vaccine
On July 12, 2021, James River Church in Springfield, Mo. hosts medical professionals and volunteers who provide free COVID-19 vaccines to members of the local community. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader / via AP)

Missouri Church Leaders Implore Congregants to Get COVID Vaccine

By Jim Salter

As lead pastor of one of Missouri’s largest churches, Jeremy Johnson has heard all the reasons congregants don’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccination. He wants them to know it’s not only OK to do so but also is what he believes the Bible urges.

Across Missouri, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts say the spread is due largely to low vaccination rates — Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots.

Now, many churches in southwestern Missouri, like Johnson’s North Point Church, are hosting vaccination clinics. Meanwhile, more than 200 church leaders have signed onto a statement urging Christians to get vaccinated, and on Wednesday announced a follow-up public service campaign that will include paid advertisements.

“Vaccine hesitancy in our pews puts our congregations and communities at greater risk. Given their safety and availability, receiving a vaccine is an easy way of living out Jesus’s command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’” the statement reads, citing a verse in Mark, chapter 12.

Opposition to vaccination is especially strong among white evangelical Protestants, who make up more than one-third of Missouri’s residents, according to a 2019 report by Pew Research Center. A March poll conducted by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that nationally, 40% of white evangelical Protestants said they were unlikely to get vaccinated, compared with 25% of all Americans.

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Johnson, whose Springfield-based Assembly of God church has three campuses and will soon open a fourth, said the New Testament includes dozens of references urging people to serve one another — and getting vaccinated is a way to do that.

“I think there is a big influence of fear,” Johnson said. “A fear of trusting something apart from scripture. A fear of trusting something apart from a political party they’re more comfortable following. A fear of trusting in science. We hear that: ‘I trust in God, not science.’ But the truth is science and God are not something you have to choose between.”

Addressing concerns of the faithful

Springfield, Missouri’s third-largest city with 167,000 residents, is home to the U.S. Assemblies of God national office and is in the heart of a deeply religious region. Mayor Ken McClure noted that when the pastor at a large Assembly of God church recently preached about the need for vaccinations, large crowds turned out the next day to get shots.

“We found that the faith community is very influential, very trusted, and to me that is one of the answers as to how you get your vaccination rates up,” McClure said. “So we’ve reached out to the pastors and they’ve been very receptive.”

Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life policy group in Washington, D.C. which often addresses evangelical and Catholic faith communities, has sought to provide medical ethics-based analysis on the various COVID-19 vaccines developed thus far.

Their scholars acknowledge that pro-life advocates have valid concerns about past efforts regarding mandated vaccines. In recent months, David Prentice, Ph.D., the group’s vice president of policy, has stated reservations specifically about the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine while noting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as “very effective.” A medical researcher for the past 40 years, he urged in an interview for people to review their analysis and “make an informed conscience decision based on their own risks, their family and their community.”

Public health leaders, clergy respond to rising COVID cases

In Missouri, public health efforts face a tall task. Over the past two weeks, 14 counties in southwestern and central Missouri have been designated as “hot spots” for the virus by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

That number will likely grow and may soon include the state’s most populous county. St. Louis city and county leaders have warned that with cases and hospitalizations rising in the region, the city and county are considering a new mask mandate.

“While we don’t have an announcement to make today, this is a topic of conversation and it’s ongoing,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday announced a new statewide vaccination incentive lottery. The program, MO VIP, will offer chances to win $10,000 to people who get shots.

New cases continue to rise sharply statewide. The state health department reported 2,229 newly confirmed cases on Wednesday, the largest one-day spike since January. The state has cited 549,191 confirmed cases since the onset of the outbreak last year, and 9,526 deaths, including eight reported Wednesday.

Christopher Dixon, pastor of West Finley Baptist Church in Springfield, said the message from pastors involved in the vaccine outreach isn’t meant to “shame anyone or put anyone down.”

“We’re simply here to care for other people… and to say this is is something we would respectfully ask you to consider doing,” Dixon said.

Darron LaMonte Edwards Sr., lead pastor at United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, noted the disparity in vaccination rates in the Black community, due in part to longstanding mistrust of the government. He understands, but said it’s important to get a shot.

“Would you please go get your shot out of Christian duty and compassion?” Edwards asked.

Jim Salter has been a correspondent for the Associated Press in the St. Louis area for over two decades.

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39 thoughts on “Missouri Church Leaders Implore Congregants to Get COVID Vaccine”

  1. Barbara Disbrow

    I suggest Christians read Chuck Baldwin’s newsletter Called three presidents reject covid vaccines . Three presidents die. On libertyfellowship.com website. Any Christian pastor promoting the bioweapon is serving the antichrist, wake you to the powers of darkness church.

