In his first letter to Timothy, St. Paul outlines many criteria for selecting an elder, including that “the overseer must be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). The overseer—a deacon, elder, or pastor—should not do things that would cause blame or scandal or provide others justification for making accusations. In my conversations around the church and ministry world, I frequently hear the phrase “living above reproach” from leaders. Many people use this concept as a guide for everyday behavior. It provides a superb framework for evaluating decisions: “Will this action give others grounds for making an accusation against me?” If you want to create fertile ground for accusations to grow like weeds, just play fast and loose with the church’s money! But if you want to reduce the possibilities for accusations against you and your church, implement good internal control procedures.
“Living above reproach” is a vague guide. All it provides is a general framework. So I sometimes use a different guide—the newspaper test. Consider if you would want to see a given conversation, decision, or e-mail on the front page of your hometown paper. If it would be devastating to see on page 1, then maybe something is wrong with this decision or action. I discuss this in more detail here.
If you want to give the concept of living above reproach a little more form, then look at accountability or internal control concepts. Those issues will give you some specific steps to move toward living above reproach.