Texas pastor Robert Jeffress on Sunday urged Christians who are fearful of COVID-19 to get the vaccine, saying it's nearly 100 percent effective and is the best way for churches to fully open.
Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, made the comments during a sermon on loneliness. About 28 percent of his congregation has not returned to church due to pandemic fears, he said.
"You're an important part of First Baptist Church, Dallas. Our church will never be what it needs to be until you're back. But you are in spiritual danger the longer you stay away," he said to those who have not returned to church.
The vaccine against COVID-19, he said, is "extremely effective."
Jeffress said 87 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. Of those, he said, only 6,000 people contracted the virus. (CDC data supports Jeffress.)
"That is statistically insignificant. That is practically zero. I think it's .00007 of 1 percent," Jeffress said.
The best way to protect against Covid-19, he said, is to "get the vaccine."
"I'm not forcing anybody to get the vaccine," he said. "That's your choice. But what I am saying is if you are not back yet, and you would like to come back, one option is to take the vaccine, and therefore you don't have to worry about what other people do or don't do here in the church. You can come back with a high degree of confidence."
He called the Covid-19 vaccine a vaccine that works "nearly 100 percent" of the time.
"If you get vaccinated, you really don't have to worry about what anybody else here does or doesn't do. You're nearly 100 percent safe," he said. "... Never before in history have we had a vaccine this effective."
There are "physical risks to coming back," and there is "some infinitesimal physical risk of taking the vaccine," he said.
"But the greater risk is the spiritual risk of staying isolated. The Bible says it can easily become a habit," Jeffress said of not coming to church. He then quoted Hebrews 10:25. "Don't forsake the assembling together of ourselves as is the habit of some, but encourage one another and all the more as you see the day drawing there."
The vaccine contains "no aborted cells," he said.
"You are not promoting abortion when you take the vaccine. You're promoting life," Jeffress said. "... There is a safe way, friends, for you to come back to church. There's a safe way to keep all of us safe here as we reopen our church."
For those who are skeptical about the vaccine, Jeffress suggested, "Get your doctor's advice on what to do. But don't use untruth as a reason for not taking the vaccine."
Photo courtesy: ©Robert Jeffress Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.