It was a warm Saturday afternoon, and the black gospel band on stage at David’s Tent was pumping praises to Jesus with exuberant energy and joy. I found myself irresistibly drawn to clap and sing along, and as I looked around I noticed dozens of people gathering to do the same. There was a group of Chinese tourists, a couple of DC locals on a bike ride, a Muslim family from somewhere in the middle-east, and many others. It was clear that most of the people at the tent were passers-by and not people who came to the National Mall with the intention of attending David’s Tent. But the sound of worship at the tent attracted them irresistibly and they stopped to listen, filled with curiosity and with smiles on their faces. Our staff warmly welcomed those who stopped by, and many stayed for long conversations about Jesus or received prayer. The good news of the gospel was shared over and over that afternoon, and I know that wouldn’t have happened without the draw of the worship. That afternoon sticks out in my mind as a perfect example of the power of public worship to present Jesus to the world.
In my last blog, (Why here? Part 1) I shared how we worship in Washington DC because it is the place of highest honor in our nation. I talked about the identity of a capital city as a center for worship, and how Jesus is worthy of a national offering of praise. Our desire above all things is to make Jesus central and bless His heart! Today, I’ll continue on this theme of “Why Here?” and share how making Jesus central is such a powerful avenue to sharing the gospel.
When you think of a city center you generally think of a bustling downtown filled with all kinds of people. Washington DC completely fits that description, and it’s not just filled with Americans. Every nation but four maintains an embassy in Washington DC (and two of those four still maintain diplomatic representation)—more than any other city on earth! Over 20 million visitors came to Washington in 2014, and almost 2 million of those were international. The nations truly gather in Washington, perhaps more so than anywhere else on earth.
In the midst of all this, David’s Tent proclaims the worth of Jesus round the clock in public song. Night and day, the sound of worship at David’s Tent never stops as we declare how beautiful, wonderful, and loving our Savior is. And this isn’t just to bless His heart, though that is the primary reason. Matthew 5:15-16 says:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The worship at David’s Tent shines as a light pointing to Jesus, even as the worship draws His presence near. Jason Hershey says in his book: “This act of worship releases a Spirit of revelation so that even the lost get to see the beauty of Jesus.” And it’s true! The beauty of Jesus is captivating to every heart. And it’s not just who He is, but what He has done. Psalms 118:15 says: “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” This is such an attractive sound! The sound of joy and victory stands in sharp contrast to the sound of hopelessness so prevalent in the world.
Often, people attracted to the tent ask questions: Why do we sing? Why is Jesus worthy of this lavish devotion? How do we have such hope and joy in the midst of turbulent times? Questions like these give us the perfect opportunity to share the gospel with people eager to hear. Surprisingly often this may be the first time someone has heard the good news of Jesus in their entire life! Many of the curious who are drawn to the tent come from other nations where the gospel is not allowed to be shared openly. We’ve had the opportunity to share the message of salvation through the blood of Jesus with visitors from Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Tibet, Somalia, and all over the world. And many have accepted Him as Savior and Lord!
Jesus says in John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” He was speaking of His resurrection from the dead, but I believe the principle applies to public worship as well. When Jesus is lifted up on our praises and we declare His resurrection from the dead, I know that He will draw the nations to the new life found in Him.
I can think of few places busier and more bustling with people from around the world than the National Mall in summer. And this is where we have the privilege to host David’s Tent! In this central place among the nations, our humble white tent stands as a shining light and public witness to Jesus, 24/7. This is what it means to make Jesus central. Not only to give Him the place of highest honor, but to present Him to the world in all of His glorious beauty. Jesus deserves to be central in our cities, our churches, our lives, and in every soul. Hallelujah!
I recognize that not all of us can come stand as a witness to Jesus on the National Mall. So my encouragement to you is to stand as a public witness to Jesus wherever you are, with the sound of joy and victory bursting from your life! He has made us new, and He has made us glad! Let us boldly declare His worth and His beauty in line at the grocery store, at the swimming pool, at our workplace, when we’re waiting at the DMV, and in every area of life. The message of Jesus is good news to a lost and broken world!
In part 3 of this blog I’ll explore the third primary reason I believe we hold David’s Tent on the National Mall in Washington DC: unity among the church. Once again, I also highly recommend checking out Jason Hershey’s book “David’s Tent: Jesus is Worthy of a Nation’s Praise” for further reading. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to sharing with you again!