Due to its proximity to the White House, the U.S. Secret Service has very stiff regulations for use of the Ellipse. Since the members of the Secret Service are tasked with security for the President and his family, they are expected to maintain a safe perimeter around the White House. That includes the Ellipse. Because it was the President’s Park, the NPS guidelines were much more strict than usual. We would have to clear everything we did through the regulations of both the Secret Service and the Park Service. As I stacked these on top of each other, moving ahead with our plans seemed like a daunting task. Rev. Mahoney turned out to be correct. The National Park Service had never issued a permit for more than fourteen days of activity on the National Mall. Including setup and tear-down, we were shooting for forty-five days, and the staff of the Park Service did not think it could be done. How could we honor all of their regulations over such a long period? They began trying to convince us not to go through with our plans, and in the process, they were throwing every fastball they could muster at us, hoping that we would change our minds. I left that first meeting with the Park Service thinking to myself, “‘David’s Fallen Tent!’ I’ve heard this phrase somewhere before.” And that first rocky meeting was to be only the beginning of a constant back-and-forth between us over the next four months. The overwhelming feeling we took away from those meetings was one of severe intimidation. It was as if they were saying, “How dare you try to do this!” I began to question the whole thing. In one early meeting, the Park Service tried to push us to another location on the Mall. The person who had initially offered us the use of the Ellipse instead of McPherson Square was clearly not the person overseeing events on the Ellipse. I wavered, but, in the end, I did not give in. As I reviewed the story of David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem, one part stuck out to me. When he came leading the procession that day, bringing the Ark home to rest, his wife Michal was looking down on this celebration from the palace windows, and she criticized David’s worship. This let us know that the Ark was within sight of the palace, and God used it to confirm to me that line-of-sight to the White House was important. The proximity of the Ellipse to the White House mattered, so we held the line and kept battling our way through the mine fields of Federal regulations. I strengthened my resolve by declaring among friends: “If all we can get is a stool set in the middle of that Ellipse, and we take turns sitting on it for forty days singing to Jesus, I’m going to do it because He’s worthy!” Sharla Mylar, one of our team members, has a personal song that she wrote that says, “A living God deserves living sacrifices. A living God deserves living memorials.” We were ready to ride that stool all the way to glory. The practical challenges were piled ever higher before us. For example, we had to supply our own electricity for the tent, yet we could not refuel a generator on-site. Evidently the Secret Service is a bit jumpy about large trucks of diesel fuel (or even small containers of it) being that close to the White House. And the Park Service will not risk petroleum spills on National Park land. Another challenge was turf protection. The Park Service would require us to obtain a specific type of protective flooring to cover the grass before the tent rental company, or anyone else, could drive onto the Ellipse. All of these requirements were expensive, but we knew they were not impossible. Then there was “the access list.” To pass the Secret Service checkpoint and gain access to the Ellipse, all drivers would have to submit two weeks in advance their names and the license plate number of the vehicle they would be driving, so that proper background checks could be completed. With the plan calling for several subcontracting companies to be working for us and multiple vehicles a week needing access, this would be, once again, not totally impossible, but definitely challenging. I was thinking to myself, “Fourteen days advance notice to drive onto the Ellipse for drop-off and set-up? That’s ridiculous!” I appreciated the faith of Sharla, with her Joshua and Caleb perspective. She took notes in the meetings we had with the NPS staff, and wrote: Only fourteen days advance notice required for drivers.” Somehow she was able to see right through the smoke screen of intimidation. We were moving ahead by faith. One week before the event was to start, volunteers began to arrive from around the country, but we still did not have the final permit. I was facing one of the greatest embarrassments of my life, about to have to tell everybody that our permit process had been denied. Our staff had booked worship teams from all over the nation, and those teams had already purchased plane tickets and made travel and housing arrangements. In those final days, the words, “David’s fallen tent,” began to haunt me. The remaining obstacles to obtaining the final