John Maxwell is the leadership guru of the Christian world, there’s no denying that. He’s also an incredibly prolific writer, who keeps popping out one book after another. His latest book is Intentional Living—and it’s another inspiring book, though slightly different from his previous works.
First of all, Intentional Living is not explicitly Christian, as many of his books are. It’s aimed at the general market (it’s categorized as ‘business leadership’), while at the same time making no secret of the deep Christian convictions Maxwell has.
More importantly however, this is one of Maxwell’s most personal books. In the various chapters, he shares more of his life story and the choices he has made in his career over the years than before. It gave me a new level of understanding for the man from whom I have learned a lot over the years.
Intentional living is above all a book that aims to inspire—which is both the strength and the underlying weakness in my opinion. Maxwell is inspiring for certain; his level of passion, commitment, and purpose is contagious. After finishing it, I was determined more than ever to make a difference through my life (or my story, as Maxwell refers to it).
His line of reasoning is solid, as ever. To make a difference, you have to live intentionally, meaning you find your ‘why’ and start doing instead of trying. The chapters on connecting and partnering with like-minded and like-valued people resonated with me especially, since Maxwell makes a convincing point about the true synergetic effect of a great team.
He also keeps stressing how intentional living is about serving others more than anything. Find your ‘sweet spot’, he urges’ and start adding value to other people’s lives. I couldn’t agree more.
Yet after reading the book, one nagging thought kept crashing my ‘high’ of inspiration: where’s the suffering? The whole book is full of positive examples, of ‘if you will it it will happen’, of making your dreams come true and not stopping until they do. There’s no or little room for struggles, for suffering, for taking up your cross and following Jesus despite it all…
Admittedly, this is a theological push back, even a psychological one, but I cannot fully embrace the positive thinking Maxwell embraces here more than ever. In quoting influences like Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, and others, it’s clear where Maxwell is coming from. He believes in positive thinking, in the abundance mindset. I understand where he’s coming from, but I can’t quite get there myself. No amount of positive thinking can counter Jesus’ words that we would suffer for following Him.
So by all means, read Intentional Living. It will inspire you, help you to stop dreaming and start doing. There’s tons to learn from Maxwell, that much is obvious. But be aware that the theological dish he is serving in this supposedly ‘neutral’ book may not be according to your theological taste. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it—but it does mean that you should test it, and hold on to what’s good and real.