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Kentucky emerging church takes people to the waters

The Rev. D.G. Hollums leads a session during the "emergingumc" conference in Nashville, Tenn. UMNS photos by Linda Green.  

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*

Oct. 11, 2007

An experimental United Methodist network of people seeking God as they gather together naturally is the description for an emerging church known as Th3 Waters in northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati.

Birthed out of and attached to Florence (Ky.) United Methodist Church, this spirit-filled endeavor is a network of small house churches meeting in public places such as coffee shops, taverns, fast food places and homes.

Led by the Rev. D.G. Hollums, the 2-year-old Th3 Waters seeks to form deep community in the region with seekers as they worship and grow together. The community is organic, or natural, and consists of people who naturally connect through work, friends and family — groups "that God has already placed relationships in their hearts and in their lives." It grows by community members inviting others to participate.

“We are interested in lifestyle Christianity and not just attending something.”
–The Rev. D.G. Hollums

"We are looking for people who have no community in their lives," said Hollums, who refers to himself as a "cultural architect" rather than a pastor.

"We are not interested in church hoppers. We are not interested in those who already have a church that is benefiting them in their lives. We are interested in reaching people who need authentic, deep community."

Th3 Waters (pronounced The Waters) is not a ministry or program but is United Methodist in its theology. Each gathering includes local missions, including collaborating with others on projects such as building a habitat house, visiting nursing homes, feeding the homeless - all done to advance the kingdom of God.

Emerging church

Hollums and the Rev. Gary Gibson, who is pastor of the Florence church, were presenters during the "emergingumc" conference held Oct. 4-6 in Nashville, Tenn. The event was sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship to explore ways to return churches to their roots and mission.

"We are about forming authentic community which brings people
together to do life together,"
says the Rev. Gary Gibson.

According to Gibson, an "emergingumc" is "a movement that emerges out of the kingdom of God that is willing to reach people differently than the church has ever tried to do before." Followers say the emerging church movement is more biblical than the way the church has operated during the last 300 years and is focused more on relationships than numbers.

"We have become such a numbered society where we have to count everything, and if this number does not go up then you have not been a success," Gibson said. "Success is when you have been able to establish a relationship and that relationship is meant to be over a long period of time. … Oftentimes in the church, if you have not converted someone in a 15-minute conversation, you have failed."

Gibson said an emerging church like Th3 Waters is willing to establish a relationship with someone that may span three years before that person decides to become a follower of Christ. "We are about forming authentic community which brings people together to do life together. It is all of life together, not a separation of spiritual life from family life or the job."

Emerging church, he said, is encouraging people to live up to who they are as children of God and is about living life with the intent to bless other people.


As pastor of the Florence church for the past 10 years, Gibson said he has long had the "the desire to do church planting and to be able to reach those not already in church and to be able to offer them Christ."  His and Hollums' desires for kingdom-building brought them together for Th3 Waters.

Hollums said the polity of The United Methodist Church sometimes hinders the ministry yearnings of young pastors and that a former appointment in New Mexico did not meet his calling for "relational evangelism." He said that his call was not to sit in a church office but in a Starbucks where he could "love on people."

"'The world is my parish' is literally there," said Hollums, quoting Methodism founder John Wesley. "I am going to go live in the world and allow Christ to live through me."

The emergingumc, Hollums said, is returning the church to what Wesley did, which is touching and changing lives.

"What we believe at Th3 Waters is to change the way we be and the way we are. We are interested in lifestyle Christianity and not just attending something," he said. "This Christianity is something that changes the way we live our lives … It changes every aspect of who we are."

Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org .

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