Author of several New York Times bestselling books (over 100 overall translated into 50 languages) and named the “#1 leadership expert in the world by Inc. Magazine in 2014″, John Maxwell certainly holds much influence today. In fact, he has several ways of impacting:
- The John Maxwell Company
- The John Maxwell Team
- The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation
- Seeing Him Live
- Reading His Books
It’s hard not to notice the plethora of times he refers to himself on those links (even in the titles themselves). In fact, other people have caught notice on this and other things about Maxwell. Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio noticed Maxwell’s focus on the self in a couple Maxwell sermons he reviewed (more on those later). Another writer, Richard G. Howe, showed how Maxwell reads his own ideas into the Bible, which is eisegesis and absolutely irresponsible (Howe’s article is actually cited much by other writers). Churchwatch Central listed him in passing as part of a heretical line-up. Finally, another website listed him in passing as a false Christian leader.
The “false Christian leader” and “heretic” labels definitely represent concerns to have about Maxwell. As noted, it is clear from his website links that there is much focus on John Maxwell and not so much focus on Jesus Christ. Shouldn’t he be preaching Christ instead of himself, given the fact he is a pastor? Are the labels justified? Is he dangerous given the aforementioned mass amount of influence he has? This article examines John Maxwell’s teachings against Scripture to see whether or not he is one to be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17).
At this article’s beginning, I placed some links to his various websites. They seem very centered on John Maxwell instead of Jesus Christ. In fact, he says the following:
You see, my passion in life is growing and equipping others to do remarkable things and lead significant and fulfilled lives.
Jesus Christ is nowhere to be found in that statement. This is a problem because John Maxwell is a pastor. A pastor’s main goal does not involve “equipping others to do remarkable things and lead significant and fulfilled lives” per se. Equipping is indeed involved in a pastor’s duty. However, Maxwell’s type of equipping is a little off compared to what the Scriptures say:
“7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.8 Therefore it says,
“When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” -Ephesians 4:7-13 (NASB)
“20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” -Hebrews 13:20-21 (NASB)
It is excellent that Maxwell has a passion for equipping others. However, he is not equipping others for God’s will; he is equipping others to a life of self-fulfillment and significance independent of Jesus Christ…..or IS he, per his description of his non-profit organization called Equip?:
EQUIP is my non-profit organization that trains and mobilizes Christian leaders to impact families, organizations, communities and nations around the world. Through this team’s work we’ve established six million leaders in 196 countries and seen hundreds of thousands of lives changed through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the next four years, EQUIP will prayerfully aim to see one million individuals come to Christ and experience transformation.
At this point, he seems a little confused. On one hand, he has a passion that has nothing to do with Christ. On the other, he has his own non-profit organization that aims to see lives changed through Christ’s gospel. Why isn’t Christ’s gospel an explicit part of his passion? Because salvation is found in nobody else but Jesus Christ, why would he explicitly exclude something so important from his passion?
I mentioned he is a pastor. While on the subject of equipping, it’s important to see another passage regarding equipping that also connects to a pastor’s main job:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Paul’s charge to young Timothy (which is a BIG DEAL, given it is in the presence of God and Christ Jesus) was to preach the Word. Maxwell, however, has a passion that involves “equipping others to do remarkable things and live significant and fulfilled lives.” Unfortunately, nowhere in Scripture are we called to “equip others to do remarkable things and live significant and fulfilled lives” per se. Instead, we’re called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:36-49), and walk in the good works Christ has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10), among other things. If those are remarkable, so be it. The difference here is that Scripture focuses on Christ while Maxwell focuses on the Christian (the aforementioned focus being in agreement with American Christianity, which mostly does fail). Already there is a problem because Maxwell’s passion is not quite in alignment with Scripture.
Maxwell’s “misaligned” passion is not the only problem on his websites; website #4 on the aforementioned list says the following:
The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, my second philanthropic organization, facilitates transformation in countries around the world through values and intentional living programs within each country’s streams of influence, including; government, education, business, churches, arts, media, and family.
While I bolded the “my” to show another example of his referring to himself (he does that a lot), I wanted to place more emphasis on the last words bolded in the above statement. The influences of government, education, business, churches, arts, media and family are almost in near perfect verbatim alignment with something known as “7 Mountains Theology, which is supposedly the brainchild of the Dominionist Movement, said movement having gone by many names (including the very dangerous New Apostolic Reformation, something that should be flatly rejected). These seven mountains include the following, per this website:
Notice that the ones in bold match the very words on Maxwell’s website. The one that does not match (religion) could very well be synonymous with that missing thing (churches). This is eye-opening because it shows that one of the most influential men in the world today may subtlety be affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation. If Maxwell’s constantly referring to himself combined with his person-centered (not Christ-centered) passion was not bad enough, these N.A.R. ties should be sounding an alarm by now.
