SEBRING - Founder and senior pastor of Restoration Church in Sebring, Arlan D. Sapp, passed away Jan. 23 after a long battle with colon cancer.
He was 62.
Family friend and church elder, Christy Reed, said doctors told him his cancer had returned last summer.
"He died peacefully," Reed said Thursday.
Sapp leaves behind his wife of 37 years, Mary, and four children - Ray Sapp, Mike Sapp, Jessica Dalziel and Jeremy Sapp.
Arlan Sapp had been ministering for 30 years, and helped build the Restoration Church of Sebring's church building on Sparta Road and State Road 66, which is for sale.
Reed said the church leadership had been put into place for some time, and the congregation will continue to meet in people's homes.
"Both Arlan and Mary poured their lives into the church," Reed said. "Arlan and Mary said if the (people's) hearts are with us they can't lose. If the hearts are not with us, they can't stay."
Reed described him as a visionary and a creative thinker, pointing out how the design of the Restoration Church building had been ahead of its time.
"He was preaching his vision. A lot of religious congregations are judgemental of people. Arlan believed that people should be free of judgement," she said. "When people came to the church, they felt loved. They felt accepted, no matter what walk of life they came from or the color of their skin."
She added that Sapp wanted to see not just racial and gender barriers broken down but also generational ones.
Sapp also leaves behind his mother, Retha Sapp of Lake Placid.
He is survived by four brothers - Larry Sapp, Andrew Sapp, Dale Sapp, Toby Sapp - and sister Linda Eisnaugle, and grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to Restoration Church of the Highlands, P.O. Box 7035, Sebring, FL 33872.
Private services will be held in Orlando.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Degusipe Funeral Home, 9001 N Orlando Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751.