So I last posted on why I think, when only considering the New Testament documents, the term “members” is a better term than “partners” when speaking of the people in your gospel community that are accountable to each other and working closely together to know Christ and make him known.
But that doesn’t necessarily settle the issue. The term “Christian” is a good term, but when I lived in Israel for four months and the Lord gave me opportunity to testify about Jesus, I did not say I was a “Christian,” but I said, “I am a follower of Yeshua ha-Meshiach (Jesus the Messiah).” It’s not because “Christian” is a bad term in and of itself (biblically speaking), but it is because it would immediately communicate to the Jewish person a different idea, namely a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christian or someone with many Christian traditions and not the simple gospel of Christ crucified.
Ok, so what comes a person’s mind when they hear partner? My guess is someone who is working together with another or others for a specific purpose or mission. That’s a good thing. I suppose some would think of “partners” in a law firm, that have ownership, benefits, and power with associates who are under them. Probably most won’t think this, but maybe a few.
What comes into a person’s mind when they hear the word “member?” Member of a country club, Costco, or Sam’s Club, or some other group. Membership may have the idea of member fees, member benefits, and exclusivity. One may also think about member of a family. Almost no one, I’d guess, would think of body parts as members. But the basic idea behind membership I guess is being part of something.
I know that I could put more time in thinking about this and ways people perceive it, but here’s my conclusion at this point. I think it’s best when saying “member” to say the whole phrase “member of this church body” or “member of this church family” as opposed to just the word “member.” This would eliminate the club membership ideas that might come into someone’s mind and keep them thinking along biblical ideas since the church is a body and the church is a family. I think you can also say partner, but since the Bible uses it consistently as partners outside of the local church, I think I’d also want to say the phrase, “partner of this church.” All these things considered, I’ll probably use “members of the church body” or “members of the church family.” At least for now.