Popular gospel singer Marvin Sapp, who’s also founder and senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, stirred controversy online Thursday when he suggested that Christians should buy the music of gospel artists even if their private lives are “questionable.”
Sapp’s comment comes in the wake of the success of rapper Jay-Z’s much publicized “4:44” digital-only album which was certified platinum, with sales of 1 million copies in the U.S., less than a week after its June 30 release.
“‘Jay-Z’s album went platinum and it hasn’t even been released to the masses yet! It went certified platinum just on tidal! Coming to Apple and all other outlets next week! What is that saying?'” Sapp said he was asked in a post to his more than 2 million fans on Facebook Thursday.
The “Never Would Have Made It” singer said he responded: “The world supports its own.”
“Not one supporter of Jay-Z (Believer or non-Believer) questions his lifestyle, beliefs or commitment to his wife. They know that the messenger is flawed but they support his message to the tune of 1 million sales and it hasn’t been released to the masses yet. I believe the world gets what believers still don’t or refuse to understand,” he continued. “#myopinionon That the message is always bigger than the messenger.”
Sapp further elaborated on his thoughts, saying that when Christians stop supporting the music of gospel artists they think aren’t living according to certain Christian standards they are only “silencing this great gospel.”
“Believers won’t buy gospel music of some artist because of their presumed flaws and questionable life. Making them (the artist) bigger than the message of Christ and in doing so silencing this great gospel message musically, and slowly but surely putting this industry of gospel music on life support that has the ability to impact the masses,” he said.
“One day I pray that we all drop our rocks and remember that everyone, and I mean everyone, that God used in Scripture was flawed and or had issues that wasn’t Jesus Christ. And that’s why we needed His redemptive work in our lives. However, even with their flaws and all, God used them to deliver a message of hope and healing. Support the message of gospel music and let’s keep it alive,” he said.
Sapp sparked a heated discussion which as of Friday evening had triggered nearly 3,000 reactions and more than 360 comments, many of them disagreeing with his logic.
In the most popular response to the singer-preacher, Steven Dinwiddie, a pastor and teacher at New Seasons Christian Ministries strongly disagreed with Sapp.
“I don’t agree we cannot conform to the world and win the world. Jay-Z preaches and lives his lifestyle. We need to preach and live ours,” Dinwiddie wrote.
Others on Twitter also raised a similar concern.
“Your message should be as you live. Gospel is dying because most but not all of the gospel artists think they are beyond reproach,” April Henderson wrote.
And actress Zondra Wilson agreed.
“I agree with you! I get what bishop is saying, however, you can’t compare the world and the Church. We are held to a higher standard,” she replied.
While music sales of some gospel singers with “questionable” personal lives have suffered, others like James Fortune who pleaded guilty last year to an assault on his now estranged wife, Cheryl, appears to be doing well. His latest album, Dear Future Me, is currently No. 1 on on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart.