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The Full Story

Why are we called Matt's House?

As recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, a great feast was thrown at Matthew’s house
right after Jesus made an invitation for Matthew to follow Him. Apparently, along with becoming a
disciple, Jesus also meant, ...follow me back to your house where we are going to have a great feast with
all sorts of amazing and diverse people


The Pharisees were astonished to see this Jewish Rabbi eating, drinking, and generally having a great time with such a crowd of “tax collectors and sinners.” This was not a dinner for important dignitaries, as far as the world was concerned, but to Jesus, the Creator of the world, these were the most important people for Him to be with. This is the essence of Matt’s House. We are a fellowship of believers who admire everyone equally and seek to give anyone who comes a full seat at the table and a warm meal of fellowship, prayer, worship, food, and expository teaching. You are important and beautiful. God took the time to create you, so we want the opportunity and honor of making your acquaintance.

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Who started this thing?

Matt’s House was started by a couple of married Jesus followers named Laurel and Phillip Appel. We have been married for 34 years and we have been in ministry together for over 20 years. We both love sharing the message of the freedom and joy of the Gospel of Grace with people and then watching them blossom as they step into the fullness of their newfound life in Christ Jesus.

Meet Us

Phillip Appel

When I first set out to write this post, I began with the traditional practice of listing all my life achievements like jobs I have held and ministry experiences I have had. But that list doesn’t really get at who I really am. I am challenged by our stated goal at Matt’s House to be completely authentic, regardless of how it comes across. I am sick of playing games and smearing facades over the truth to make it more acceptable. That practice shields people from seeing the glory of the Gospel of Grace which says that I am accepted by God because I have tapped into His grace by my unwavering faith in the righteousness of Jesus and His finished work. I am not accepted because of my impressive deeds that I hope will add up to enough good points to cover all the bad marks against me. I have a deep desire to know the unfettered truth about Jesus, His creation, and His people. So, it seems fitting for me to let you know the truth about me. My true identity is not of this world. I am a new creature that was recreated by God Himself! I have been reborn of His Spirit who ignites my spirit and my soul and fills me with all manners of love, kindness, and forgiveness. I embody the complete righteousness of Jesus which stands blameless and untarnished by any standard on earth or in heaven. I have been blessed with all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places and invited to use those blessings generously to anybody who crosses my path. I have some unique gifts and passions that God has stirred up in me. One of those passions is to study the Word in-depth and also in-breadth (so I can see both the forest and the trees). I want to know and understand the scriptures so that I can explain how beautiful and powerful and accessible they are to everyone around me. My happy place is opening the Word of God to people who have been kept down by the lie of the enemy who told them they could not understand it. To use a popular phrase, my God-given super-power is to ignite the fuse of the power of the Word in people’s lives and then to sit back and watch the dynamite explode in a million beautiful ways in their lives! I am a man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a computer programmer, a wannabe wood worker. On most days, I have a positive outlook and I try to lift up those around me, but I also have a sinful nature that I have to deal with until it dies and frees me someday. I struggle with its constant, pathetic cries of hunger to be fed a bunch of meaningless, valueless, worldly food like pride, politics, fear, anger, bad food, and bad television. My body gets older every year (who would have known) and it leaves me with increasingly achy bones and muscles and tired eyes. I am so glad that this is not my true identity anymore. It might tug at me and even overtake me for an hour or a day or even a season, but it can never defeat the real me or even diminish my new creation by one ounce! When I fail miserably, I rely on his amazing grace and renewable mercy. I also have an amazing spouse who hears me out without judgment. She nurtures me back to remember who I truly am. We have been through an amazing number of challenges and victories together and I can’t even imagine life without her. I am so glad she shares this faith and we will continue our friendship forever in eternity. I grew up in a Christian home and considered myself a Christian at an early age. I was enthralled with the Bible from the moment I could read. I would stay up past my bedtime with a flashlight and covers over my head reading my Good News Bible that I was given at Sunday school.  As a young adult, I landed some crazy opportunities that advanced my career as a computer programmer and that lead me to wealth and notoriety in my field at a young age. But at home, the love of my life was struggling with her abusive past and it started weighing on all aspects of our relationship. Without knowing it, I moved further away from God and became increasingly dependent on my own methods and vices for dealing with the harsh realities of life, marriage, children, and responsibilities. I suppose if someone were to have asked me if I was a Christian, I would have automatically said yes. But the truth was, I wasn’t relying on God for anything. And I wasn’t really seeking after fellowship with Him or His family either. Eventually that all came to a train wreck that I look back on and praise God over. One night in another lonely hotel during a grueling work week, I looked at the Gideon’s Bible on the nightstand and felt so threatened by my failures that I picked it up and threw it against the wall! As I slumped down in the corner of the room in tears, I screamed out to God that I was done… I was just not able to achieve the righteousness that I thought He was demanding of me. I am not sure He spoke audibly or not, but His words were unmistakable… “Finally! Now we can really get to work.” I was so mystified by that message from God. What did that mean? At the very moment I intended on giving up on Him altogether, I found myself pursuing Him more personally and more passionately than ever before. A friend of mine told me that I would find the answers in the book of Romans, so I started tearing into that letter with reckless abandon. And boy did I find the truth. The life-changing message of the of grace of God, freely given to all who would just simply believe. I discovered I could just have faith in the righteousness of Jesus instead of trying to achieve it on my own. I could just relax and enjoy Him and allow Him to enjoy having fellowship with me. The pressure was off, and the game was on! The rest of the story is wondrous blur of real world, messy, beautiful ministry and fellowship with a crazy awesome group of Jesus followers. From long nights of providing personal pastoral time with the men at the U-Turn for Christ in Washington state to dunking dozen’s of inmates into their icy baptisms in the mountains of New Mexico to an exhilarating 10 years of leading people to the knowledge of radical grace as their senior pastor, I can never get enough of seeing this message of grace transform those around me. I am beside myself with excitement to see what God has in store for this new fellowship here in Holly Springs, NC. I can’t wait to meet each one of you in person and hear all about your story!

