A multiple GRAMMY® nominated, 22-time Stellar Award-winning gospel superstar, songwriter, producer, and pastor, Bishop Marvin Sapp leads a thriving ministry — the Michigan-based Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, with two locations serving Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
Sapp also leads Metropolitan Bishop within the Global United Fellowship where he oversees more than 100 churches in 19 states. Days before the release of his new album, Close, Sapp discusses the loss of his wife, MaLinda Sapp, moving forward, and raising three kids as a single father in this revealing interview.
What is your leadership style as a bishop?
I try to empower people. That’s my goal. I’m what you would call a metropolitan bishop over a central deanery of Global United Fellowship. And central denary of Global United Fellowship is like 19 states in the central part of the United States so I have under my purview, 148 or 149 churches that I cover. But the blessing is that I have three bishops under me, provincial bishops, who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of what Global United Fellowship is all about. It’s a fellowship of about 900 churches in 22 countries and the fellowship is only around four years old so it’s fairly new. So my leadership style, thanks be to God, is I really just need to stay on top of the three bishops that I have and I’ve been blessed to have three great guys that I have the opportunity to work with and they really more or less make my life pretty much easy as it pertains to that responsibility as an Episcopal leader. Do I have to come down on them? No, because they are excellent leaders in themselves and they keep me posted and abreast of everything that’s going on as it pertains with the central deanery so I’ve been blessed with an easy going position where I don’t have to do a whole lot because I have great support.
How do you balance your ministerial obligations with being a recording artist?
I don’t balance it. I prioritize. When you really understand your assignment, you keep everything in proper order. Before I’m anything else, I’m a father. That’s my first ministry. And then after being a father, I’m a pastor. Because I pastor two churches, one in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and one in Muskegon, Michigan. And then after that, I’m a recording artist. And then after that, I’m an entrepreneur. I try to keep everything in proper order. When I prioritize stuff in a proper way, it really makes it easier, for the sake of a better word, to accomplish the goal of taking care of all of the responsibilities that are in my hands. Having quality staff, I don’t have staff for my kids of course, I am the staff for them, but when it comes to the other things that I need to do, you just got to have good people around you that you trust to be able to execute your thoughts, your concepts, your plans, and then you got to hold them to task. You got to make sure that what you release them to do that they do it. I’ve always been pretty good at remembering things, conversations, and then I also do something that most men don’t do, I journal my conversations and thoughts and stuff like that, so if I ever need to recall it, I can always recall the conversation, and bring it up. You’ve got to be able to hold people to task. That’s the key thing.
Since the untimely death of your wife, Dr. MaLinda Sapp, what have you learned in terms of love?
Since the passing of my wife, one of the things that I’ve learned to love is the importance of family and the family unit. You know when she passed away, I really began to really just focus on my children and try to make sure that they were the very best that they could possibly be as individuals. And, then try to raise them up to be productive young people and productive citizens to society. I learned how to love the whole concept of family, and what the family unit was all about. I think too, I kind of learned how to love myself and appreciate who I was as an individual. It really teaches you how to really value life in general because life is so short. You know the bible says it’s but a vapor. It taught me how to appreciate every moment and how not to, for the sake of a better word, how not to be angry and bitter about things not going the way you planned for it to go, but to embrace it, and just live through it.
What do you miss most about her?
I think one of the things that I miss the most is every morning she would get up and she would say the words, “keep it moving!” Every morning she would get up while the kids were running around the house, they might’ve been dragging around and she’d be like (imitating her voice) “keep it moving children, keep it moving!” Just trying to make sure that we as individuals understood the urgency of the moment. I miss her saying that. I also miss her saying that excellence is the standard, not the goal. She always instilled those words in us to understand that in a pursuance of trying to be the very best that we are trying to be, that we need to make sure that we’re focusing on excellence because it is the overall standard, not just the goal. She always instilled those words in us to understand that in a pursuance of trying to be the very best that we are trying to be, that we need to make sure that we’re focusing on excellence because it’s not the standard it’s the goal. It’s what we should be pursuing the most.There are a lot of things that she used to say all the time. One of the things she used to say all the time, she used to call everybody beautiful. Every woman was beautiful, and every man was a man of God. No matter how ugly they were, or messed up their lives were, every man was a man of God. She always saw individuals not for what they were but for what God had created them to be and to become. So there’s a whole lot of things that I miss about things that my wife said and now I find myself saying it, call everybody a man of god, call every woman beautiful you know because it doesn’t matter how ugly their actions may be or how ugly they may be in personal eyes as pertaining to the things they do, God has created and formed them in a beautiful way.
Would you ever remarry?
Absolutely. I’m at a place now where I’m ready to consider moving forward. My kids are grown. My kids are 23, 20 and 18. None of them live in the house. All of them are in college and that was really my focus and my goal was to raise my children and give them all of my attention. During the process, I obviously dated, but some, most, or all, did not understand why I would not commit and move to that place of trying to be married. They needed their Dad and they needed their Dad’s undivided attention. So I made a decision to make that sacrifice to be their everything because I knew that if I was their everything that once I got them to a place where they were mature enough to be able to move on with their lives and to succeed in every area, I would have time to be able to find life and find love again. I don’t want to be alone. I am a better married man than I am a single man. I was married my whole adult life. I was with my wife from 23 to 43. The single life in this world is very different. Very, very, very different. I’ll find a boo one day.