I just read an outstanding blog entry by a United Methodist Pastor named Mike Mather. He serves in Indianapolis, Indiana. To read the post, click here.
I agree with him on several points. First, our heritage as a movement is rooted in ministry among the poor. This does not mean handouts from middle class folks to poor folks. It means that when Wesley was preaching, if you called yourself Methodist, you were very likely a poor person. These are our roots.
Second, we are commanded by Christ to be in ministry among the poor because this is where we are most likely to experience God. It is not a one way street. Materially wealthier folks need materially poorer folks- it helps the wealthier to see God.
Matthew 25 says that when we serve the poor, we are serving Christ himself. Simply put, if you want to see the face of God, spend time with materially poor folks. Spiritual riches lie here, on a number of levels.
Finally, what would it look like if our ministry was shaped by commitment to the poor? I think the church would look like the kind of family Jesus intends for Christians to be in.