Rev. Chandler Stokes
In the first year of my ministry at Westminster I wrote about the Six Great Ends of the Church. The sixth is the demonstration of the Reign of Heaven to the world—that is, the church is to be a witness to the Reign of God. People are supposed to be able to look at the church and see the way that God intends the world to be. Oh, my. It is an audacious goal—to demonstrate, to witness to the Kingdom of God, to show the way God intends the world to be. There are serious difficulties on the way to this goal. For one, this is a social reality that we are to point to. It is not an individual reality; it’s a communal reality. This demonstration is not simply a matter of personal morality or integrity. It is a kingdom, a commonwealth, a social reality—something we cannot do alone but do corporately. And to make things more difficult, it is not something we do in isolation from the world. And the world is broken, violent, unjust, inhuman—and we do not witness in isolation from that world but in the midst of its infectious bloodshed and banality. In our Reformed tradition we believe that are not directed to construct little enclaves of heaven and let the rest the world go to Hades. We do not allow ourselves that conceit. We don’t create monasteries or build enclaves behind walls of separation in isolation from the world; we live our communal life in the very midst of a fragmented society. We set ourselves right in the midst of it, right in the craters of a war-torn world. We do not even allow ourselves the conceit of thinking that all that brokenness doesn’t affect us—as Paul says, we groan inwardly; we need help in our weakness. We know that we share in that pain that infects the world. The world’s temperament touches our lives; we are not immune. So…, how do we witness to that Reign of Heaven?