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Around the Globe: Biblical Counseling in Argentina

Truth In Love 461

In this episode, Eric Abisror shares about the counseling landscape in Argentina and the work that God is doing there to build His church.

Apr 15, 2024

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I have with me my dear friend, Eric Abisror. I’m so grateful for him and his work. We’re going to be talking about Argentina today, but let me introduce you to our guest, Eric’s been married to his wife Danica for 17 years. They have five boys between 6 and 14. They were sent out from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, Washington in 2018 to serve in Córdoba, Argentina where they have served with Reaching and Teaching International Ministries for the last six years. Eric serves as one of the pastors of Iglesia Biblica Bautista Crecer in Cordoba and also as one of the professors of biblical counseling at Seminario Carey where he also is the director of the ACBC Training Center there. Eric is certified with ACBC, he’s one of the first Spanish-speaking fellows with ACBC and he along with two other ACBC members recently published a short introduction to Biblical Counseling in Spanish. He’s currently working on his PhD at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with me and we could talk about your research on trauma and everything to do with trauma, but we’re not going to do that today. That’s an interesting subject, but we’ll save that for another time today.

Today, I want us to talk specifically about the work that’s going on in Argentina. I’m really excited about that, and Eric, I’m so grateful that you’re here with me to chat about that. So welcome. 

Eric Abisror: Thanks Dale. I appreciate it, I am glad to be here. 

Dale Johnson: And now as we jump in so many things that I want to talk about. I was just there with you in November of 2023 and really exciting to see all that the Lord is doing there up close and personal, seeing what the Lord is doing with the Seminary, your church in particular, the reach, the interest that we’re seeing biblical counseling there, and the Lord is strategically placed you and several other good brothers there leading that ministry. I’m excited for us to talk about that today. Let’s start giving our listeners an idea of the landscape in Argentina, certainly a different, very European feel, a different feel than what we see here, give them sort of a landscape of biblical counseling in Latin America in general and then specifically in your context in Argentina. 

Eric Abisror: Yeah. Absolutely. Let me just give maybe a brief landscape of the religious context in Argentina first, and that might help us understand the biblical counseling landscape a little bit more. Argentina, obviously, traditionally speaking, is very Catholic. Although the bigger cities are becoming much more secular and much more atheistic, in the Northern parts you might find you know more secularism, but syncretism and just a mix of religions but a lot of prosperity gospel as well. And so, what we are finding, especially in our churches, are just true believers that are coming out of those contexts, and they are looking for sound doctrine. They’re looking for healthy doctrine. They’re looking for just a healthy church.

Another interesting thing about you might say the religious landscape of Argentina is just how psychologized it is. It is, I was just looking at the actual stats this morning and it is per capita, it has the most psychologists in the world. It’s just normal. It’s a normal part of life there, even during the World Cup, it was interesting. When Argentina lost its first game —we don’t lose a lot of soccer games—but when we lost our first game in the World Cup, the goalie was doing a press conference and he was talking about how you know, he had to call his psychologist to get counsel and you know to feel better after the loss. So all of that is kind of providing and just kind of paving this way for the landscape of biblical counseling in Argentina. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah. I want to capitalize on some of what you said because while I was there you were describing Cordoba specifically and it’s a University town. You were describing even the focus of degrees that are offered there, and the amount of students, first of all, that you have is really incredible, and then specifically students studying psychology, give sort of some brief context on that. 

Eric Abisror: So it’s a million and a half people in the city and of the million and a half, we have almost 250,000 university students and the largest degree that they offer is psychology, that wins every single year. And so, you imagine our local church, which you already mentioned your Spanish is quite good by the way, so we have a lot of students that are coming from our church or from the universities that are studying psychology and they’re coming to our church and they’re introduced to this concept of biblical counseling, you know, so that’s a conversation that we’re constantly having with these students. But yeah, there’s a lot of people that are studying psychology there. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, that’s outstanding and what you hear is the saturation in the culture of the way people think there’s very very psychologized. You can see it in several stats that Eric has already mentioned, but I would have reason to be encouraged maybe not by those stats. But even as we’re talking about an uphill cultural battle, there’s encouragement even when I was there seeing, you know, the amount of people who are interested. The length at which some people traveled to come to a conference on biblical counseling, the first really of its kind, at least in that area and just really interesting to see. I want you to talk a little bit about how you’ve been encouraged by the things that you’re seeing in Argentina, specifically at the Seminary and then with the training center as well. 

