To encourage parishioners to get vaccinated against COVID-19—and return to the pews safely—First Baptist Church (FBC) in Dallas is hosting a vaccine clinic after worship on Sunday, May 16. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Texas megachurch, has spoken out about the efficacy and safety of the shots, saying they’re “nearly 100% effective” and “the best way for churches to fully open.”
Jeffress and FBC executive pastor Ben Lovvorn, who’ve both been vaccinated, say the clinic is a form of outreach, not pressure. “But if you’re one of those who desires to get the vaccine and you just haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet,” says Lovvorn, “you will have the opportunity to do that here.”
Robert Jeffress: It’s a Good Option
Vaccine hesitancy could prevent the United States from reaching herd immunity and putting COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, say public health officials. According to Pew Research, the religious group that’s most skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines is white evangelicals, with 45% saying they’d definitely or probably not receive it.
“That’s your choice,” Jeffress says to church members reluctant to roll up their sleeves. “But what I’m saying is if you’re not back [to church] yet and you would like to come back, one option is to take the vaccine.” By doing so, he adds, “You can come back with a high degree of confidence” and “really don’t have to worry about what anybody else here does or doesn’t do.”
Jeffress acknowledges some “physical risks to coming back,” as well as “some infinitesimal physical risk of taking the vaccine.” But he emphasizes that “the greater risk is the spiritual risk of staying isolated.” Quoting Hebrews 10:25, the pastor notes that staying away from church “can easily become a habit” and that people “are in spiritual danger the longer they stay away.”
Fears about the pandemic have kept more than one-quarter (28%) of FBC members from returning to in-person worship, Jeffress says. That group is “an important part” of FBC, he adds, and “our church will never be what it needs to be until you’re back.”
Clinic Location ‘May Change Minds,’ Says County Official
The invitation for FBC to host a vaccine clinic came from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who says, “We’re just trying to get to every community.” Offering vaccinations at an evangelical church “may change minds,” he adds. “What we can all identify is that we’re stronger together. We all need to do our patriotic duty and get the vaccine.”
Lovvorn, FBC’s executive pastor, says the clinic is a service to the broader community, not just to the congregation. “We’re inviting other churches to participate in that as well,” he says.
FBC’s clinic will offer the Moderna vaccine, and a follow-up event is scheduled for four weeks later so participants can receive a second dose.
Pastor Robert Jeffress also assures church members that they are “promoting life,” not abortion, by getting vaccinated. “No aborted cells” are in the vaccine, he says. “Get your doctor’s advice on what to do, but don’t use untruth as a reason for not taking the vaccine.”