      1. It’s conspiracy theory nonsense. Sadly, people have lost the ability to determine a credible source from nonsense that belongs in the National Enquirer.

        Social media have destroyed our ability to think. This technology hit like an atomic bomb on a culture that is not intellectually ready for it. Like the Civil War, when the capability of the weapons far outstripped the military tactics of the time, death on a massive scale was the result.

        Today people think they know the “truth” because they saw something posted on Facebook, and they think watching YouTube videos makes them a researcher.

        This is no different than what’s happening on the far Left. This is the era where thought and reason have been abandoned, where there are no facts, and people live a bewildering existence where they distrust anyone with actual experience or expertise in favor of nobodies telling them what they want to hear.

        It’s been brewing for two decades, and even now that it’s actually killing some of them, they don’t see it.

        We really have to solve the problem of people not knowing who to trust on the internet because it’s tearing this culture apart.

    1. Is this the same Chuck Baldwin that says the Zionists control the media, mainstream Christianity, ect?

      1. “The Zionists”?
        I thought the latest Proper Code Words for das Juden were “The Global Elite” or “The Cabal”. But it all comes down to the same thing, just different code words.

        1. Andrew Thomas

          Grabbler is the current term, but applies to anyone in a position of power that uses it’s authority for evil, or any written word with ((( ))).

    2. And people wonder why the witness of Evangelical Christians to the world is too often as a religion for the crazy and/or ignorant.
      I miss the old days when it was mostly just loonies on the political left (like RFK Jr.) who were into vaccine misinformation and most Christians actually believed in medicine even if they denied science in other areas.

      For an evangelical perspective that deals honestly with the various concerns, people should check out:
      https://www.christiansandthevaccine.com/

      1. Darren Gruett

        Well said, Al, and thanks for sharing that link. I wonder if Christians realize the importance of being truthful in all areas of their lives and how that is tied to their witness. If a person lies so easily to others about things like vaccines and diseases, then why would he be believed when he tells them that a man died and rose from the dead to save people from their sins? A person who is truthful in small things is trustworthy in greater things.

  2. I think it’s sad church leaders feel the need to pressure congregants to get vaccinated. All the vaccines have not been proven to be safe and I personally wouldn’t trust anyone advocating any of the vaccines. My 12 year old next door neighbor is not doing well after getting one dose of Pfizer. She was perfectly healthy before the shot and has been hospitalized due to myocarditis. She now being prescribed medication and we just don’t know what will happen to her. Her mother is still having joint and muscle pains after getting the Johnson Johnson.
    A woman at church had to be shocked back to life after one dose. Some of my other neighbors regret getting it and they are Muslim, not Christians. Another friend’s co-worker had ruptured appendix and severe rash after receiving Pfizer. A pastor I know passed away from a stroke one week after being fully vaccinated. Just got word yesterday about an acquaintance forced to get the vaccine since he’s in the military and he died. They brought him back to life but he’s not doing well. I know several people who said they were fine after the shot. I’d say it’s 50/50 fine vrs severe reaction after the shot based on the experiences I’ve been exposed to.
    So I think most people are hesitant because they should be and it’s not just “evangelicals”.

    1. Good afternoon Sara,

      I hate to say it but I have real trouble with you posting. It is full of vague untraceable information that you are asking us to trust at the same time you say you don’t trust people.

      I’m not sorry to say this, but you have to put down names, locations & dates with reliable secondary sources before you can say COVID vaccine is not safer that being unvaccinated.

      Please understand that the same science that gave us the ability to post on this blog and Facebook says COVID is real and a problem.

      The same science that gave you the smart phone and advances in cancer treatment and hip / knee replacement say that vaccination is the best chance to stay out of the hospital.

      The same science that gave us huge flat screen TVs that dwarf my parents 24” color tube tv says that the vast majority (> 75% I have seen figures in the high 80/low 90s in some area) is from unvaccinated people.

      So if you don’t trust science, then start living like the Amish. And stop trying to have a foot in both worlds.

      Yes this is harsh. Read a few reports coming out of the ICU units with this wave of unvaccinated COVID.

      Best regards,
      CJ

    2. Gordon Hackman

      Most people I know have gotten the shot and I’m not aware of a single person among them who has had any negative significant health issues as a result.

        1. Even if the Minnesota woman DID lose her legs due to the vaccine (and you have offered no proof of this), it pales in comparison to the 610,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.

          1 loss of limbs or 610,000 dead.

          Which would you choose?

          1. Andrew Thomas

            Lea James,

            Where was this concern for human life from doctors during flu season over the past 50 years?

            Where was this concern for human life from doctors when abortion was “legalized”?

            You cannot have it both ways.

  3. Would be interesting to hear some quotes from faith leaders who strongly disagree with what these pastors are advocating their congregants do – a very personal, medical decision. Can you add to this article?

