The Miraculous Life & Times of Marvin Sapp

It\’s hard to imagine standing in a church after the emotionally draining experience of burying your father; then, tearfully raising your voice to sing a simple, heartfelt worship song…that later becomes a blessing to millions, and a mega-hit. But that\’s how Marvin Sapp\’s song, “never would have made it” was conceived. The words: “never would have made it…never could have made it…without you…” came from deep down. Sometimes life\’s most difficult seasons yield the greatest blessings.

—Psalm 42:7-8

The miracle of a moment…
“My father, Henry Louis Sapp, Jr, had a major impact on my life. Even though he and my mother were divorced for the majority of my life, he had a big part in making me who I am. “My father never asked me for anything. He was a very simple man. He only asked that when he passed away, that I would do the funeral; because I wasn\’t just his son, I was his pastor as well. That was the most difficult request he ever made of me.

“The Sunday after we buried him, I walked in church, and normally, I always close out with “I\’ll Praise You,” a song that my musicians and I wrote. But that Sunday, I was so broken, I slowed everything down and I just started singing, “Never would have made it…Never could have made it without you….”

“Initially, I wasn\’t going to record it; but my wife (Dr. MaLinda Sapp) actually pushed me. Boy! Did she bug me about it! Even up to the week of the recording, we weren\’t going to do that song, but I said, ‘I\’ll just put it in a medley of songs to appease her.\’ From there, it was unbelievable! It was a dream come true.

“I actually didn\’t know the song was a hit! It wasn\’t until about a year after the record came out. I was on stage singing the song at the BET Awards (by then, the video was being played every hour on BET). And while I was up singing, I was looking out in the crowd and Puffy, Keyshia Cole, and others were singing the song with me. Then, backstage, Lil Wayne was telling me how much he enjoyed the song (of course, he used some four-letter words!), but that\’s when it really hit home. I finally realized that the record was as large as it was.”

The miracle of God\’s timing…
In the early 90s, Marvin Sapp first stepped into the Gospel industry mainstream as a member of the group, Commissioned (founded by Fred Hammond). It was a humble beginning, to be sure. Although Sapp was a great vocalist, he was a “member”—not the main lead. He actually was recruited to replace departing member, Keith Staten. Around that time, Commissioned had already begun to experience success on both the Gospel and Christian sales charts; and even began creating a mainstream buzz. But that all ended in 1995, when the decision was made, somewhat abruptly, to disband the group. All the members went separate ways—and it was then that Sapp “decided” to launch a solo career.

Although his sizzling vocals quickly made him a crowd pleaser, he was never “thirsty” for the limelight of the stage; rather, he preferred to satisfy the hunger of the people for the life- changing Word of God. He remained firm in his commitment to “Not [be] a singer that happens to preach; but a preacher called by God who is gifted to sing.” He continued to record, but preaching was his priority. In fact, in 2002, he launched Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, in his hometown of Grand Rapids, where his wife serves as Pastor of Administration.

“We started with 24 people and now we have about 900 active members,” he states proudly. “We own about 20 acres of property in the inner city; and we have over 250,000 square feet of space. We\’re in the process of building a 20,000 square foot performing arts and educational center on our campus. I\’m extremely excited about that!”

From 1996 to 2006, Sapp recorded five solo projects, which performed moderately. “I was happy and content selling 100,000 records,” he said. He wasn\’t on the “A-list” of best-selling artists, but he was satisfied. His priorities remained clear—family first, followed by ministry and then career.

Ironically, Sapp\’s core values haven\’t changed. He hasn\’t allowed the meteoric success of his musical career to overwhelm his life.
“At 43, being a pastor, my focus is more than just music. My wife MaLinda also keeps me grounded. I still have to take out the garbage and help with the kids! Plus, Grand Rapids is a great city. I appreciate how they treat me. I can go to the store or the mall and [people see me] and it\’s like [they say], ‘That\’s just Marvin.\’ My members really aren\’t impressed by all the stuff that comes along with this! They don\’t want a “star.” They want somebody who will preach and teach and be at Bible class and visit them when they\’re sick.
“I like the simple things. I understand that notoriety brings a lot of stuff with it, but on a daily basis, I just pray that God would keep me level-headed.

“This is the kind of thing where you can be hot today and gone tomorrow. I could name a bunch of artists that were at the top one day, but then somebody else came along; and that\’s going to happen to me. So, I might as well enjoy my moment, treat people right and tell God, ‘Thank You.\’ Because the same people that I treat right while I\’m up, will love on me on my way down and say, ‘Marvin never changed.\’”

As you listen to Dr. Marvin Sapp’s story can you probably can remember a story of your own of how God produced a miracle out a very difficult time or situation recently in your life. God did it not for you, but for His glory. This story reminds us of God’s power and points us to His glory. What’s your story? Drop us a comment and tell us your story of how God birth a miracle in the midst of your most difficult time. You may also share how Dr. Sapp’s ministry has affected your life!

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