Bishop Marvin Sapp opens up
By Derrel Johnson, rollingout.com
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 current album,
"Close," Sapp discussed 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
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
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
Since the untimely death of your wife,
Dr. MaLinda Sapp, what have you learned
in terms of love?
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
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
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
Would you ever remarry?
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
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.
video of "Close" -
What is the story behind the title
of the album?
Well, the story behind
the CD "Close" is, in life, all of us go through major
challenges. Ups, downs, circumstances that are beyond our control.
And many times, as believers we tend to get frustrated. And even as
unbelievers we tend to get frustrated and begin to think that God
doesn't care, he doesn't see, he doesn't understand. But what I
began to realize is that the more that we are afflicted, that means
the closer we are to what God said we're supposed to have. And the
reason why that is, is because the enemy's goal is really to just
get us to be frustrated to the point where we just forfeit the
promise of God for our lives.
So the whole gist of Close is just to let people know just because you're
under attack it [doesn't] mean that you're at a distance. That
literally means that you're within arm's reach of what God said
you're supposed to have.'
Do you have a favorite single on this album? If so, which one and
My favorite song on the album is called
"Carried Me." The reason I
like "Carried Me" is because it speaks to the grace of God. How the
only reason we were able to make it through all of the
circumstances, situations, challenges, lassitudes of life is because
God was there all the time carrying us through these situations by
his grace. I think that to me is, without question, my favorite song
on the CD but there's a lot of great material on there that I think
so many people are going to be blessed by. But "Carried Me"
is like one of my favorites. It's like one of my favorites to sing
Tell us about the
This record we got a
few. Actually, just like one real collaboration. That's with
Erica Campbell, and, you know this young rapper on the record
[Izze Williams] "You and Me Together," which was written
by myself, Rodney Jerkins and Aaron Lindsey. We came
together and we did something really, really amazing as it pertains
to keeping it funky and churchy all at the same time.
Then there was another song on the record that was produced and written
by R. Kelly. The song is called "Listen." And the
message of that song is just an amazing message, which it challenges
us really to look at our circumstances, pay attention to the
challenges that we face. And when we look and pay attention to the
challenges that we face, if we really pay attention we'll see that
God is really trying to speak to us through our situations. We may
not hear his voice audibly, but we do hear his voice if we pay
attention to what we face. So, you know I've had the opportunity to
work with some great people.
I got Kirk Franklin on there. He produced an amazing song on there
called "Kind God." So I mean this record I believe is a
wonderful collage of different textures and different moments, but I
didn't leave my base.
How is life as a single father?
Life as a single father,
it was challenging because that was not the plan for my life. My
plan was to be with a woman that I had planned on spending the rest
of my life with and raising our children together and then after
they became young adults just going off into the sunset and it just
being us two.
But now I'm an empty nester, and all of my kids are gone. And I'm trying
to figure life out now because I really have the opportunity now to
be able to find Marvin and find out what I like again! So it's been
a challenge, but it's not a challenge that I'm not up for. It's a
challenge that I'm excited about embracing and preferably moving
What's your secret to
with loved ones?
My secret to spending
time with loved ones is understanding that it's not about the
quantity of time, but it's about the quality of time. Quality means
everything to me. I could spend five minutes with you and if it's
five minutes where I'm enjoying and we're laughing and we're smiling
and we're having a good time, it's great. Then I could spend an hour
with you and it may be miserable and I'll be like "I can't do this!"
Because my life is so busy, I value moments. Moments mean a lot to me. I
don't believe in wasted moments. I just believe that every moment is
a learning process so I might spend some moments with you that you
may think is wasted but the reality is I was learning some lessons
while I was sitting here talking to you and maybe one of those
lessons is I don't need to spend as much time with you as I had
been. My thing is quality time, because I don't have a whole lot of
What do you do to unplug?
I have the strangest
hobby and I got introduced to this hobby four years ago. When I want
to unplug, I go to the shooting range, believe it or not. I go to
the shooting range every Monday. I'll go shoot 100 to 200 rounds
from one of my many tools that I have at the crib. But that's my
passion. I enjoy going to the gun range. It's a wonderful release
for me. And then I collect ink pens. I collect fine writing
instruments and things of that nature.
I'm not your normal African American brother. I go out and do the thing
that I really enjoy. Some people golf, which I do that, some people
play basketball, which I do that, some people play football, I don't
do that no more. I'm too old for that, but I do enjoy going to the
gun range and having fun there.
Who are you listening to
I'm an old-school guy,
man. I listen to people like Peabo Bryson. Today I was
listening to the old Winans, you know back in the days. My
son just recently introduced me to this young man [Daniel Caesar].
He has a song called "Blessed" and it's a wonderful ballad.
And it's a love song where he says, "yes I'm a mess but I'm blessed
to be stuck with you." And I'm like man, it's kind of been on repeat
on my cell phone. And you know I said one day this is going to be a
great song to sing at a wedding.