Triumphant Quartet’s Clayton Inman reflects on The Goodness of God seen in The Eye of the Storm. He really is Bigger than Sunday.
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — Only a few moments before, Clayton Inman had a near-capacity crowd at Sand Spring Baptist Church howling with laughter.
He’d danced and gyrated while waving a handkerchief in what every fan of Triumphant Quartet knows as one of his signature concert moments, his performance of “White Flag.”1 It’s one of those moments that prompts Triumphant bass singer and program emcee, Eric Bennett, to make some jokes about people not judging the rest of the group by Inman’s hilarious performance.
The crowd knows it’s coming and can’t help but laugh in anticipation.
But after Triumphant had completed its annual concert with His Heart Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Inman was reflective about the group’s growing commitment to ministry and how it has literally lived its songs over the last 16 months.
Have they really seen that God is in control “In the Eye of the Storm?” Are they eager to truly sing of “The Goodness of God?” The songs are favorites from Triumphant’s last two CDs.
“We do sing those songs continuously and they are encouragement in your storm and He’s always been good to us,” Inman said.
The questions — and the groupt’s awareness of the lyrics they were singing — became even more focused after what Triumphant Quartet experienced during the early morning hours of May 8.
The group was heading for a concert date in Wisconsin, when nearing Rockford, Illinois on Interstate 39, driver Jamie Bramlett noticed the bus was overheating. He pulled off the road, saw the bus was on fire and awakened the four singers and sound engineer Adam Bradford. The bus and some of Triumphant’s merchandise was destroyed, but what could have been a disaster was averted.
“We are grateful that our bus driver was alert in that he saw it wasn’t going to get any better back there in the engine and he rushed on the bus and warned us to get out,” Inman recalled. “What some folks don’t know is that we all got off the bus and were standing on a hill. Minutes after we got off, we watched the bus explode, blowing everything forward so much that it blew the windshield out.
“It could have been a lot worse but God’s grace was on us.”
He really had been in control in the eye of Triumphant’s storm and as the group posted on Facebook that morning, “‘in spite of it all, we praise the Lord for His hand of safety and provision. ‘All my life You have been faithful, all my life You have been so so good. With every breath that I am able. I will sing of Goodness of God.’”
And, again, Triumphant had a front-row seat to God’s care and provision. For more than a year, Covid-19 had erased numerous concert dates and severely limited many crowds when the quartet was able to get on stage. Then, just when restrictions were slowly being lifted, the means of transportation and home-away-from-home were gone in a matter of minutes.
“We find ourselves living (those songs),” Inman smiled. “We find it true in everything we do. Sometimes when something great has been taken away or something traumatic might happen, He always shows up later with something bigger, better or greater. We don’t see it at the time. Then we look back and we think, ‘Wow!’”
It’s more than just a statement that God is good or that God works. It’s life.
“It takes it to another level because we are living it,” Inman said with a bigger smile. “What I love is that no one was ever up in arms the whole time.”
On the Sand Spring stage, Triumphant delivered a string of hits interspersed with some of the cuts from the quartet’s latest CD, “Bigger than Sunday.” And it was apparent the singers — Inman, his son Scotty, Bennett and tenor David Sutton — are energized with a passion for music and, most of all, ministry.
Inman beamed and agreed when asked about a stronger gravitation toward more of a ministry mindset. “We have evolved over time. And I say that because we were in a theatre for our first three or four years. Actually, it was five,” Inman recalled of the group’s origin in the Louise Mandrell Theatre. “Being in a theatre, there had to be an element of entertainment because people were buying tickets to see entertainment on stage in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There were other theatres there and you had to see how you stacked up against the competition.
“So we carried a little of that over into our road trips. And when we left the stage and went on the road full time, we carried that with us a little bit that element of entertainment, and that’s OK. If you are going to be entertained, why not Christian entertainment?”
But somewhere along the line, it became apparent that ministry was playing an even bigger role in the quartet’s work. Songs became an even deeper blend of biblical theology and every day living. The change might have been gradual and subtle but Inman says the push to ministry has become even more pronounced recently.
“We have changed even more in the last two-and-a-half years. I have changed more and I believe it is because we have been part of planting a church,” he says of Connect Church in Sevierville, Tennessee. “I have never been part of that before and the vision and mission of the pastor has changed our whole outlook on ministry. I think it bled over into our group.”
Clayton and Sutton serve as deacons at Connect Church while Bennett serves as an elder there. Scotty Inman was also part of the Connect plant but has moved to Kentucky to help plant another church.
The passion is real. Clayton noted that Triumphant would be performing at the Memphis Quartet Show on Saturday night and would then be driving all night to return home so the Bennett could preach in the pastor’s absence Sunday. (A video of that Father’s Day service and the sermon from Exodus 20 can be seen here.)
“I think being part of something that was way larger than what we are as a group changed our hearts and minds and our scope of what we were doing out there,” Clayton explained.
And it has been reflected in the music.
“Yes” featured a cover of The Newsboys’ “We Believe,” listing some basic theological points and how they relate to life. The latest CD includes a cut, “Don’t Miss Jesus,” written by Scotty Inman, Michael Ferren and Tony Wood, that warns not to get caught up in little things so much that he misses a life with Jesus.
The songs provide real meat in the sweet sounds of a group that has been voted The Singing News Fan Favorite quartet every year since 2009. And, Inman says, the desire is to give lasting nourishment.
“We do not want to record anything that is not biblically based,” he said.
And right now, Triumphant is living proof that God really is at work. The Sand Spring concert was but a small reminder that God has brought the quartet and many of its fans through the scare of the Covid pandemic. “This concert was canceled, I think, eight times,” Scotty Inman deadpanned during the show. It was really just four, but the big crowd wasn’t counting.
But the events of May 8 brought something already great into even sharper focus for Triumphant Quartet.
“We had even attitudes because we knew something great had to be coming because of what happened,” Clayton Inman said of the bus fire. “We don’t know that greater looks like, but He does, so we left there encouraged because we thought, ‘Man, this happened and we don’t know why it happened but He’s always faithful to show us something even better. And I can be an encouragement to somebody who is listening to us.
“You might be going through a troubled or traumatic time where you don’t feel light at the end of the tunnel, but you know, He is very much aware of what’s going on and what’s coming next is going to be bigger, better and greater than you ever expected.”
After all, as Triumphant Quartet’s latest album says, God is “Bigger than Sunday.”
1The performance linked to his article is from a Gaither Homecoming video, posted on YouTube, and was not filmed at Sand Spring Baptist Church. Because of copyright considerations, KentuckySings does not knowingly publish non-approved material.