How easy it is to take things for granted! What if you woke up one morning to no free press or broadcast (by newspaper, radio, e-mail, or TV broadcast)? What if the right to vote ended and all candidates were pre-approved for you? What if you had no choice, and opinions were suppressed with violence?

I once visited two countries that regarded personal opinions as dangerous. In one, people were reserved in public. In the other, people were publicly mute—even people in large cities walked silently as if they had no friends (they were privately warm and gracious). Many could cause harm, but no one could help you. Thus, publicly, it was best to say nothing.

I once observed voting where all candidates were pre-selected and pre-approved. The vote only said a citizen agreed with the choice. Though many could not vote, over 95% of the population agreed with the selections. In the absence of voter registration, voters were marked with water soluble ink easily washed off outside a polling site.

A good friend, a citizen, explained the situation in this way: “We are not ready for two-party Democracy, so we just have one party. No one wants to vote twice—why would he or she do so?” When I asked what happened if you disagreed, the friend said you might disappear. Thus the only choices were agree or keep silent.

Imagine living in such places! If we did, situations would change quickly and radically! We think too little about our freedoms and their contribution to our daily lives. When was the last time you were literally afraid to voice an opinion? More people live in the three situations I described than in our situation! Yet, we seem to endorse apathy.

West-Ark is far from perfect, but it is often unique as we seek to grow towards God’s priorities and concepts. One such uniqueness is having a leadership who values our input. Their task is enormous! Often important factors in a decision are not evident. Perfect men? No! Caring men? Yes! Men who carefully consider what you say? Yes!

In a lifetime of preaching, the most constant complaint I heard regarding leaders was this: “They never want input! They never listen to the congregation!” At least four times yearly your leaders provide opportunity for public input. They want and seek it as they listen! The purposes of the Family Meetings are two fold: (1) to inform you; and (2) to solicit your input. Is it at times less than stimulating? Yes, but so is leading. Rarely will it be “Hurrah” material. Often it is direction material. Always, your input is wanted.

Please do not respond with apathy and silence. Come not only this Sunday night, but to all Family Meetings. Say, “Thanks,” with your voice and your presence! Ignorance is the same whether uninformed, apathetic, or unlearned. Ignorance is ignorance, regardless of its cause. Your leaders say you matter. What do you say?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 26 October 2006

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