Equipping Spanish Speakers with Biblical Counseling

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Written by BCC Spanish Training Coordinator Esther St. John

I remember the excitement of attending my first seminary course in biblical counseling. Originally from Honduras, I had already completed an undergraduate psychology degree from a college back home. I figured this biblical counseling class would build on the foundation of the secular psychology I had learned. What I came to realize was the faulty foundations of secular psychology and the firm foundation of biblical counseling.

The Need for Spanish Biblical Counseling Training

That first biblical counseling course impacted me deeply. Since that class, I have completed a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling, worked at a church as a bilingual biblical counselor, and now serve as the Spanish Training Program Coordinator for Biblical Counseling Center in Chicago.

In my training and counseling, I have seen a great need for biblical counseling in the Spanish-speaking community. My background studying psychology in Hispanic culture, coupled with my education in biblical counseling, has opened my eyes to the errors taking place in our Spanish-speaking communities when it comes to where we go for advice and counsel.

Two Extremes in the Spanish-Speaking Community

In my experience and context, two extremes tend to take place concerning counseling.

First, Spanish-speaking communities are often honor-shame-based cultures. Bringing up a struggle would bring a sense of shame to the family. This is why some in the Spanish-speaking community would not consider their struggles as actual problems but as “normal issues.” You will find a woman living in an abusive marriage, attributing her husband’s violence to his gender. She would say things like, “It’s ok. All men are like that. Women need to be strong and endure for the sake of the children just like my mother and grandmother did.” Why? Because phrases like this turn the “shame” of being abused into the “honor” of being a sacrificial mother and, therefore, honoring the family name. This is just an example of how men, women, and even children seek to find answers to their problems within traditional thinking rather than reaching out for external guidance.

The second extreme admits to the need for outside help but believes that specialists are the only people who have the solutions. If a client or counselee wants to find the answer to a problem, they must go to the experts. The professional, often a psychologist or a medical doctor, can diagnose and treat any mental health issue their client is struggling with. According to them, only professionals with the credentials, degrees, and research have the authority to determine a validated solution.

Scripture warns us about both of these extremes. Tradition is not above Scripture. In discussing the command about honoring one’s father and mother, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and says that by ignoring the biblical command, they “are making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:13). Just as tradition is not the authority in counseling, neither is the professional. Scripture is the authority. Hope and help can be shared by those who are equipped with the Bible because it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The person who is equipped with the Word of God is “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).

Prosperity Theology in the Spanish-Speaking Community

Even for people who understand the two extremes above, there is still an error prevalent in the Spanish-speaking community: prosperity gospel theology. Christians who know that their tradition and family do not have all the answers and know the professionals’ advice is not inerrant can still miss the mark, buying into the prosperity gospel. They buy into the lie that the problem does not lie within their hearts but that the devil is to blame for trying to steal their blessings. The solution to their problems is not found in salvation through Jesus Christ but in casting out the devil and holding onto their blessings. They don’t faithfully handle the Scriptures but twist the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:16).

The extremes of tradition and psychology highlight the wrong source of counsel, while prosperity gospel theology seeks to use the right source of wisdom, Scripture, wrongly. These three errors reveal the great need for faithful biblical counsel that speaks the truth in love to the Spanish-speaking community.

I praise the Lord for the advancements of the biblical counseling world in equipping Spanish-speaking communities with training. However, we need more than just translated resources from English to Spanish. We need training by Spanish speakers who understand their culture and context and can equip the Spanish-speaking community with biblical counseling.

The Opportunity for Spanish Biblical Counseling Training

That is why I am excited to share that Biblical Counseling Center in Chicago is offering biblical counseling training fully in Spanish, taught by experienced Spanish-speaking biblical counselors. The list of speakers includes Juan Moncayo from Ecuador, Kike Torres in Mexico, Dr. Narciso Nadal from the Dominican Republic, Arturo Valdbenito in Chile, and Eric Abisror in Argentina.

These men will be covering various topics foundational to biblical counseling, including how to care like Christ, how to guide others in the process of change, and how to understand the body and physiological problems. They will also address how to help hurting families and marriages and handling emotions biblically.

The training starts on Saturday, February 24, from 8:30 to 2:30 pm and will take place one Saturday a month through June 2024. Vida Abundante Church in Cicero, Illinois, is hosting each month. If you are near the Chicago area, then we invite you to join Biblical Counseling Center in person and get equipped in biblical counseling. If you do not live near Chicago, you still have the opportunity to join us through our online livestream option. You can find out more and register for the training here.

Questions for Reflection

  1. When are you most tempted to seek answers or solutions outside of God’s Word?
  2. What are some practical ways that you could prevent something else from becoming your source of wisdom?

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