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It's going to be a strange Sunday for Fox News contributor Dr. Robert Jeffress and his congregation at First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, Texas with the coronavirus pandemic shutting the doors of worship centers across the nation.
The flagship church of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the late Evangelist Billy Graham was a member for 54 years, will not meet in person for the first time in the church's 152-year history.
But the gospel message and the church's ministry isn't changing.
"People need hope. That's what the Christian faith offers, it offers hope in an uncertain world. People are scared, they're panicking, and that's why it's so important for churches not to cower in fear during this time." Jeffress told Fox News. "I reminded our people online of a quote by A.W. Tozer who said, 'A scared world needs a fearless church.'"
The "Courageous" author is preaching a sermon titled "Choosing Faith Over Worry" live this Sunday completely online, focusing on a verse that many other pastors have looked to: 2 Timothy 1:7, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind."
His 14,000-member congregation met this past Sunday at separate locations in keeping with the local regulations of gatherings fewer than 500 people. After President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations that gatherings include no more than 10 people on Monday, his church immediately canceled in-person services.
"I want to be very clear that I believe that every pastor and every church ought to follow the guidance to not assemble during this crisis," he said. "We have an obligation to not only protect our members but the safety of our communities and our entire nation."
Jeffress added: "I don't think God wants us to be paralyzed of fear over this very real threat to our nation, but at the same time, we need to balance our faith with practical precautions to take. Observe the government regulations, wash your hands...that's not a lack of faith."
He has been telling his large congregation to "pray as if their safety completely depends upon God and take precautions as if their safety depends completely on them."
Jeffress' latest book, which he wrote over the last few years and is more relevant than ever considering the pandemic, discusses 10 strategies that are critical to making it out of life-threatening situations alive. It begins with the first tip: "Don't panic."
"I talked about the British motto, 'Keep calm and carry on,' and that's what we're encouraging Americans to do," he explained. "God is still in control of this world."
The longtime religious leader is reminded of the September 11 terror attacks, but "instead of being able to rally together, we're being forced to isolate ourselves."
"What pastors and other religious leaders perhaps need more than anything right now is wisdom from God how to minister to our people during this unique situation," he said. "We are in unchartered territory right now. it Is important to utilize every resource or tool available.
"That makes a unique situation for every church, mosque, and synagogue in America," he said. "I'm seeing people are putting aside partisan politics and coming together as a nation...I think it's tremendously encouraging to see Republicans and Democrats coming together to provide the much-needed financial assistance to our people."
Jeffress preached the inauguration day sermon for President Trump in 2017 and he recently revisited his sermon after Trump declared a National Day of Prayer pointing to how Americans look to God in times of crisis like this.
He quoted President Ronald Reagan when he said, "God does not need America but America needs God. If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, we will truly be a nation gone under."
"I think that's a good truth for all of America to remember," Jeffress concluded. "We do need God and he's willing to help if we're to ask for that help."
Over 166,000 watched online last week and the church expects that number to grow even more this week as Jeffress preaches his sermon at two lives services, 10:20 a.m. and noon EDT, with the 300-voice choir recorded.
The church is also offering online Sunday school classes for children all the way up to adults.
Click here to watch the service live here.