Economically I was succeeding, but without Christ I lived loving everything that separated me from Him. In a moment of frustration, going through a crisis, I tried to take my life. A month later a co-worker told me, “You need Jesus!” and invited me to church. I got upset and yelled at her. I asked her not to talk to me about religion, and she started to cry. To keep her from crying, I accepted the invitation, and the following Sunday I visited the Church of the Nazarene. That Sunday, I heard Pastor Jose Martinez preach about a sanctifying God, a transforming God. That morning, he preached from Mathew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” That Sunday was and has been the greatest of my life, that day I gave the Lord my heart. Very soon afterwards, I began to study in the seminary and at the same time in the university. I always wanted to help people, but God called me and put it in my heart that I also needed to love them, as He loves them. That's why I'm a pastor.
CPL: Tells us about the congregation you serve and the city in which you minister.
For the last 23 years I have been the pastor of a lovely congregation, located in Florida in the wonderful Tampa Bay area. By the grace of God we have succeeded in planting twelve churches and training a beautiful group of leaders of whom about 20 are pastors today. The membership of our church is made up of Hispanics, Asians, Anglos and African-Americans. Our worship is contemporary with a tropical flavor and everything is bilingual. It is a working middle-class congregation rich in cultural variety.
CPL: In light of your context (congregation and city), what preaching themes do you find yourself coming back to time and again that specifically connect with those you pastor?
In light of my congregation, city, and God’s inspiration, I find myself preaching about spiritual growth, edification for the people, discipleship into the image of Christ, living the Christian life, and holiness as a way of life.
CPL: How does your background in psychotherapy and traumatology inform your ministry and preaching?
My job as a psychotherapist is to direct the person in the rehabilitation process, leading them to think and put into practice some strategies for change. My psychotherapeutic approach is Biblical, multimodal and positive. It is focused, on the one hand, on recognizing and attending to the pathologies or dysfunctions that create psychological distress, and on the other hand, on identifying the internal strengths and resources to prevent disturbances or obstacles in functioning. My goal in Christian counseling was clearly established through reading Luke 4:18-19 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”