July 24, 2015
by Jake Lee
Pastor at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA

A common purpose: our witness and our with-ness

Over the past couple of years, Harrisonburg Mennonite Church has sought become more, not less, religious.

Religion gets a bad rap these days. We often hear people say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”, or, “I’m for Jesus, but against religion.”

But we believe that to be spiritual, to be “for” Jesus, is to embrace religion. The word comes from the Latin religare, which was used to describe sticks bundled together for fuel. It is where we get the word “ligament.” Essentially, it means to be bundled together for a common purpose.

This is where we have discovered that fruitful discipleship happens. It happens, not only as an individual pursuit, or only in a stagnant classroom. For us, discipleship has been most fruitful as we have partnered together to follow Jesus within our community.

Our focus this year has been on With-ness: that is, to be the church is to live life with each other, and to be together with our broader community. This has looked like:

  • Hosting a Christmas Eve service and putting on VBS events in the local apartment complex parking lot
  • Joining with neighboring churches to send food home to struggling families
  • Bringing encouragement meals to staff at the local elementary school
  • Working with the community to expand a community garden and clean up a neighborhood walking path
  • Busing neighborhood kids to our facility for a weekly meal and encounter with Jesus
  • Discovering ways we can resource nearby refugee families.

In all these ways we are seeking to be religious in the best sense of the term: being bound together for a common purpose, learning to follow Jesus by embodying His kingdom as a community of faith (with each other) in the midst of our community (with our neighbor).

Our witness is taking shape through our with-ness.

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