I am a member of a warehouse club. This allows me to make purchases at this store. I have no idea who else is a member, except that I can assume that other people who shop there are also members.
One of the credit cards I have calls me a member. They even run ads saying that "membership has its privileges." If I'm going to be honest, however, I don't feel any more a part of that card's business than I do other cards that call me a client.
I'm a member of a group health insurance plan. I know some of the other members, for they work with me at Herald of Truth Ministries. However, our ties don't come from being members of this health plan, but from working in the same office.
I'm a member of the church of Christ. Not just the local group that has a sign out front saying "Church of Christ," but Jesus' church around the world.
The problem is, I have to figure out what that means, whether it's like an honor society, an insurance plan, or something completely different.
The apostle Paul explains what it means to be a member: "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12:4-5). In fact, Paul says that we are members of the same body in several other letters as well. When we say that we are members of the church, we are saying that we are members of the body of Christ.
Like your hand is a member of your body. It's not optional. It's not unimportant. It's an essential part of what the body is. A severed hand ceases to be a living hand. In the same way, if we are truly members of the church, we are part of it and it becomes the definition of who we are. We are members of the body of Christ or we cease to be alive spiritually.
The many ways we use the word "member" can make us lose sight of the fact that we were called to be an essential part of the body of Christ. We're not called to join a spiritual club. We're called to be part of something much bigger, a vital part of a living organism.