While Maxwell’s websites certainly have a fair share of problems when compared with Scripture, those problems alone are not reason enough to mark and avoid him. As a result, we need to take a brief look at his sermons to see if his teachings line up with what the Scriptures say.
As mentioned, Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio has reviewed two of Maxwell’s sermons. First, in an episode from May 18th, 2011 titled “New False Jesus Arrives On The Australian Scene” (at the 1 hour 8 minute mark), Rosebrough notes how Maxwell both uses sermon time to preach himself and quotes from The Message Bible (which is BAD). Rosebrough actually admittedly gets very mad in this review, saying he is going to lose his temper. It is hard to blame him given Maxwell’s poor citations, putting words into the apostle Paul’s mouth (which is bad, per Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 21:19 and Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32), claiming to get direct revelation from God, and constantly preaching himself all while during “sermon time”, a time when God’s Word is supposed to be rightly handled by the Pastor. At times when Maxwell makes the crowd laugh, Rosebrough says, “We’re laughing them all the way to hell at this point.” Finally, Rosebrough calls Maxwell both a “heretic” and a “Bible-twister” verbatim while also calling him a liar and his message “satanic doctrine” and “Christless, cross-less junk” that we could have gotten from “Tony Robbins or some other self-help guru.”. Despite his clearly being aggravated, Rosebrough does not miss a beat in his review.
Second, in an episode from October 29th, 2013 called “Wolves Draw Away The Disciples After Themselves” (at the 1 hour 19 minute mark), Rosebrough notes how Maxwell, once again, preaches himself and his life experiences (which is in agreement with his numerous references to himself on his present-day website) in addition to teaching false doctrine while engaging in gross eisegesis, among other things. Like the first review, Rosebrough gets mad at Maxwell’s constantly preaching himself and the books he has written, all once again during “sermon time.” In short, Rosebrough calls Maxwell a “wolf” and Maxwell’s sermon a “crime” while also noting that Maxwell’s “preaching is like marijuana that is so bad for you.” Like the first review, Rosebrough does not miss a beat here.
While the sermon reviews would lead some to just reject Maxwell outright at this point, what are Maxwell’s sermons like present-day? After all, Rosebrough’s reviews were from a few years ago. Has Maxwell changed his tune? It would not appear so given what is on his website present-day. However, if it can be shown that Maxwell’s recent sermons do indeed have the same eisegesis, self-preaching and/or other related issues that other reviews and even his own websites have demonstrated, then one would be wise to mark and avoid John Maxwell as a false teacher.
Sermon #1: “How To Feed Your Faith”
In this sermon (presumably from Thanksgiving 2016), Maxwell reads from The Message translation as he botches Numbers 13 (he parachutes into verse 23 without reading the full context of the story). A full review of this sermon is not necessary given he is reading from a Herephrase of a translation, in addition to the aforementioned things found about him. Furthermore, his inserting made-up stuff (i.e., people of fear, turning a conversation from positive to negative, building on a negative story to make it worse, etc.) is so bad it would probably make Rosebrough get mad again. Perhaps this is a reason Rosebrough has not reviewed a Maxwell sermon since 2013?
Sermon #2: “Be Salt & Light”
Here, Maxwell is preaching at a Hillsong Conference, presumably sometime earlier in 2017 (or earlier; it was definitely posted on Youtube in 2017). The video begins with his saying, “There’s nothing like a Hillsong conference. Nothing like it.” Already there is a problem because Hillsong has so many problems that it caused an individual to write a thorough and well-researched book about its dangers. Given Maxwell is a pastor, as mentioned earlier, his lack of discernment here is inexcusable. Furthermore, given his unashamed usage of The Message translation from earlier, it is apparent that Maxwell has little to no discernment. In his description of Hillsong, he adds the following:
What an amazing life-changing work Hillsong is doing around the world, music, planting churches, resourcing, just absolutely modeling for so many, many, millions and millions of people, God has I think, raised Hillsong up for such a time as this. Amen?
Obviously, I cannot amen to that. Hillsong is far from amazing. Furthermore, its engine, Brian Houston, has enough problems of his own (such as coverup sexual abuse, abandon the hurting, and twist God’s Word horribly, all while under the label of “Pastor”). Hillsong’s music, church-planting and resourcing are all irrelevant in light of its mass problems.