Eric Abisror: Mmm. Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been very encouraged just by the interest that we have seen in biblical counseling. So like I mentioned a lot of these students that are studying psychology are then introduced to the concept of biblical counseling. I think for a lot of believers, it makes sense, you know, they’re fascinated by the fact that the Bible has answers to people’s problems and that can truly help others become more like Jesus so they are seeing that. They are really seeing just that these two worldviews are incompatible. What they’re studying in the University is primarily psychoanalysis, although there are other streams of psychology that they’re studying, but they become very interested in many of them starting to study at the Seminary that we have, and they begin to study biblical counseling. They go to our conferences. They’re very interested. So just a few years ago, we started our program at the Seminary. It’s our program in biblical counseling, you know, I was going to be happy with just five or six. I thought if I could just get six students to enroll in this program, it would be great in the first semester. We had about 70, and the program’s only been around for just a couple of years, but we were up to 170 people, and all of those students at the same time they’re going through the Seminary education. They’re also fulfilling all of the requirements for ACBC certification, except for phase 3, which is supervision. So, it’s super exciting to see what’s happening in Argentina there.

Dale Johnson: It sounds like you’re going to be busy with a lot of phase 3, so, I mean that’s really exciting. And I would say that that is a call for those who speak Spanish. It would be a good idea to pursue a fellowship with us here at ACBC and help alleviate some of the backlog that we’re going to have just based on the interest. We see what the Lord is doing and you know, it’s wise for us to join in with what we see Him doing in places around the world. And if the Lord has given you those abilities it would be a good way to serve the church.

Eric Abisror: So, I might just mention one other thing: We are not just in Argentina because our Seminary is an online seminary and we do on-campus classes, but we are in several different places all over the Spanish-speaking world. So we have a far reach places like Cuba, places like Spain, all over South America. Obviously, Argentina has a heavy presence.

Dale Johnson: In your last answer you were mentioning how many people have studied psychology and they see it as left wanting and they hear about biblical counseling in the Scriptures and they become hungry for that. We even had a guy at the conference that we’re at in November giving testimony. I think he was a teacher of psychology even, and that was just such an encouragement to hear his framework and how the Lord, you know, worked in his life specifically with the truth of Scripture, and his testimony was pretty powerful. 

Eric Abisror: Yeah. That was Tommy and he studied psychology and you know several years ago, it’s probably 2016. We had a brother from Spain, David Barcelo, you know him and he came and he came to Cordoba and he did a conference on biblical counseling and that was really just a shock to a lot of the people that were there because there were a lot of psychology students and they kind of just you know, we have one sister there. Her name is Flavia, you met her and she studied psychology and she’s now ACBC certified but she always tells me about how she was just in that conference and she kind of just had this feeling of like oh what am I going to do now?, but she has managed to use her degree for the glory of God in Argentina, and she’s just serving people with biblical counseling. 

Dale Johnson: That’s great. Yeah, I love to hear those types of stories. Now let’s talk a little bit about your training center in Argentina. It is a training center that’s associated with your local church but also has a strong partnership with the seminary that you teach at. So talk about how that relationship works; it is unique and, I think, something that’s encouraging. 

Eric Abisror: Yeah, so we obviously believe that biblical counseling is just another form, another aspect of biblical discipleship. And so that needs to take place in the context of the local church. And so we’re constantly trying to emphasize that biblical counseling is not a parachurch-type thing. It’s not a parachurch ministry at something that takes place in the context of the local church; and we are facing that temptation. We’re facing, you know, because people come with this psychologized worldview. We are constantly battling this idea that maybe biblical counseling is just another form of Christian therapy or another form of self-help, but just using the Bible. So we are wanting to emphasize that this takes place in the context of the local church. This is a form of biblical discipleship in people’s lives, and so that’s why the training center is out of our local church, and we want to make sure that we’re equipping our members to properly minister to others. So we’ll talk about biblical counseling discipleship in our members classes, and we will offer Sunday School classes on biblical counseling as well.