Laurel Appel

As I’m sitting down to write a bio for this website, I ponder, who am I, really? It comes to mind that who I am is influenced by my genes and my ancestors that came before me, my environment, the people who have had an impact on my life, my past experiences, including what I have done and how I have experienced others, who God created me to be, with the talents and inspiration that comes from Him, and who He has made me to be in Christ. I have had fifty-five years of influence from the world around me and from the God who created me, which He has skillfully combined to create the me that I am today.   The people in our lives have a tremendous impact on who we are. I see my mother’s influence on me the older I get. Her attention to detail, enjoyment of flowers and birds, and her artistic influence are all ways I see her in myself. My musical talent might have been handed down by my grandmother and grandfather who would fill their living room with joyful sounds of the piano and harmonica as my grandpa danced around the room. I see how God has passed those things and more, from generation to generation and how they connect me to my past and create connections in the present. I also recognize the impact some people have had on me through experiences I’ve had with them. Some have affected me in a negative way through their actions, which produced in me fear, unworthiness, hate, and shame. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse which God has used to teach me about forgiveness, grace, and love. Those years of healing were wrought with pain, growth, tears, breakthroughs, depression, and joy as God loosed the heavy chains of other people’s sin which had me bound and let them fall to the ground. There have been friends who have supported and loved me, and friends who have betrayed me. I have been discouraged by nay-sayers and encouraged by supporters. Great teachers have inspired me while others have squelched my enthusiasm. People, and what they say, can and do affect us, but my own mistakes have also shaped my life and the lives of the ones I love. Those mistakes are what drive my passion for God’s grace and why I am compassionate about sharing His grace with others. I have learned that how we deal with those experiences makes all the difference in our lives. God uses even the difficult things to mold and shape us. I’ve had people who have impacted my life in disastrous ways, but more importantly, I have had people who have impacted my life in magnificent ways. My husband, Phillip, has been the best. Ever since we met at the age of fourteen, he has encouraged, supported, and loved me. He helped me through those years of depression and healing from my abuse. He is the one who introduced me to Jesus and has taught me so much about the Lord and His grace. He gave me three beautiful children who have grown up under his patronage and are blessed for doing so. And now we have a growing and beautiful family, all of whom we love and adore, and who are a true blessing to me; especially our three grand-princesses. Phillip is the one who put my hand in God’s, and it is that act of love that superseded any other influence I have ever had in my earthly life. That introduction to God began the process of becoming who I am today. God has taken me on a journey of healing and understanding. He has shown me the definition of forgiveness and helped me to face my deepest fears and hurts. I have found comfort and peace in the arms of my Savior, and His grace has transformed me miraculously. Today, I know I am a child of God and that I live every moment in His grace. I am a new creation in Him, and I am not bound by any bad influences of my past or present. Today I am free to not look over my shoulder and allow the evil in this world to hold me back, but rather look forward in hope and great expectation. ​I am who I am in Christ, and He has set me free. I am also all the things He put in me to use to glorify Him, make others smile, and serve those whom He puts in my life. I have been blessed to have taught Sunday school classes, home schooled my children, and ministered to a wonderful and diverse group of people. And now, as we embark on this new adventure called Matt’s House, I wake up each day with anticipation about what God will do with two crazy souls who love Him and can’t wait to love those who will join us. ​ In addition to my mission with Matt’s House I have several other callings from God. I am called to help people know who they are in Christ, to know that they are loved by God, and to know they are freed by His grace, just as I was. That grace and freedom miraculously transformed me, and I want to share that miracle with others so they may experience God the way I now do. You can read about my journey in my award-winning book, Radical Grace: Live Free and Unashamed. Ask me about it at one of our gatherings, or you can check it out on my author site here or anywhere books are sold. My family is precious to me, so I make sure that when we get together, I look directly into each of their eyes and tell them that I love them. I care about my community and friends, so I have joined Phillip in starting Matt’s House to offer a place for people to come and experience Jesus, authenticity, family, grace, and love. So, who am I? I am all that God created in me, all that He has used to shape me, and all the possibility of what I will do as He and I walk together through this life that He has blessed me with. I am a Spirit-filled, Jesus-loving, child of God. I am His beloved.

Taylor Lepard

Hi, my name is Taylor. I'm a wife and a stay-at-home mom. I homeschool both of our kids and I love to bake and do anything artsy. I grew up Christian, but as a kid I thought it was all about trying to be good and follow all the rules. I was always afraid of what God thought of me for not doing enough good or doing too much bad. I was a goody-two-shoes, but also tried my best to fit in with everyone, so long as it didn't cross a moral line. I was afraid of what people thought of me and was a perfectionist. I went back and forth between feeling horrible about myself and feeling prideful about being the good little Christian girl. In my late teens and early 20's I was finally understanding God's grace and accepting it. I was realizing God already loves me right where I'm at, even with my faults. Realizing that grace is not only for the moment I accepted Him, but it is for my entire life on earth. I was freed from the constant worry that I wasn't good enough. Now I understand how valued I am by Him, and I find my confidence there. I can now be authentically myself, unashamed, because I know I've been given righteousness and love through Jesus. This has freed me to have that same love for the people around me. I no longer feel the need to compare myself to people, either feeling inadequate or prideful. We are all just as valuable to God and just as in need of Him. We all have the same access to His grace through faith in Jesus.

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