Did Jesus Intend to Found a New Religion?
In his book, "They Like Jesus But Not the Church," author Dan Kimball quotes the late Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson who said, “But historians of religion like to say that Christianity was born in the Middle East as a religion, moved to Greece and became a philosophy, journeyed to Rome and became a legal system, spread through Europe as a culture–and when it migrated to America, Christianity became big business.”
Did Christ mean to start or give birth to an organized religion? That depends upon whom you ask. Some say that he meant only to awaken the Jews to a deeper observance of Judaism. This kind of thinking has Christianity as the next step up on the evolutionary ladder of Judaism. Those who subscribe to this viewpoint see Jesus as a radical rabbi who never intended his little community to grow to such immense proportions or to have such major world impact, since Judaism is not by nature, an evangelical movement.
So, did Jesus just mean to give emphasis to a particular philosophy of peace, love, and enlightenment? The answer to this is determined by the individual's reading of scripture which makes numerous references to the "church" thereby giving credence to the idea that Jesus invented a new form of worship. But from where did that word "church" come from?
A quick look at the etymology of the word "church" shows us that it comes from the Greek words that mean, "called out." How you interpret the meaning of "called out" depends on your particular viewpoint. For instance, one person might think of the term "called out" as someone possessed of a higher level of devotion, rather than as someone who hears the "call" of a new religion. And it is also true that Christianity as an organized religion was not official until the reign of Constantine I in the early 4th century.
Those who believe that Jesus did indeed intend to create a new religion cite the following passages as proof:
1) Mt. 16:18 "…upon this rock I will build my church…"
2) Mt 18:15-20 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them"