Last summer I listened to the Talley Trio in a free concert, at a Freewill Baptist church less than one hour from home. I did not hear some of my favorite songs, such as “On Time God,” “Testify,” and “I Love the Lord.” But in the end, I did not care.
Parents Roger and Debra Talley, and their daughter Lauren Talley Alvey, are the real deal. They do not try to have “fun” on stage like other groups. They were even more reverent in this concert than in many Gaither Homecoming appearances. Instead, the Talleys worshipped God and ministered to others “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). They spoke and sang the gospel. One would expect just this from a touring Christian music group, but it is rare today. Last year, Third Day performed the Harlem Shake during a concert. Such an act is ungodly and demonic, regardless of venue. Curtis Bridgeman, rightly horrified, said that such dancing “has no place in a church / worship setting, where the goal is to point people to God and His glory, not to expressions of the flesh. God doesn’t need anything from man to make Him more appealing. His presence and anointing alone handle that very well!”
“Dead People Sitting Up”
“Dead people sitting up” is how Roger described other churches where his family tours. It is a perfect description of the Southern Baptist church I attend on Sunday mornings. The morning of the Talley concert, the pure-in-heart worship leader asked people to raise their hands during a song. Once it ended, they promptly lowered their arms. The worship leader and choir worshipped all morning, but most of the congregation stood stiffly and watched. I became angry.
This congregation is full of “dead people sitting up,” like the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. One can hear bones coming together and see flesh covering dead bodies, but the lifeless people do not have the Holy Spirit animating them so that they voluntarily move in response to God. Instead, they are like puppets and mannequins who need others to bring them to life. Some people mistake the noise of such movement for true life. Jesus had a stern warning for those who did not worship during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). If he bodily entered some churches today, they would not wave palm branches and shout “Hosanna.” Instead, they would ask true worshippers, “Who is this man?” Others would have to tell them what they could not spiritually discern for themselves: “This is Jesus.”
This Talley concert was different. The congregation worshipped God with hands raised as Lauren sang “He’s Alive,” a song about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from Peter’s perspective. They stood and clapped when it ended, but not to reward a good performance. Near the end of the concert, Roger was glad that they were not “dead people sitting up.”
“Give Me that Old Time Religion”
I have often argued online, with long-time friends and total strangers, about the gospel’s true nature. Some “Christians” want to preach Jesus without a cross. They do not want to preach sin and hell, the new birth, or the transforming power of holiness. These people have cast off conviction of sin, the work of the Holy Spirit that is necessary to salvation.
The Talleys, however, both spoke and sang the gospel. Debra said, “We’re not important” and “I deserved hell.” Through “Thinkin’ About Home,” she showed her yearning for heaven. Through “Broken World” and “In Christ Alone,” Lauren sang about the transforming power of Christ. She also gave a good altar call. Lauren said we must be “born again” and that life is all about knowing Jesus because this world will pass away one day. She then said that everyone who has ever been born will see Jesus and one of two things will happen. They will either hear “well done” (Matthew 25:21-23) or “depart from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). Lauren did not want anyone to leave not knowing Jesus.
I was so grateful for the Talley family’s witness that night. I needed to know that I am not alone or spiritually strange, as some “Christians” like to make me feel. I also needed to know that the gospel has not changed and that others believe and preach it as I do. I was also grateful for this church. It still uses the red-backed Church of God hymnal that its home congregation ridicules (and stopped using decades ago). Although I have never loved this hymnal, I do not ridicule “that old time religion” – unlike those who want to cater to young people today. I am still young, but I love musical treasures “new and old” (Song of Solomon 7:13, Matthew 13:52). This church also refuses to sell or drink alcohol, even though some Southern Baptist friends drink wine. So its congregation still believes in and practices holiness.
Pray for the Talley Trio. Pray that God uses them to minister to others as they worship “in spirit and in truth.” Also pray that more musicians learn to worship and minister like the Talleys. Their reward in heaven will be great.