Whether we know it or not, we are all counselors to some degree. “Counseling is really just doing relationship with people and sitting down and having good, intentional conversations,” says Brian Munnings, who recently joined the staff at Brook Hills in the role of Biblical Counselor. It is this relational aspect that initially drew Brian to the ministry of biblical counseling.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Brian grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until his early 20’s that he truly understood the gospel and put his faith in Christ. He was then mentored and discipled by an older gentleman, of which he says, “I really appreciated that one-on-one, small group ministry and wanted to be a part of that in some way.” That’s when he heard about biblical counseling. “It just made sense—that Scripture speaks to life.”
He and his wife, Dana, then moved to Philadelphia so he could pursue a two-year masters in counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary. That two-year plan turned into seven years, with Brian spending four years obtaining a Master of Divinity with a counseling focus, and then three years working as a counselor for the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He spent this time meeting with people from many walks of life and circumstances, gaining experience as a biblical counselor. “There’s lots of ways you could define biblical counseling, but I would define it as walking with others in wisdom and love. It’s really just good, wise friendship. When we think of wisdom, we are thinking of God’s wisdom that He imparts to us through the Scriptures and the Spirit.”
While in Philadelphia, Brian had many conversations with pastors back in the Toronto area who had questions concerning counseling situations that came up. “They were great pastors, but they just didn’t feel like they had the time or equipping to meet with people for the long term. So they would send people out for counseling elsewhere, but there was a lack of good biblical resources.” That’s when the Lord led his family back to Toronto to help fill this gap. Brian joined the staff at Harvest Bible Chapel and also spent his time working alongside church plants, counseling one day at each church plant and mentoring people who were interested in counseling. He also opened a biblical counseling center as a resource for churches in Toronto to send people to receive trusted, biblical counseling, as well as to provide counseling training.
Over the last year, the Lord began to redirect Brian’s steps once more. His prayer for the last several years was for the Lord to lead his family to a place where they could flourish among community, and he could also continue to do counseling work. “Coming here was a great opportunity to do counseling, to come alongside Sean and the Member Care team, and to move along the idea of helping a whole church get more equipped and more prepared to walk with others in the midst of difficult times, to point people to Christ in those times, and remember the hope that we have together. We had the same vision that all good counseling happens in relationship. Just ordinary people doing ordinary things, empowered by the Spirit. That’s where the majority of the work happens.”
Brian acknowledges that even in church, it can be hard to have real, honest relationships. “It’s hard to break through to that next level and and show ourselves for who we are. But that’s what is so amazing about the gospel. God sees us for who we truly are and sees the messiness of our lives, and it's at that time that He chose to enter in and love us and give us Himself. That gives us the freedom to come to Him, because He fully knows us and loves us. That’s what we’re often afraid of in relationship. We think, ‘If only you really knew me, then you wouldn’t want to be with me or think I’m good enough.’ The reality is that all of us have really hard things happen and we were made to need others. So it’s vital for the church to be in relationships. Biblical counseling is the working out of trusting Christ in the midst of those difficult times and sharing our burdens with others who can walk with us. And learning how to do that wisely and helpfully and asking the right questions. It’s just doing relationship well and trusting in Christ.”
As the Munnings family settles into life in Alabama, Brian is looking forward to the opportunity to serve alongside The Church at Brook Hills. “My hope is that over the next several years, everyone would feel a little more equipped to enter into life's difficulties with one another. You don’t have to be a trained counselor to help people. We can all do this work and do it together. We all need each other.”
Brian and his wife, Dana, have four children Liam (13), Isla (8), Lucy (6), and Lolly (1). They have been in Birmingham about three weeks, so be sure to say hello and give them a warm welcome. If you are interested in contacting Brian about a counseling appointment, you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.