When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. – Luke 9:10-11 (NIV)

Every Friday I meet my friend Annie for a walk around her neighborhood. I bring my dog, and in between close calls with having my arm broken from the dog chasing squirrels, Annie and I talk about life and we laugh and sometimes cry (I usually cry) and pray together. On Saturday mornings I do the same thing with my friend Ann (no idea why all my friends have the same name) at Memorial Park.

What I’m saying is, the part where Jesus and his disciples withdrew by themselves, that’s easy part of this Christian life for me. I’m all over that stuff.

The part I have to keep an eye on is what Jesus and his disciples did after they withdrew by themselves for a bit – they poured into outsiders. Jesus had his tight group of guys that he did life with, but when the crowds came, Jesus welcomed, taught and healed those crowds. Jesus knew the importance of both types of relationships, and they overlapped. Sometimes, while I’m busy digging deep with my friends, I neglect the outsiders around me who need some of this spiritual food God has put on my plate.

I have a friend named Sarah who does this whole thing well. She’s deep and real with friends, but she also meets with a poor exchange student and even took her family to eat dinner at the student’s apartment. And when the student served all kind of crazy foreign food that was, I’m just going to say it, gross, she ate that crazy foreign food, because it’s over meals that you can pour into someone’s life. And then she told her friends about it, and her friends were able to pray for the student.

And that’s ministry people, and I want more of it.

Okay folks, here’s what I need you, and what I need me, to do. Keep your people close and keep living and crying and praying and encouraging and laughing so hard you nearly pee yourselves. But look around you at the crowds. Who needs welcoming? Who needs teaching and healing? Now ask that person over for dinner, or to get manicures together, or whatever it is you want to do. And use what you get out of your beloved friendships to fuel your passion to pour into others.

Have any of you struggled with this like me? What are you going to do differently? And if not, if you’ve got this thing in the bag, give a sister some encouragement!

Sacred Story is honored to have Christina Ledbetter as a guest contributor this month. To hear more, visit Christina’s blog.