John Maxwell is one of the best-known leadership experts in the world. As an author he has sold more than 13 million books, and his organizations have trained more than five million people. After 14 years as senior pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, Maxwell left the pastorate to focus on his leadership training ministry, but has returned to local church service as a teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. His most recent book is on communication, and Preaching Executive Editor Michael Duduit recently visited with John about the insights pastors can gain in this critical area. This segment is the first in a series of four.
Preaching: Your newest book is Everyone Communicates, Few Connect (Thomas Nelson). The subtitle is What the Most Effective People Do Differently. John, what do the most effective people do differently?
Maxwell: In simple terms, the most effective people connect, and the most ineffective people don’t. It’s that simple. You and I know when we’re in a conversation or listening to a message when somebody’s speaking, we know whether they’re connecting or not. It’s amazing to me that we spend all of our lives talking to people, yet nobody’s really sat down with us and said, “OK, it is not your talking that makes you effective; it’s your ability to connect with people while you talk.” So I decided after sitting on this for 25 years—and of course being a pastor, speaking a lot, having to connect with different types of audiences—that I really wanted to talk about it. So I wrote the book.
Preaching: In previous interviews, we’ve talked about this issue of communication—that it’s not just talking, it’s connecting. As a young pastor, how did this concept come to you?
Maxwell: Well I didn’t connect. I had my typical courses, of course. Being a theologue, I had homiletics, hermeneutics, speech classes; but I couldn’t connect, and I knew I wasn’t connecting. It bothered me greatly because every week I was preaching sermons, every day trying to convince people to follow leadership and vision; yet I wasn’t connecting.
It really took me a long time—about six years—to sort out how to connect and why some people did and some didn’t. Probably where I began really early was listening to people and saying, “They’re a connecter,” or “They’re not a connecter,” based on whether they connected with me. Then I tried to determine why. Why did that person connect with me in a wonderful way, and that other person basically was talking about the same subject and didn’t connect at all?
I did that in preaching; I did that with profs in college; I did that in conversations around the dinner table. Why does one person capture the attention of everybody else, and everybody else just listens? Slowly, real slowly, I began to understand there are some connecting principles or practices. I started writing things down 25 or 30 years ago, slowly forming what now is the book.
So the book is real simple and easy to understand. When people read it, they’re going to say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” It took me a long time to write the book so people could digest it easily.