permit still had to be resolved, and they were rather large hurdles. The National Park Service was requiring us to move the tent — which was no small task — every fourteen days, to preserve the grass. That meant a full workday two weeks in and another one four weeks in. So much for the continuous song in the tent! But we could still do the stool. Even more challenging was the fact that the Park Service was refusing to turn off their sprinkler system, so lawn irrigation heads would pop up in the middle of the tent each night and give everybody and everything around them a good soaking. We half-jokingly discussed organizing a “sprinkler defense team” armed with plastic buckets and tarps. Then came the worst blow of all. Just seven days before the worship event was scheduled to start, the Park Service informed me that a “60/40 Rule” required that only 40% of our event could be music. The rest had to be speeches, to qualify it as a First- Amendment Demonstration. This seemed like the straw that would break the camel’s back. I thought, “What? How is it that we’ve been discussing this event for four months now and never once was this rule mentioned?” David’s Tent was to be all music — 100%. That was the point of a 24/7 ministry to the Lord. I nearly lost my lunch when I hung up the phone from that conversation. “60/40?” There was no way! That would defeat the purpose of the event! A Park Service employee explained to me the genesis of their 60/40 Rule. Years ago, the alternative rock group “The Cranberries” had obtained a permit for an event on the National Mall. They drew a huge crowd for what turned out to be some amazing photo opportunities in front of the Capitol Building. It was P.R. genius, but the Park Service was left paying for the security and trash pick-up. The Cranberries had used the permitting process to get a free venue for a concert under the guise of a First Amendment Demonstration, and the Park Service then made their 60/40 Rule to protect against future abuses. I was led to contact an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), and this attorney examined the official National Park Service regulations and found that the 60/40 Rule did not appear in them anywhere. The rule had never been codified in any way. I called the Park Service back, but no one answered. I left a message that I would be bringing legal counsel with me to our next meeting, two days later. I was playing hardball now for the right to worship Jesus 24/7 on public space. As it turned out, the ACLJ representative didn’t make it to that next meeting, due to some last-minute scheduling conflicts, but God did. During the two days leading up to the meeting, I fasted and prayed, not sleeping much. Many others were in constant prayer with me. God bless my wonderful bride Kimberlee, who was able to maintain a sense of home in what had become a prayer war zone. I wish I could say that I breezed through all of that without a bit of anxiety, but I can’t. I was plagued with questions: “Did I actually hear You, God? Is this You? Or is this just my big idea?” DAVID’S FALLEN TENT … the words were like a jackhammer in my mind now. I went into that next meeting loaded for bear, with my cell phone ready to call the attorney from the ACLJ if I needed him. After all, we were a mere four days away from setting up the tent. Amazingly, there was no further argument. It turned out to be the greatest about-face ever. The Park Service gave us everything we wanted. They told us to disregard anything they had said about the 60/40 Rule, they would turn off the sprinklers and we would not need to move the tent every fourteen days. “Pick up your permit tomorrow,” they said. I walked out of that meeting on air. God had moved on the hearts of those in authority. He had honored our obedience to the 1 Timothy 2:2 command to pray for “all who are in authority” (NKJV). David’s Tent on the White House Ellipse was now a reality. God had moved again. It is God Himself who rebuilds the fallen tent of David. That is for sure! The National Park Service is part of the Department of the Interior, which is part of the Executive Branch of government. This Executive Branch is obviously under the authority of the President. To be given permission, ultimately, by authority of the President, to do all of this was highly significant. It is worth noting that our President is ultimately accountable to the American people and to the authority of the U.S. Constitution. Not only did we get permission to set up the tent; I also learned, through the process that we actually have the legal right to do that. So, come on, Church of America, let’s set up Jesus tents everywhere. Let’s come out of our cozy church buildings and begin to worship Him in public squares anywhere and everywhere. Let’s share the Good News. It’s all totally legal, and you are not doing anything wrong. Actually, it would probably be wrong not to do it. Respectfully follow the proper procedures and obtain the necessary permits, but by all means, go for it! God is with you, and the U.S. Constitution protects you.