Last updated: October 4, 2019
Church planting runs in Matt LeRoy’s family. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., to plant a church. While attending Asbury Seminary, God called Matt to return to his hometown as a church planter. Now, Love Chapel Hill celebrates six years of incarnational ministry, marked by love, hospitality and grace, downtown.
Each week, the church holds two services in a local theater on Franklin Street. Although the church averages 200 weekly, those in the community see a much larger footprint.
Love Chapel Hill encourages its congregation to love local, whether sharing a meal with someone in need, volunteering as a tutor, giving hot chocolate to students on exam days or paying for parking on one of the busiest streets.
To those serving at Love Chapel Hill, these actions are more than random acts of kindness.
“Our name is our mission,” Matt said. “We want to love Chapel Hill with the heart of Jesus.”
The church also partners with various community outreaches to achieve their goal of loving their community with reckless abandon. Some of these include Grace on Wheels that provides transportation to those in poverty, SECU Family Housing that uses volunteers to feed and house families with loved ones in the hospital, or TABLE that feeds insecure children in the community.
Often church plants focus on families or one particular group of people. However, Love Chapel Hill doesn’t have a target audience. Instead, it seeks to impact its entire diverse community. College students compose about half of the congregation, with young families and those experiencing homelessness the rest.
Historically, those with bright futures don’t mix with those with broken pasts. Yet, in this church, those differences are pushed aside. As a result, authentic relationships form. Total transformation often takes years, but sometimes it starts with just a few steps down the aisle.
During the first service, Matt remembers two people on opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum sitting near the front of the church, with a few seats separating them. One was a well-dressed college girl. The other was a homeless man.
As Matt asked the congregation to turn to a particular passage of Scripture, the college student moved to sit next to and share her Bible with the homeless man who didn’t have one.
“This was the first service, and that’s when it clicked that that’s what we’re here for, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Matt said. “We don’t have a homeless ministry or a college ministry. We have a church family, and all of us are a part of that together.”
Just as the Wesleyan movement began with some unlikely leaders, so the homeless are stepping into leadership roles in the church and in the Made with Love Bakery that the church is launching. Once up and running, the bakery will provide a place of transitional employment, job and resume training, and interview coaching for the homeless.
“We are called to serve the poor, but it’s another thing to recognize their gifts,” Matt said.
Matt has written two books, Awakening Grace and The Way Forward. Awakening Grace offers a creative approach to Christian discipleship and spiritual practices. The Way Forward examines historical writers, such as Wesley, Fletcher, Booth and Asbury, extending the legacy of the great holiness writers to the next generation.
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