I just finished Gordon MacDonald’s book Ordering Your Private World. I picked it up in college, I think, when it was all the rage. Almost two decades later, I’m finally getting to it—which may demonstrate that my private world is a mess, and why.
There’s some helpful information in the book. MacDonald emphasizes the need for a spiritual, inward strength to sustain our daily activities—a private world behind our public world. I definitely see that. And his cautions against being “driven,” or wasting time, or being a “fast starter” who never learns personal discipline and thus fizzles are devastating. I wrote “Ouch!” in the margins several times!
But overall, I was disappointed with the book. MacDonald cites Scripture quite a bit, but usually to support his own points rather than to explain it in context, it seems. He uses a ton of interesting illustrations (beware of being a sinkhole, tend your inner garden, etc.—these illustrations dominate the book) and allusions to figures from history (what Wesley said, what Wilberforce did, etc.). That’s fine, I suppose. But the book disappoints because of what it is not.
First, as I already indicated, it’s not exegetical. Worse, it’s not cross-centered. I end several chapters with notes in which I wished he had pointed the driven, ambitious workaholic to the cross, not just to a “garden” of prayer and refreshment. People need a Savior, not just “inner balance”! Tellingly, I think, the book ends with an epilogue that cites Gandhi’s regular use of a spinning wheel as an example of cultivating inward peace and perspective. Now, MacDonald notes that Gandhi wasn’t a Christian, and he makes some good statements about seeing the glory of Christ and such. But he still spends more time pointing readers to Gandhi’s wheel rather than Jesus’ cross. In short, I’m left wondering “What is distinctly Christian about this book?” It frankly reads like the printer mistakenly alternated pages from books by Stephen R. Covey (“Get it together, man”) and Max Lucado (“Let me paint you a vivid word picture”). That’s harsh, but not inaccurate, in my opinion.
I don’t doubt that my private world needs to be more “ordered.” But one of things I may need to do as part of that ordering process to avoid investing too much time in books like this. Which is funny, I suppose.
(Sorry. I feel like a crank. But there it is. Feel free to disagree.)