But because our local church has a strong partnership with our seminary. The Seminary was really started out of our local church. We do use our Seminary as more of a training platform. It has a lot more reach in the Spanish-speaking world. So that’s where we’ll do more of our formal training in the seminary, but we’re obviously just constantly emphasizing and pointing people back to that to their own local churches, but we want to offer training for just small churches, you know, it’s amazing Dale, how many times I’ve traveled around Argentina and just gone to several churches, small churches, and you know every time I have conversations with people there. I just asked them, I said, what are you needing more of? what kind of training? and they’re always saying, “We need to know how to help our people. They have marriage problems. They have problems with addictions and we need to know how to help them.” I was just in the north of Argentina and we were with 60 pastors and I would say probably 95% of them have no formal education and we taught on expository preaching. It was fabulous, but they said the next thing they want is more help on counseling, and so, we’re going to probably go back and offer training on biblical counseling. 

Dale Johnson: I’m hearing that story in so many places of the world and you know, if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re interested in biblical counseling in different parts of the world, there are other folks who are hungry for that type of training as well. And I’m so encouraged by the things that are happening in Argentina, but this didn’t happen overnight. One of the things that I was very encouraged by is, you know, Brother Sam Masters, who has been a missionary there for years. His family was missionaries there before, so we’re talking like long, steady work, and we’re seeing the fruit of that work over long periods of time. The Lord is bringing now laborers there and we’re rejoicing over the fruit that happened.

So, if you’re in a part of the world where maybe you’re laying some of that groundwork, you can be encouraged that it may take you know, 15, 20, 30 years, but the Lord can produce fruit, be faithful, remain faithful, allow the Lord to grow it, and you know, if there’s ways that we can help. I’m just so encouraged by the fruit that we’re seeing. But it didn’t happen overnight. I think that’s an important piece of the puzzle that sometimes people get discouraged because the work is not moving faster. But yeah, we’re seeing the fruit of labor over many, many, many years. 

Eric Abisror: Yeah, now that’s right on, Dale. We feel like we’re working with Sam and other brothers who have faithfully and diligently been ministering in Argentina. And now, we’re seeing so much of the fruit of that faithfulness. 

Dale Johnson: It’s amazing. It’s amazing. Now, as we talk about training specifically, one of the things that I wanted to do in the Spanish-speaking culture is always make sure that we have standards that are high, but it’s different in different parts of the world. So there’s flexibility and how we think about training. Talk specifically about ACBC training, biblical counseling training in Argentina and then maybe some of the relationships that you guys have with churches there. 

Eric Abisror: Yeah, so we have different ways. I mean one of the ways that we’re training people is we’re just taking the training on the road. Some of that’s maybe more official ACBC training, but some of it is more just kind of an intro to biblical counseling and just giving them an idea of what biblical counseling is—just that category, that framework.

In our Seminary context. We are offering phases one and two of ACBC training. So we were doing all the reading, we’re doing observation. We’ve recorded Spanish counseling videos for people to watch and all the 30 hours and that’s all integrated into the Seminary curriculum. So if they’re going to major or have an emphasis in biblical counseling, then they’re going to be completing all of the exam questions, all of the readings, all of the 30 hours of fundamental. So that’s all part of it. That’s a little bit more high level, a little bit more demanding because there are students that are going to be taking hermeneutics, intro to New Testament, Old Testament, but we do have kind of a lower level training where it’s just more maybe for people that no, they don’t want to do seminary training, it might be too much for them to do a 3 year program. So we’ll just offer the 30-hour training, and most of that’s online. But every time we record things where it’s always live and in person we’re inviting people so there’s different forms in which were different ways we’re completing that. 

Dale Johnson: I’m so encouraged by the work that’s happening, still a lot of work to be done, of course, but really grateful for the faithfulness that we’re seeing there in your local church and in the seminary. Give my best to Dr. Sam Masters, Jason Wright, and the brothers and sisters there. So encouraged by the work that’s happening. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Eric Abisror: Absolutely.

Helpful Resources:

Seminario Carey

Introduction to Biblical Counseling Book (Spanish)