At a May 8 banquet event in Nashville, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) recognized Sapp and several others for "significant contributions to the world through their humanitarian efforts as well as their talents."
Sapp, who has received several awards and honors over the last year, said his motivation has remained the same throughout his career. "The goal was never to receive awards," he said in his acceptance speech. "I just wanted to give God the glory. That was my goal then, and is still my goal now."
Sapp is pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center, a church with campuses in Grand Rapids and Muskegon. It's a church he co-founded with his late wife MaLinda and draws hundreds of worshipers each Sunday.
The 51-year old Sapp had two surprises at the GMA ceremonies.
Presiding Bishop Neil Ellis of Sapp's church denomination – Global United Fellowship – flew in to personally present the award to him. Sapp himself is a Metropolitan Bishop of a region of the church covering more than 100 congregations in 19 states.
His other surprise? The entire team of his record label, RCA Inspiration, was also on hand. "They presented me with a plaque and informed me that the song that Aaron Lindsey and I wrote – 'Best In Me' – was certified gold (500,000 in digital sales)," Sapp said of the ballad which appeared on an album several years ago.
ONE IN A STRING OF HONORS
On the strength of his "Close" album of last year (see our review), Sapp has garnered other honors.
Earlier this year he received two Stellar Awards in the traditional gospel category – for top male vocalist and album. "Close" was also nominated for a Grammy and an NAACP image award. And the collection is a finalist in the gospel list at the upcoming Billboard Music Awards (May 20 on NBC-TV).
"Since I started on this journey...there's a lot that has happened that I didn't think or imagine would happen," Sapp reflected after the GMA ceremonies. "I just wanted to be used to effect change in people's lives just as Jesus changed my life."
Last December Sapp and several other gospel artists performed in Washington D.C. with the National Symphony Orchestra for a rendition of the "Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration", a contemporary version of the classic oratorio.
A PERSONALIZED TOUCH
Sapp's wife MaLinda died of cancer in 2010. The Grand Rapids native has three adult children: Marvin Jr., Mikaila and Maddison, all graduates of NorthPointe Christian High School.
Despite his national schedule of speaking and performing, Sapp strives to be at his home church as many Sundays as possible to preach and lead worship. He's also working on a book about remodeling life according to God's design. Its release date has not been officially set.
Other ministry honorees recognized at the GMA event were comedian Chonda Pierce (for a counseling center she helped start), Ryan Lampa of the People Loving Nashville organization, and songwriter Rick Founds who received a milestone award for his 1989 worship anthem "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High."
Several artists and gospel music industry figures were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame during the dinner/ceremonies: The Staples Singers, producer Greg Nelson, Karen Peck Gooch of the Southern Gospel group New River, and Carman Licciardello (better known simply as "Carman").
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