The apostles went out with an absolute disdain for contextualization. The modern drive for cultural contextualization is a curse, because people are wasting their time trying to figure out clever ways to draw in the elect. Contextualization is “zip-code ministry.” The message of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is transcendent. It goes beyond its immediate culture or sub-culture. It crosses the world, and ignores the nuances of culture. It never descends to clothing or musical style, as if that had anything to do with the message of the Gospel.
Macarthur is out of his league here. Some his statements are just naive. He clearly hasn’t understood the difference between contextualization and syncretism, but what’s more is that he has neglected the ultimate paradigm of contextualization–the Incarnation. An excerpt from my article on Missional Discipleship:
When the Father sent the Son, Jesus left the glory of his trinitarian abode and became a helpless infant in the care of humans he created. This required an accommodating humility. Jesus grew up and became a first century, toga-wearing, sandal-sporting, temple-frequenting Jew. He accommodated first century Jewish culture (also known as contextualization). So, within reason we should take on the trappings of our culture in order to contextually relate the gospel. This can entail wearing broken-in jeans, togas, hand-made sandals or a suit and tie.
Everyone is contextualized; all truth is expressed in cultural forms. The Bible is contextualized…Hittite treaties, Greek epistles, vice and virtue lists, sea stories…Macarthur is contextualized…
However, contextualization is not purely cultural; it is missional. It leads us to immerse ourselves into the humanity of our neighborhoods and cities in order relate the gospel to people and their needs. Being a local missionary requires more than relevant attire; it demands humility of heart to listen to the stories of others, to empathize with their frustration, suffering, and brokenness and to redemptively retell their stories through the gospel. To be sent by God is to follow the example of the incarnation, to redemptively engage others with a humble heart and cultural accommodation.