No, I don't mean we need to start punching people in the face in order to get the Gospel to the world. So put your boxing gloves down for a second and read just a little bit further. The jab is the single most important punch in boxing and there's a lot we can learn from it to share the Gospel more effectively. I'm sure if you're a Christian and you struggle with sharing your faith, it's probably out of fear or social anxiety. This fear is strongest at the very beginning of the conversation when you need to make the move from idle chitchat to the things of God. Therefore I have written this for the purpose of showing how you can turn that average social interaction into a life-changing conversation.
What is the jab in boxing? I believe https://www.coachup.com/nation/articles/fundamental-boxing-punches does a good job describing what a jab is and what it's for.
"The jab is a quick, basic punch used to set up other shots, most often your power punches. It can also be used to to distract your opponent and create space.There are six key jabs in boxing: regular, tapper, space-maker, power jab, double jab, body jab, and counter jab. As for form, step forward with your lead foot, and extend your arm out towards your opponent to perform a regular jab. Quickly return your lead arm back into a defensive position. Your rear foot should then move forward towards your lead foot to resume the basic boxing stance."
What's so special about the jab? Whenever I got into boxing I wasn't that interested in learning how to do it because it felt like it lacked power. There's no body motion involved, which is where the power comes from. However, over the years and many rounds of sparring I have discovered its preeminent role in the sport. Here are some historic figures in boxing history who were made or broken by their jab.
-Muhammad Ali is considered the greatest boxer of all time (tied with Joe Louis). He was famous for a lightning fast jab.
-George Foreman began his career with a mediocre jab, but in his comeback he had one of the best in history. This is how he won the majority of his fights on his 2nd heavyweight championship journey.
-Jim Braddock, also known as "The Cinderella Man" began his career with a weak jab, which caused him many problems. However, he had an opportunity for a comeback and his 2nd time around he was defined by having a fantastic jab. In fact he pretty much won the heavyweight world championship with nothing more than an amazing jab.
-Joe Louis, who is also considered the greatest boxer of all time (tied with Ali), actually lost that infamous fight with Max Schmeling due to an ever-so-slight flaw in his jab. I mean, it was almost undetectable by most, but Schmeling caught it and exploited this microscopic weakness of this amazing fighter.
Neat boxing history lesson right? What on Earth does this have to do with evangelism?
If a boxing match were a conversation, the jab would be the ice-breaker and everything else will hang in the balance of how well you start out. Make those good first impressions when sharing the Gospel because it will make the rest of the conversation a whole lot easier. Let me be clear, it's actually really hard to scare people away as a result of you screwing up your Gospel presentation. However, to start off on the wrong foot will leave you in the lurch for the rest of your witnessing encounter. You need to gauge the spiritual distance with your opponent by asking them spiritual questions. Questions are an excellent non-confrontational way to gather information from someone and see where they are with something before coming to any conclusions.
Which will cause you to respond more positively?
-"Hi, I would like to talk to you about Heaven, Hell and the condition of your soul..."
-"Hi, did you get one of these? (offering a Gospel tract)"
The first introduction is like starting out the fight with a left uppercut, which is an advanced punch that generally involves a good setup before pulling one off. I can't automatically count it out, but good luck with it if you really want to go that route. The latter is more like a nice quick jab, the point of offering the Gospel tract is to see how they respond. Meditate on this verse when you're about to share the Gospel.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:44
Jesus is telling us that people are being drawn to the Father, which is done through the Holy Spirit. The work that's being done in a sinner's life is a matter of sin coming to the surface of their lives and conviction forming in it. There is also a work going on of spiritual matters suddenly becoming more interesting or making sense. Let me repeat, the work of salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind of the sinner. Asking a person if they've received a Gospel tract will get a response of some sort indicating how ready or not ready they are for the things of God. For instance, if they hear the word "Gospel" and break into a sprint you can safely figure they're not interested. However, if you tell them it's a Gospel tract and they want to know more about it, you have a fruitful conversation ahead. Seriously, it's almost effortless in comparison when you set up with a good jab.
How can you have this amazing evangelism jab? Here are a few helpful tips:
Start out with innocent spiritual questions such as, "Did you have a religious upbringing?" "Did you go to church as a kid?" "What do you think happens after someone dies?" etc...
Offer them a Gospel tract and say, "Did you get one of these? It's a Gospel tract. (optional)" The reason you want to ask if they got one is you're admitting the possibility you may have offered them one already, plus it peaks their interest by making them feel like they're missing out on something special. Let's face it, they are!
If you wish to be more creative, you can do object lessons. An object lesson in this case is basically "What does this thing have to do with Jesus?" It can be easy when you're talking about something you're both passionate about. This will keep them interested because they like what you like.
Now, you've thrown your jab. Time to set up for your power punches!
Observe their response, body language, words, tone, etc... If there's hostility, proceed with this verse in mind, "A soft answer turns away wrath,But a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 However, if they're interested, by all means keep going with the conversation!
Sometimes they'll take it and keep going. That's fine because they now have the Gospel at their fingertips. Other times they'll be turned off at the offer and walk away. Don't worry, they're not rejecting your performance, they're rejecting Christ.
Most importantly, listen to what they have to say about the things of God. When you ask those basic questions, you set it up for them to talk about everyone's favorite topic- themselves. That will do two things 1) It'll give you information about them to keep in mind to see where you need to go from there. 2) It'll lower their defenses because to be able to talk about their opinions first makes people feel more comfortable. People need to feel like their feelings and thoughts matter, so let's show them they do. This approach will cultivate an atmosphere of trust and you'll be able to build a relationship with people in a matter of minutes.
In conclusion: By having a strong start to your Gospel conversation you can wind up with a much easier harvest in the end. You can make a difference in a person's life just from offering them a Gospel tract, I've heard stories of people getting saved through such means. You just need to remember to use your jab and set things up for the more powerful punches. The next thing you know, the bell will be ringing and your hand will be raised in victory.