Thursday, January 18, 2007

Form Before Function for This Disciple

Mark Knox, Staff Writer

If you are like most Americans, the end of the tax season leaves you flat. You have been invigorated by the process, and you wonder why complicated forms are not available every month. One man has come to your rescue.

Carl Smith-Marx, a CPA and elder of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Forest River, New Jersey, realized the annual national letdown following April 15 is a thrilling opportunity for evangelism. About two years ago, Smith-Marx began working on a form he calls “1040-HS” (the “HS” stands for Holy Spirit) that would bring people to Christ.

He insists that it is the process that will make disciples. The questions begin like many other forms--name, address, social security number, dependents--before moving on to meatier questions such as “If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?” By the end, the nonbeliever has an opportunity to make a decision of faith. The final signature line is accompanied by a statement that declares the answers on the form are “true and correct to the best of my knowledge, and from this moment I renounce my sins and accept Jesus Christ into my heart.”

Anyone who completes the form can mail it back to Smith-Marx’s new non-profit called IRS, or “Inventively Rescuing Souls.” There is also an option to file electronically. “Be sure you file before the ‘dead line’ because there are no extensions,” says the IRS web site.

“Everyone knows,” said Smith-Marx in a telephone interview, “that the most effective part of the Billy Graham Crusade is that card. Everyone comes forward just to have the opportunity to fill out the card. It’s pure genius.”

Strangely enough, the one person who is not a believer in Smith-Marx and his plan is John David Cootie, Smith-Marx’s pastor. “Carl has a wonderful heart,” says Cootie, “but he drives me crazy with his forms. It was great when he developed a form for tracking our giving. Then, they just kept coming--forms for copier paper usage, communion inventory, even forms to track my sermon titles. And he wants me to fill them all out. He’s out of control.”

“I know some people doubt me,” said Smith-Marx. “Just remember, some people doubted Jesus, too. If you can imagine a world without forms, you have just conjured up the perfect picture of hell.”

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