The NETT Church Celebrates a Milestone while Embracing a Promising Future
By Kim Hill
“God has been good!”
Reverend Rodrigo Cruz beams with excitement as he shares the blessings he has witnessed in the NETT Church’s first year of existence. Fulfilling a God-given vision to be servant hearts in the Lilburn community, the church is celebrating its anniversary as a passionate, multi-cultural congregation that encourages people to worship God while embracing their diversity and at the same time recognizing that we are one human race.
The church, which has been meeting at Parkview High School, holds services three Sundays a month, with an additional Sunday dedicated to missions. Reverend Cruz says the monthly Mission Sunday is modeled after Acts 1:8, the verse where Jesus calls the apostles to be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. “Our interpretation is that our Jerusalem would be our immediate surroundings, like the city of Lilburn. Our Judea would be a broader space, like the state of Georgia. Then Samaria, would be close geographically but maybe racially or politically a place we do not relate to.” As for reaching to the ends of the earth, the church partners with causes like Stop Hunger Now, Rice Bowls, and other mission agencies around the world. The Nett also partners with 17 different local non-profits, and participates in random acts of love, like handing out individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper in store parking lots, giving out bottles of water at street corners, and providing a free carwash for the community. There is no fee charged and no donations are taken. These actions are not intended to bring people to the church, but rather to just have them experience God’s love with no strings attached. In its year of existence, the church has been able to provide over $20,000 in assistance in the community and around the world.
Reverend Cruz and the leadership team try to make services relevant to the people. Each service includes music by a worship band and a time that allows people to bring their gifts to God in any form, whether as a work of art or singing or dancing. “Like the widow, they bring what they have,” says Reverend Cruz. It is a time where they can express themselves, whether through stomp, rap, or bluegrass. “Then we try to bring the biblical stories in a way that relates to them,” he says.
In June, the church will move to the Berkmar United Methodist Church campus and join with its congregation to become the NETT of Berkmar. Reverend Cruz is thankful for the vision of the United Methodist Church. He sees unlimited potential as the two congregations join forces to become “Better Together” for the community, honoring Berkmar’s history and impact on the community, and bringing Nett’s “DNA” and culture to the church. He says that while the school has been a blessing, and it has been exciting to see people come to Jesus in a public space, he looks forward to the next season of the life of the church. He believes the convenience of a permanent space will allow more time and energy to be spent helping people to know God and to love Jesus. “God has been gracious. It is amazing to see where we have come having started last year with a handful of people.”
The events of the past year bring reflection on how to measure success as a church. Reverend Cruz says a lot of churches look at people in the pews and money in the bank as a benchmark. He says Nett’s leadership team is working towards moving from being a successful church to being a fruitful church and a faithful church. “Our benchmarks are: Can we impact people’s lives?” he explains. “By doing what God is telling us to do, we can influence this city for good.”
Acknowledging there will be some growing pains as the two groups combine, Reverend Cruz says there is a clear vision that the church exists to help enable nations to experience transformation together. “One of our core values is integrity – if we are not reaching out to all, then our mission is not complete.” While the idea of a Mission Sunday is new to many, Reverend Cruz has seen excitement about the challenge, and when members say, “You mean we can just close the church doors once a month and go out and love people?” he tells them, “Yes, we can.” Of his role he says, “If I am not stretching you in your faith, then I am not doing my job as your pastor. I am not here to hold people’s hands while we wait for Jesus to come back. There is too much brokenness around us for us to be passive.”