Q. At a group discussion on goals of a church I mentioned helping others to develop a relationship with God. Our pastor stated that the Bible never mentions individuals establishing a relationship with God. He continued by saying relationships with God are established at a corporate (church) level. I told him the Spirit of God lives within me. He is my counselor and guide. I communicate with Him and He responds. That’s personal to me. What verses could I use to defend my position?
A. I believe there are several passages that support the view that our relationship with God is a personal one. For example, John 1:12-13 tell us that by believing in Jesus we have the right to become one of God’s children through a spiritual rebirth. John 3:3-8 continue this thought emphasizing the need to be born again. Romans 8:15-17 says believers are given the spirit of sonship enabling us to call God “Father”. Galatians 4:4-7 says God has adopted us, giving us the full rights as sons and agrees that we can call Him “Father”. In both these places Paul used the most intimate term for father, equivalent to “Daddy”. (Jewish children who speak Hebrew call their own fathers by this name today.) They also say that because we are God’s children we are also His heirs. The intent of these passages is to convey that the closeness and intimacy we can have with God is like the one a child has with his or her earthly father.
But instead of a personal relationship with the Lord that starts when we are born again, some denominations teach that our relationship with Him is corporate. In other words, they believe we are saved by joining the local church. You didn’t mention whether your church is part of a denomination but if it is you can find out if they subscribe to this view by doing some research into their official position on salvation. Asking your pastor how he believes people are saved will help you understand his views as well. If he / they believe this then they don’t really believe in being born again, or having a personal relationship with God, and your arguments for such will likely fall on deaf ears no matter how much Scripture you quote.