As far as the sermon itself, he reads, once again, from The Message translation. This alone is reason for me to just quit watching this. He already showed his lack of discernment with his unashamed praise of Hillsong. His reading of the Herephrase known as The Message is essentially the straw that breaks the camel’s back here, especially in light of what is already known.
Sermon #3: “Paul’s Passion”
In the final sermon “mentioning” here (these three citations of mine cannot really be called reviews given the extreme brevity of each), Maxwell gives a sermon called “Paul’s Passion” on New Year’s Day, 2017. He opens it by saying some good things. However, once again, he reads from The Message translation as he reads 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. At this point, it should be noted that The Message is Maxwell’s unashamed weapon of choice. This is bad because The Message, as mentioned before, is a Herephrase. For Maxwell to unashamedly endorse a translation that never directly honors Christ as Lord is simply bad and irresponsible, especially since he is a pastor.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
While this article has examined John Maxwell’s teachings and websites against Scripture, it is far from an exhaustive article. In fact, more research could be done to show Maxwell’s dangers. Specifically, more research on his ties to the New Apostolic Reformation is needed. While the aforementioned sermons did not mention anything per se, the fact one of his own websites has a focus that nearly perfectly matches the “7 Mountains Theology” in terms of the streams of influence is quite interesting but also alarming. To my knowledge, little to no research has been done on these ties. Research on these matters would certainly help the body of Christ become more informed on what Maxwell possibly subtlety teaches in addition to what he already clearly teaches.
It should be noted that his books were not reviewed as part of this article. It would be interesting to see if his books are in alignment with his sermons. Given the mass amount of books he has written, it could take an article or more to get to the bottom of that.
BEFORE I POSTED THIS
I did something I have never done before prior to a blog post about a particular person; I attempted to contact his team (notice another reference to him) to ask him some questions (I could not find another way of contacting him). In prior blogs, I had never directly contacted the person I was blogging about with my concerns; instead I just blogged about the person. I have read how other bloggers have contacted a person only to get either no response or some kind of automated, impersonal response. This time, however, I wanted to at least try and contact the individual. I posted the following:
Good evening John. I recently wrote a blog regarding your teachings in light of Scripture. I have a few questions.
1. I notice that your passion, per your website, involves “growing and equipping others to do remarkable things and lead significant and fulfilled lives.” I notice Jesus Christ is nowhere to be found in that statement. Since you are a pastor and pastors are supposed to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:1-4), shouldn’t Jesus Christ be a part of that passion?
2. I notice that your organization “The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation” mentions several streams of influence (government, education, business, churches, arts, media, and family). Are you aware that these streams are in near verbatim alignment with “7 Mountains Theology”, which has ties to the New Apostolic Reformation? Are you aware of such a theology?
3. I notice you often use “The Message” translation. Are you aware that this translation never directly honors Christ as LORD? Because Jesus is the only way by which mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12), does using a translation that does not honor Jesus as LORD bother you?
Thanks so much for your time and have a great day.
Hopefully I will get a response that is not automated.
I do not write this post to vilify John Maxwell. He seems like a nice guy. Furthermore, he is an excellent speaker. It is also good that he pastors at a church that has a solid statement of beliefs. He also owns up to stuff. This is all good. However, his constantly preaching himself more than the Gospel in addition to his unashamed usage of a horrible translation in his messages is something that cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the fact one of his own organizations (if not himself) may be affiliated with the N.A.R is quite a concern that is worthy of future research. For those reasons, it would be wise to mark and avoid him (specifically his sermons), despite some of the good qualities about him (Romans 16:17). When I hear a pastor speak (and John Maxwell has that title), I want to hear him rightly handle God’s Word, not use an awful translation while inserting his own ideas into the text, thus teaching for shameful gain what he ought not to teach behind the pulpit (Titus 1:11). If his books are anything like his sermons, then marking and avoiding him altogether would be wise.
This world does not need John Maxwell’s ideas; it needs Jesus, who alone saves (Acts 4:12). Jesus came to save sinners, and we have all sinned (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Timothy 1:15; Matthew 18:11). I pray Maxwell, with all the influence he has, would repent of his false teachings and use his influence to preach Jesus more than himself. He has proven he can own up to bad stuff. I pray one day he will own up to his bad teachings (and he does have them) and turn from them. Only then will his current influence have its greatest impact.
SO……WHAT’D YOU THINK?
I’d love to hear your feedback. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share this article below via various social media outlets and/or leave a comment. If you ask questions, I guarantee you will not get automated responses. Thank you for reading and God bless.