How can you tell the difference between legitimate contextualization and unbiblical compromise?
The best rule of thumb in determining what’s biblical contextualization and what’s unbiblical compromise is the question: Does this make the offense of the gospel clearer? If so, it’s biblical contextualization. If not, it’s unbiblical compromise.
At first blush, cultural practices like taking off your shoes indoors or not eating with your left hand may not seem to relate to the gospel at all. But if conforming to cultural customs like these removes cultural offense, it allows us to communicate the gospel more directly. Removing these cultural stumbling blocks gives one’s hearer the opportunity to hear the offense of the gospel more clearly. In other words, good contextualization gives people the opportunity to stumble over the gospel, not culture.
On the other hand, if you adopt any cultural practices that contradict Scripture, or present the gospel in a way that minimizes the gospel’s distinctness from what someone already believes, such “contextualization” is compromise in disguise because it minimizes the offense of the gospel, and to that extent obscures the gospel.