Seems counter-intuitive, right? Bear with me here.
The church is the body of Christ, created to reveal the nature of God and participate with God in God’s mission of care and redemption of all creation. The church, then, by her very nature, is to reveal the nature of God.
And the nature of God is perichoretic, mutual, and reciprocal relationship. Isn’t this what the Trinity is all about? Father, Son, Spirit all distinct persons who interrelate and find their identity in their relationship with the others? Mutuality and reciprocity, giving and receiving, are central to the nature of the Triune God.
Serving is only half of relationship. If the local congregation only seeks to serve in its neighborhood, it isn’t in a full relationship there. Full relationship, based on a trinitarian model, must receive also.
If I may say so, seeking only to serve is really a power play. When you only serve others, that means you have all the resources necessary, then are free to dispense these resources to those poor, marginalized, needy people around you.
What does the church need to receive from the poor and the powerless? How can we join God in a mutual, reciprocal, full relationship with those we seek to serve?
Rather than serving only, the church should accompany, or walk with the powerless. When we give up our pride and arrogance, it’s amazing what God can do for the church through those who are sometimes no more than objects we use to make us feel better. It is through relationship, not simply serving, that the fullest nature of God is revealed.