word you asked to be edited.

  7. Hi RJ :hi:

    Thank you *hugs*

    Hey iPads are expensive here in Africa that’s why they don’t give away cars…however the day they start giving away cars I will truly pass out :shocked:

    Popcorn in church? Unbelievable. I suppose they liken that to the time that Jesus fed the crowd with loaves and fish. (Matthew 14:13-21).

  8. Hi Sola Scriptura :hi:

    Thank you!

  9. Vinny Carvega says:

    I should preface my comments by saying that I have not read any of John Maxwell’s books for myself, and only landed on this site b/c I was trying to see if he had any connection to the New Age guru’s based on the title of his books…

    Having said that, the only compelling argument made in this article is John Wesley’s association with Christian mysticism… If true, I agree, that in and of itself is a serious issue. However, the tone of this article takes the opposite extreme, which I believe is just as dangerous. The folly of the New Age teachings is that they promote “the power of self”, dressed in religious teachings; to further the enemy’s lie that mankind is capable of saving itself if we look inward, instead of salvation through Christ Jesus. Based on what I’ve been able to find online, that is NOT John Maxwell’s message…

    On the one hand, I get it… there is a warning flag that goes up when anyone uses God to sale commercial products. On the other hand, this article implies that if I’m successful & have the opportunity to help others be successful, that I should separate my faith from my experience when sharing with others… which also seems counter to the Word of God in my opinion. Once again… haven’t read any of his books, so perhaps I’m missing some context. But if he is truly only teaching people skills for being successful leaders, and not teaching that his principles of leadership are synonymous with salvation, then articles like this seem to serve no other purpose but to cause division. To imply that being successful should mean suppressing my faith when I share with others, or else segregating the impact of God’s Word from my personal and professional journeys… that just sounds like the same legalistic mindset the pharisees demonstrated in their condemnation of Jesus. Our faith should absolutely permeate through all aspects of our lives… as long as it is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we proclaim as the path to salvation, and not our own lives.

    Not knowing much about Mr. Maxwell, I can speak from my own example… I’m a project manager by trade. I’ve enjoyed progressively more & more success over the last 5 years. I believe most, if not all of it, is attributable to God’s favor and my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. When my friends ask questions concerning my string of promotions in the IT field, I’m able to give them both practical answers on skills & practices they should research, as well as share my personal testimony on the faithfulness of God. I agree that we do not come to God to acquire things and “attract success”… At the same time, I don’t think we have to shy away from our successes; as we never know how God might be using our own experience(s) as an introduction into someone else’s life, that might lead to the testimony of salvation.

  10. Dear Vinny Carvega

    This article is all about churches and so called pastors who teach everything else but the unadulterated Word of God. Leadership teaching is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Leadership teaching teaches you how to be sucessful in order to impress people that they too want to have the success you have and be ‘saved’ by this ‘Jesus’ who bring so much prosperity for all the wrong reasons.

    Genuine salvation is about knowing you are a sinner and repenting of your sin. Satan can give you all the riches in the world, and make you succeed as well, just as God can bless His children (after they are born again) – but Satan will never tell you that you are a sinner, quite the opposite in fact.

    You don’t first have success to showcase your God to others so that they can accept Jesus Christ as their saviour, you first believe by faith and know you are a sinner and repent; thereafter God will give you what you need.

    And Jesus said “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

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