Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
3 John 11
This terse command and its explanation should be understood in context. John has just had to deal with the ugly effects of cultic celebrity and politics in the church. Diotrephes was destroying the church, disrupting the beauty of the Body of Christ, and dividing the unity of God’s people. John was planning on a special visit just to deal with the situation. Until then, this letter to Gaius would have to stem the tide.
So the evil that John is interested in people avoiding is selfish division. The problem that Diotrephes had was putting himself first. He was an egomaniac on a mission of self-promotion. And the church was his personal playing field. As a leader, his influence could create other selfish tyrants in homes and families. His example was to be avoided. Abusive leadership was the evil to shun.
The origin and destiny of the actions of selfish manipulation do not find their source in God. This is very direct. When this kind of leadership emerges in ministry, watch out. The devil has gotten a stranglehold on gospel effectiveness. Why? The attention moves away from Christ and the preaching of the cross. Focus centers on the leader. And when the gospel is diminished, only sin will fill the void.
Part of the reason I am not fond of reading books on leadership and management (even Christian ones) is that they often focus on the personality of the leader and what can only be called manipulative techniques. They emphasize technique and tools over character and can become aids to selfish manipulation. I believe a better leadership model is found in Christ. I surrender to Him as His slave. He then calls me to be the servant of all. Even though I lead, it is from the position of a servant of Christ as He is the head of the church. This keeps my ego in check.