The sun shone, probably in shared joy as I packed my rugby boots and headed down to the field for the first time in months. There you could hear the sound of the boys bantering and balls being thrown, and I remember thinking to myself: “I was made for this.”

We’re finally coming out of this, aren’t we? This is the question we pondered. But, after such a long time in lockdown, might a more important question be, how are we going to come out? I think we can take some inspiration from the book of Isaiah.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of coming out of exile – 70-plus years away from any sort of normality, 70 years away from Jerusalem and the house of God. Exile had been brutal on Israel, and so this season has been for us, feeling like exile in some way.

God invited the returning Israelites to real soul renewal:


Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters… listen, that you may live” (Isaiah 55:1,3b).

Wherever you are today, the invitation to come to thirst-quenching water is still there.

And just as God draws us in, He always ends up sending us out. As our own, current exile’ ends, we are invited to experience the deep renewal of God’s love which ultimately will propel us towards a new fullness of heart and courage to witness to a hurting, thirsty world. This is why my priority as I exited lockdown was to make my way to rugby training.

As a church we cannot retreat for good; the call is to go. To take action. To be where people are. For this to happen we have to look at the structure of our lives. Bridges aren’t built without prior self-assessment. We can only display compassion and love when we’ve said no to some things and made people our priority. 

It may not be sport for you, but we all have passions that God has planted within us, and they’re not incidental. God has uniquely shaped and crafted us. Our passions and experiences have made each of us into unique fingerprints that God wants to use to touch people’s lives. There are hands out there that only you can hold, people out there only you can reach and breaking hearts only God can heal through you. 

I have been wired for sport. It’s in my DNA, it’s who I am, it makes me come alive. And that is no mistake. God has wired me this way, so I can connect and share Jesus with a world I love. How has he wired you? What implications does this have for your life?

It must be asked too, what implications does this have for church leaders? The disconnect between the genuine desire of leaders to see young adults reached with the gospel and their member expectation (spoken or unspoken) must be addressed. Lack of time and lack of courage, these are the two biggest reasons for the declining numbers of young adults coming to faith in Jesus. 

As for lack of time, church for many has become a reason why they no longer live on mission. Of course, work and family contribute but it must be said that our church system is perfectly designed to give us the results we’re currently seeing. For things to change we need to see a generous leadership that is willing to say for the sake of the world we must have you less so this space (sport or other passions) may have you more.

As for courage, Isaiah writes: “…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55.11).

Isaiah writes that, as sure as the rain that falls will cause new life to emerge, so sure we can be that God’s word that goes out will not return until it brings new life. So, what is there to lose? God’s word will not return empty. Despite the excitement, I admit going back to rugby included an element of fear. It would have been easier not to go. But these words of God, spoken through Isaiah, gave me the courage I needed. So, let’s not retreat forever but go with full hearts and make disciples.

This blog is part of 7 Conversations, a suite of interactive, integrated resources for leaders in local settings seeking to understand young adults and bring them into a rock-solid relationship with Jesus.

7 conversations your church needs to have to reach young adults

7 conversations your church needs to have to reach young adults

A suite of resources to help your church reach, engage and disciple 20s and 30s Find out more