Let me be more clear.
The message that we are sinners. Lost and dead in our sin. Christ came and died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. Through his FINISHED work on the cross we can have life and this is the power of God. And the cross PREACHED is alone the power that a church has to share. (I Corinthians 1:18)
Everything flows from that.
Paul says in Galatians 1:8 that if anyone is preaching something OTHER than the Gospel of Christ crucified they are under a curse.
So what about churches and people teaching things that you disagree with regarding secondary issues? In Philippians 1 Paul shares about two types of people; 1) Those who preach Christ humbly, and, 2) Those who preach Christ for personal gain. And how does he respond to these "false" teachers? He rejoices that the Gospel is preached.
So why doesn't he get more tough on these self-centered teachers? I believe it is because of what he says in 1 Corinthians; Only the cross has power. Either we, in our clever words and window dressings, have the ability to change lives, or, the redemptive finished work of Christ on the cross changes lives.
Let me illustrate this in a silly way.....
If I have a goal to teach someone how to read there are a number of different ways I can present it. Some we could argue are better than others. Some techniques might even be fairly absurd. But even if I teach my son that the way to read is to hold a book in one hand while tugging on his ear with the other, does he learn how to read? Yes. We can all agree that my added ear tugging was unnecessary and ultimately unhelpful, but, if he does learn to read, he will probably realize that the ear tugging is superfluous to the process and eliminate it on his own. Yet the essential and life changing goal has been achieved. He can now read. And he will be able to read for the rest of his life.
If Christ is preached, and the cross is visible, most, if not all, of the superfluous ridiculousness that people may add will eventually take a back seat. Because it is not our power that changes lives, but the power of God.
Does this mean we ignore absurdity? No. But we too often focus on the absurdity and not the power. The way we criticize other churches is often done in such a way that we are subtly claiming that because they have added some "ear tugging" they aren't really alive in Christ. If the central message of a church is Christ Crucified, than let us rejoice in the Gospel. Which isn't the same as saying that we should all go to that church and participate in "ear tugging".
In the course of the Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill saga(look it up yourself) a common refrain I hear is how "this" is the sort of thing that causes people to leave Christ. Let me say that again. When my son discovers that my "ear tugging" technique was stupid he will never read again........
What power do we preach? Our own? Or the Cross? If we preach the Cross, regardless of the reasons or the technique, than our own failures and mistakes have no effect on the power of God. Unless you believe that a single man, or church, can supersede the power of Christ.
Say whatever you want about Driscoll and his innumerable problems, but he preached the Cross. There are literally thousands of stories of people who came to the cross through the message of the Gospel that was preached. There surely was a progressive growth of "ear tugging" secondary doctrines that began to bleed into the life of Mars Hill, but the cross was always preached. And like Paul, I rejoice for the lives that were saved because of CHRIST!
And we should also weep for the people who were hurt by the secondary issues. This is a fine line that we must struggle to maintain. But we can not lose perspective that while we have a responsibility to address sinful behavior(ala Paul vs Peter), we cannot begin a process of claiming that the power of salvation comes from any one teacher's perfect motivation and technique.
When we look for a church to go to we must begin and end with the question, is the Cross preached? If it is, than weigh carefully the secondary issues. If it isn't, it is not a church. Even if it gets secondary issues right.
Reminder...preaching the Gospel does not give you a pass for sin....