    1. Good afternoon Angela,

      Have those faith leaders commented on other medical procedures before COVID?

      Have they all gone on the recorded for not getting a vaccination?

      Would you accept the same advice from these leaders if they told a loved one to stop taking heart or other critical medicine?

      What is their exact qualification in this matter?

      Would you bring a seriously ill family member or friend to them first before seeking medical attention for them?

      There is an old joke that at the Perly Gates a man was asked why he drowned in a flood after they had sent a truck, boat and helicopter to save him.

      Best regards,
      CJ

    2. Kenin Richard Stuurman

      Angela Clark, the whistleblowers are sounding the alarm. Don’t take the experimental Covid19 kill shot. Here are just some of the brave souls: https://americasfrontlinedoctors.org/, Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi (microbiologist) Dr. Igor Shepherd (medical doctor & manager for Wyoming’s State Public Health Department/Preparedness Unit and member of the Covid response team), Dr. Michael Yeadon (former Vice President and Chief Scientist for Allergy & Respiratory, Pfizer), Dr. Peter McCollough (Professor of Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine, cardiologist, internist and epidemiologist), Dr. Robert Malone (inventor of mRNA vaccine technology), Dr. Byram Bridle (viral immunologist and associate professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario) and Dr. Francis Christian (surgeon) and Dr. Charles Hoffe, MD, both from Canada.

      1. 350 million Americans have already taken the vaccine, Kenin. If it was a ‘kill shot’, dead bodies would be rotting in the streets. They’re not.

        But Springfield Missouri IS building a field hospital for COVID victims, 99% of whom are unvaccinated.

        Your statement is both ridiculous and demonstrably false.

        1. Andrew Thomas

          Building a field hospital is not proof of a statement being ridiculous or a demonstration of falseness. How many patients are currently in the hospital?

          350,000,000 people have not taken the vaccine, 342,000,000 does have been administered. For a total of 163,173,366 fully vaccinated and 188,729,282 at least one shot, per the CDC website.

          Please do some research beforehand to help stop the spreading of false information.

          1. Andrew Thomas

            I phrased that poorly.

            A total of 188,729,282 have at least one shot and 163,173,366 of them are fully vaccinated per CDC website.

  4. Kenin Stuurman

    The whistleblowers are sounding the alarm. Don’t take the kill shot. Here are just some of the brave souls: Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi (microbiologist) Dr. Igor Shephard (medical doctor/manager for Wyoming’s State Public Health Department/Preparedness Unit), Dr. Michael Yeadon (former Vice President and Chief Scientist for Allergy & Respiratory, Pfizer), Dr. Peter McCollough (Professor of Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine, cardiologist, internist and epidemiologist), Dr. Robert Malone (inventor of mRNA vaccine technology), Dr. Byram Bridle (viral immunologist and associate professor at the University of Guelph, Ontario) and Dr. Francis Christian (surgeon) and Dr. Charles Hoffe, MD, both from Canada.

      1. “Kill shot” is the vaccine, the second bioweapon from the COMMUNIST Chinese to kill off all those who survived the first (i.e. the deliberate bioweapon COVID itself, created and manufactured in the COMMUNIST Chinese weapons lab in Wuhan). Fauci and everyone else except the Christians and Truthers are in on the COMMUNIST Chinese Conspiracy.

        That is The Party Line, and anything else is Fake News.

        I have heard this so often…

        Outside the anti-vaxx states, you know what the attitude is becoming?

        The motto of the Darwin Awards: “Think of it as Evolution in Action”.

        And the Christians are leading the anti-COVID vaxx charge.

  5. Marin Heiskell

    Actually, my issue is LESS about whether or not to get vaccinated (I took the Moderna), and MORE about how
    those who are not vaccinated ALSO refuse to socially distance, wear a mask, or quarantine among themselves. It’s the vaccinated who also believe in the extra precautions – and they don’t need it nearly as much who those who don’t.
    So I will say, if you choose not to be vaccinated, please take other precautions.
    Also, given this thread is cautioning about various resources, please note that many people publicly denouncing and cautioning against the vaccine ARE VACCINATED THEMSELVES and refuse to directly admit it. (Fox News requires proof of vaccination before showing up on site – there are pictures of the HR notices on their doors requiring it – yet they broadcast rant after rant against proof of vaccination!)

    1. Now you’re getting at the heart of this whole mess…. a lot of american christians have chosen to trust things that either don’t tell the whole truth, don’t contextualize, or mischaracterize, exaggerate or just plain lie. They’ve chosen these “voices” over trained, experienced Christian experts in the science/medical fields; they’ve chosen these “voices” over trained/experienced clergy and theologians and missionaries, etc… over trained and practicing historians who can show that this current crisis isn’t actually anything new… and on and on…
      Instead they listen to mostly uneducated/and or not educated in the field of discussion, charismatic, narcissitic, loudmouths on TV or Youtube or christian radio/tv or other internet outlets…(meanwhile the “voices” laugh all the way to the bank…)
      Overall it seems they don’t want to live in or deal with Reality (the place where Truth & yes God, dwell…).
      It’s sad… God isn’t afraid of Reality… He isn’t afraid of science (even the parts that might be wrong or not fully developed yet)… He’s not afraid of diversity… etc etc So why are so many people who claim to hang on His every word, so afraid?

    2. Some of the people that either deny COVID, refuse to wear masks and now refuse the vaccine have called the mask wearers and vaccinated “sheeple”.

      I would guess that makes them wolves as they spend their time harassing the sheep.

      While spending more than a year in furious anger looking for fights they have missed out on the many blessings, lessons and comfort God has sent to His faithful. Their loss.

      I would like to see them channel that energy into protecting the 1 in 5 young girls and 1 in 7 young boys targeted by sexual predators.

      If they don’t know who these predators are they can ask God to open to their eyes and give them the courage to speak up.
      He will.

      1. Andrew Thomas

        I cannot wear a mask due to health reasons. I have been physically assaulted 4 times (twice when my infant was with me) and verbally harassed almost every time I go to the grocery store.

        Every single time it has been by 2 or more people wearing masks.

        What does that make them?

  6. Get vaccinated. I did in April. It is orders of magnitudes safer than not getting it and taking your chances. But too many throw out common sense in favor of idiotic conspiracy theories. They ignore the facts right in front of them when over half of the population has gotten the shot.

  7. I keep hearing this meme that it’s white evangelical Protestants who are the most vaccine resistant. The mainstream media makes this claim daily and it’s usually offered without evidence, but some articles I’ve seen that show actual data demonstrate that black, Hispanic, and native populations are over represented in vaccine hesitancy.

    People need to start asking questions when the government and the media act in concert to blame social problems on whites and Christians, or when others repeat the claims for them. We are heading down a dangerous path.

    1. Yes evangelicals are not the only fools out there but we are leading the way! My ten year old grandson attended a Christian camp in Texas where the staff was not required to be vaccinated. Now after his counselor contacted the disease it spread through the cabin like wildfire. My grandson tested positive as well as other campers. Thankfully his symptoms are relatively mild but how many others were infected? Listen to reason and get the vaccine!

      1. This is exactly what I’m talking about. You repeat the claim that white evangelicals are “leading the way” without any evidence, and then follow it up with an anecdote passed along by a relative. That does not mean or prove anything.

        1. Loren J Martin

          For what it’s worth, my anecdotal experiences have pretty much matched what’s being reported in the media. Prior to Covid, I kind of considered the line that “Christians are anti-science” to be a straw man argument. Now that view is too frequently validated.

    2. You’re comparing a one-factor group (white or black or Hispanic or native) with a two-factor group (White AND evangelical). Those are apples and oranges.

      But here is a link from religionnews to data on vaccine resistance among white evangelicals:

      https://religionnews.com/2021/07/15/in-covid-hot-spots-a-pattern-high-concentrations-of-white-evangelicals/

      “…new data suggests white evangelicals make up a higher share of the population in counties where vaccination rates are low. This is particularly true in portions of the Southeast and rural Midwest such as Missouri, where scientists have detected surges in COVID-19 cases linked to the more transmissible delta variant of the virus.

      PRRI’s researchers found the population of white evangelicals to be especially high in Missouri counties where COVID-19 vaccination rates for people age 12 or older were 20% or lower. There, members of the faith group make up 49% of the population on average. In counties with vaccination rates between 20% and 40%, white evangelicals constitute 42% of the populace.

      In counties where vaccination rates ranged from 40% to 60%, white evangelicals’ share of the population plummeted to 30%.

      “It’s clear that the pattern is more white evangelical Protestants equals lower vaccination rates,” said Natalie Jackson, PRRI’s research director.”

  8. I have been vaccinated. Without it I cannot travel. Before vaccination I did not get Covid, nor did I fear Covid, nor do I know anyone personally who died of Covid.

    Why make an issue over a vaccine? Are those God’s thoughts or man’s?

    Godly people, please – if you really believe a vaccine will harm you then you are not a believer in Mark 16 – “you shall drink poison and it will not harm you”

    Tear it out the Bible – if you believe God will allow a man made vaccine to harm a believer.

    1. Why did you not use the full verse?

      18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

      I point to “…they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Based on your logic this verse says we have nothing to fear from sickness.

      Yes or no?

  9. Why did you not use the whole verse?

    18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    “…they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover”

    If we should not fear poison, should we fear sickness?

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